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Showing posts from December, 2010

NYE - a round up of the last ten days in the Vaucluse

What a place to spend Christmas and New Year in! We came with friends who have returned to London for New Year and the only disappointment has been the lack of snow on Mont Ventoux on Christmas Day. Never mind; a delicious capon and all the trimmings that all four adults demanded from their own childhoods made up for this. The weather has been reasonably kind too - whereas it is barely above freezing at home, we have seen temperatures of up to 17 degrees (although it was minus seven on the mountain so, perhaps, not such a bad thing there was no snow).

The wines I have tasted from 2009 have been exceptionally good. I don't remember 2007 being any better. Critics who have suggested this is, perhaps, only a four star vintage compared with the 2007's five stars may be right of course. I can only judge it by what has passed my lips and, given the quality of the estates I have been fortunate enough to befriend over the years, I won't be passing these up either personally or prof…

Domaine Bressy-Masson - the end of a long, hard week!

My final professional stop of the trip, Domaine Bressy-Masson is one of the superstar estates in Rasteau (the others are Soumade and Coteaux des Travers). Marie-France Masson is handing over the winemaking to her son, Paul-Emile but still likes to welcome visitors. Not many wines to taste today as only one Rasteau made in 2008 (Souco d'Or) and too little Gloire in 2009 to be worth tempting me with apparently (a shame as this is one of my favourite Rasteau wines).

We started with a wine I have rarely considered properly. A CDR at more or less the same price as Christophe Coste's excellent Domaine de la Charite would be, at best, duplication in most vintages. However, Marie-France's 2009 Cotes du Rhone, a blend of 70% Grenache with 20% Carignan and 10% Syrah and no oak has a strong, fruity nose, good body and structure with a long finish. More Rasteau than CDR and very full for the appellation. This will be a lovely wine to enjoy over the next three or four years.

The 2008 C…

Domaine de la Charite and Chateau Capucine

Christophe Coste was barely 20 when we first met. He had recently taken over his grandfather's estate, Domaine de la Charite, in Saze, to the west of Avignon where he made some good wines from the Cotes du Rhone and Villages appellations. Now, his village, Signargues, has been promoted to a named village, he is president of the sydicate, he is married to Sandrine with whom he has two young daughters and he now makes a dozen or so wines including one from a recently acquired hectare of old-vine Grenache in the Gallimardes sector of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Not a bad decade!

If all that isn't enough, Christophe made the only wines outside Chateauneuf in 2008 which I can honestly say I would be happy to stack my own cellar with. His 2008 CDR Villages Signargues "Bastien" is packed with kirsch and garrigues, very full with great texture and length. A superb wine for the difficult vintage.

Even better, the 2008 CDR Villages Signargues "Cayenne" is more or less the s…

Back in Rasteau: Domaine des Coteaux des Travers

Robert Charavin of Domaine des Coteaux des Travers is one of the people I have been working with since I started up and we have got to know each other quite well in that time with only one thing getting in the way: his non-existent English/my lousy French. This time, I met with his new assistant Lucie who does speak English (although she charmingly pronounces grapes as "grap").

Two big developments: first, Rasteau is now a Cru alongside Gigondas, Chateauneuf etc so it no longer needs to include Cotes du Rhone Villages on the labels. An interesting development because (a) Cairanne still can't do this even though it has a longer history of top tier wineries (apparently it has missed the boat and won't be able to apply now for a couple of years) and (b) there will, inevitably, be some confusion with the vins doux naturels which are also simply AOC Rasteau. The sensible thing will be for VDN producers to mark this clearly on the bottles but, as I undestand it, there is n…

After a break, Domaine de Cristia

Arriving at Domaine de Cristia this afternoon, Dominique called to say she had a stinking cold and would not be able to see me which was a great shame as meeting up with her is one of the highlights of my visits. Baptiste was there though and his cousin Emmanuel (which gave me an opportunity to speak French even though it became apparent he spoke very good English). Not many wines from 2009 to taste as virtually everything has been sold now and the 2010s are mostly still fermenting. However, there were wines to taste and what wines!

