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Showing posts from February, 2010

The impact of prestige wines in the Southern Rhone

Several comments/enquiries about the impact of luxury cuvees on the quality of standard wines have been received. There are debates about this very thing with Rhone wines. My own feeling is that it can certainly be true that prestige wines are made to the detriment of the regular bottling, it is not always so.  Before elaborating, the other way to approach multiple cuvees is that used by most Bordelais: the best grapes make the main wine; anything deemed not quite up to standard goes into a second wine and so on. The Rhone works the other way round (although it must be said that inferior grapes are sold off to cooperatives, negociants or turned into industrial alcohol, at least they are if they come from any self respecting grower!). For example, in a vintage such as 2002, Rhone wines were not all good (an understatement in many cases). However, when I visited Raymond Usseglio , all ready to tell him that I would see him the following year without placing an order for the 2002

Cahors terroirs

I am told that, far from being three distinct terroirs, the alluvial zones of Cahors are now classified by as defined by Ferme Experimental Anglars Juillac as: T1 - 1st terrace T2 - 2nd terrace T3 - 3rd terrace T4 - limestone scree T5 - limestone covered slopes: limestone slope T6 - upper quartenary T7 - limestone plateau: siderolitic T8 - white marly-limestone T9 - limestone plateau Does it matter to us as consumers? The answer is almost certainly "no". Most estates claim to be in T1-3 (made up of alluvial deposits from the Massif Central) or on the causse. Altitude and soil testing are the only ways of knowing precisely where they lie. It has long been understood that the lower terraces close to the river produce supple, fruity, easy-drinking wines. The medium ones produce fleshier wines. Somewhat inevitably, higher terraces have better drainage and it is here where the soil is made of limestone scree from the plateau that the richest, most ageworthy wines are

Chateauneuf bottles

One question I am sometimes asked concerns the embossed logos on Chateauneuf bottles. There are several of these. As Chateauneuf is the birthplace of the appellation system, it is no great surprise that the community has developed other ways of guaranteeing the wines. If the appellation system guarantees where the wine comes from, the different bottles are used to indicate whether the wine is estate bottled, negociant bottled within the region or bottled anywhere else in the world (please avoid this last category at all costs!) First, and most simply, if there is no logo at all, it probably (but not definitely!) means the wine has been bottled outside the region, possibly by a negociant (but possibly a bottling company or similar). Many such wines are made from grapes or wines from estates that do not deem them to be of high enough quality to include them in their estate bottlings. These are the wines of supermarket own labels and the like. The traditional embossed coat of arms - the

Decanter's 2007 Chateauneuf tasting

The March issue has just landed through my letterbox with the results of a tasting of 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. An overhyped vintage which deserves such a lukewarm reception? I should start by stating that I find these things interesting reading. Some panellists really know their stuff and there is something to be said for a horizontal tasting on a large scale. But ... I am interested to read the views of John Livingstone-Learmonth as he probably knows more about Rhone wines than just about anyone else in the UK and those of Steven Spurrier who has an excellent palate and an open mind but, frankly, some panellists at this and other tastings should be disregarded. I mean this with complete respect but, let's face it, who would be impressed to read my opinions in such a tasting when I have a vested interest in several of the wines? Even tasted blind, I should be able to recognise these wines and I cannot entirely trust myself to be unbiased so how can I trust others? I would ex