A recommendation from someone who attended a tasting a year or so ago in Rutland lead to an invitation to present a selection of Rhone wines to a group of 80 or so people in St Albans last night. On arrival I was tested out with a radio microphone which I did everything I could to avoid using but managed to amuse and offend in equal measure (I suggested that I was rather younger than most of those present which was true but someone who was of a similar age thought I meant that everyone was considerably older than me) but, above all, inform people about the Rhone and its wines. It's often tricky in these situations since I don't know how much they know and don't want to patronise them; equally, it is a waste of their time if they go away without any greater understanding of the region.
Three whites to begin with: Chateau Juvenal's 2015 'Ribes de Vallat', an atypical blend of Clairette and Viognier, the latter grape giving the wine a sumptuous lift, followed by the Usseglio 2014 Cotes du Rhone Blanc 'Les Claux', a mini-Chateauneuf based on Grenache Blanc. Finally, Christophe Coste's 2014 'Dame Blanche', 100% Viognier with a small amount of barrel ageing, now fully integrated and, at last, delicious.
I stayed with Christophe and his Domaine de la Charite, Cotes du Rhone 2015 for the first red. Robust and fruity, this really is a superb Cotes du Rhone which I should drink more of at home - I think that every time I open a bottle at one of these events! This was followed by the 2013 Coudoulet de Beaucastel with its heavy dose of Mourvedre in the blend. The fruit was a little muted at first (this is very young for so much Mourvedre) but the texture was velvety. A lovely wine. Domaine des Anges' 2012 'Archange' was a popular follow-up, its 80% Syrah providing good contrast to the Grenache-based wines that came before.
The big guns followed. Domaine Brusset's 2011 Gigondas 'Le Grand Montmirail' was a full-bodied and deeply textured fruit bomb. A fabulous Gigondas to drink now. Finally, the 2007 Domaine de Cristia Chateaneuf-du-Pape has arrived at last, its 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah truly integrated into a wine of almost Burgundian finesse. This is where I may have offended a couple of people when I suggested that, whilst it was drinking beautifully now, it would probably outlive everyone in the room. There were smiles exchanged though.
To round things off, Bressy-Masson's Rasteau Rancio hit the spot perfectly with its lightly oxidised, madeira-like quality. A shame there is no more of it - I will have to investigate next time I am in the region!