We began with the 2009 Cotes du Rhone Vielles Vignes "Les Garrigues", a big brother to the Vieilles Vignes VDP Grenache I enthused about last Easter. This also is pure Grenache from a new vineyard (for Cristia; it is planted with 50-year-old vines) so, whereas the rest of the Cristia production is now certified organic, this wine has just started the conversion process. Bottled in September, it has a youthful nose with some oak evident but less t…

Domaine de Mourchon: 2008 and 2009

To round off the day, I went up the hill to visit Walter McKinlay at Domaine de Mourchon. The 2009s are not being bottled until March or April but we went down to the cave after tasting the wines that are in the bottle. Beginning with the 2008 CDRV Seguret Tradition, this is fresh on the palate with good depth of fruit. No Grande Reserve was made this year so the grapes that would normally be used in this cuvee were downgraded to the Tradition (and some of the grapes that usually go into that wine went into a Cotes du Rhone). A good bistro wine.

Perhaps not the usual order but we then tasted the 2008 Cotes du Rhone which I have had in stock for about a year now. This has really come on. It is quite mineral and fresh and has spicy Syrah/Grenache fruit. A good quaffing wine for a very fair price and comparitively low alcohol (12%) for the region.

As I mentioned earlier, no Grande Reserve was made in 2008 but the estate has perservered with the Family Reserve wines debuted in 2006. The b…

Day one, third visit: Laurent Brusset

Laurent was in the cellars when I arrived at Domaine Brusset's Cairanne home but he soon emerged smiling: pleased with his 2009s, hopeful for his 2010s too. We skipped the whites (the Viognier is sold out in any case) which we tasted together at Easter. As always, these are very good but, as with most estates outside Chateauneuf, it is the reds that shine.

His 2009 Cotes du Rhone "Laurent B"is probably the most hedonistic example of this wine I have encountered. Pure, simple enjoyment: the wine has a sweet Grenache nose which follows through to the palate which is spicy, slightly smokey, deep fruited but medium bodied and not overly tannic. One to enjoy in the near term.

A step up to Cairanne: 2009 CDR Villages Cairanne "Les Travers" seemed slightly muted on the nose compared with the CDR but I have enjoyed several bottles of this at home so know this is not really the case. The palate is silkier with more refined tannins but lots of peppery spice and garrigue

Next stop: Raymond Usseglio

Actually, it is Raymond's son, Stef, whom I see these days on my visits to Domaine Raymond Usseglio, in my experience the best of the Usseglio estates in Chateauneuf today (Raymond's father, Francis, built up the estate after his arrival from Piedmont in the thirties; he had three sons each of whom has an estate bearing his name). Winemaker here for the last decade, Stef has lifted the estate into the top tier of Chateauneuf and is a perennial favourite of consumers who, like me, don't always want blockbuster wines. That isn't to say his wines are light; rather they are elegant and stylish. His "Cuvee Imperiale" is one of the more Burgundian wines I have tasted from the appellation with seamless, pure fruit that is pure hedonism without knocking your head off!

Stef's 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, made from Grenache, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc,is very correct with good flavours of fruit and flowers and with fresh acidity. A nice wine but not in…

2009 tastings in Chateauneuf - first stop: Grand Veneur

Day one proper of my from-the-bottle tastings in the Southern Rhone this season. With mixed reviews - is the 2009 excellent as my earlier impressions have suggested or merely extremely good as Parker has suggested - what will today bring? To be fair, I am not giving the region an even covering: in Chateauneuf I will be visiting Domaines Grand Veneur and Raymond Usseglio, Domaine Brusset in Cairanne and Domaine de Mourchon in Seguret. All, arguably, among the very best and certainly most consistent in these villages.

First stop, I met Christophe Jaume at Domaine Grand Veneur. Christophe is very tall, young and smiles a lot (he's the one in the middle of the photograph). He speaks excellent English so, whilst this visit didn't provide me with much opportunity to practise my French, at least I understood all the subtle nuances of the vintage! After we had said our hellos, we began with the tasting, starting with the whites in the relative warmth of the tasting room.

2010 CDR Blanc

Tasting in the Ventoux: Domaine des Anges

My first day of tastings was at Domaine des Anges in the Ventoux. Most of the wines tasted were from the 2010 vintage (which is looking pretty good already if these are anything to go by).

At Domaine des Anges, Ciaran showed me his 2010 Ventoux Blanc which was typically fresh and fruity, a good everyday bottle for those who like a bit of flavour and varietal character in their whites (Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and a little Roussanne make up the backbone of this wine). Next up was a first taste of a new wine for this estate: pure Viognier. From the tank, it had an almost New World Sauvignon intensity but around 25% of this wine will have seen some wood which fleshes it out beautifully. Put together, this will be gorgeous; it's only a pity there is so little of it.

The only 2009 I tasted - also from the tank - was a pure Grenache cuvee which Ciaran describes as his Chateauneuf. Certainly the wine has depth and length  and plenty of structure. Time will tell whether it will…