Skip to main content

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 the same league as his 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc "Rousanne Pur" aged in a mix of new and used barrels. I obviously have a thing for these old-vine, barrel-aged Roussannes because I can't get enough of a wine like this. It is exquisite now and, from experience (the 2005 has turned a corner into a magnificent bottle), will age exceptionally well over the next few years. The wine is all honeysuckle and melon with some garrigue and spice notes with an exquisite waxy texture. Very long.


We tasted the 2009 Cotes du Rhone, the only wine in the portfolio not a Chateauneuf. This is a GSM blend from sandy soils just outside the appellation and, as with others can be said to represent one of the region's great bargains even at around a tenner a bottle in the UK. Now it has good Grenache red/black fruit and Provencal herbs, evolving well if a little short on the finish at present but it is very much its more prestigious counterpart's little brother and, if past vintages are anything to go on, will develop into a wine far better than many other Chateauneufs in time.

The 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge is the same blend as in recent years (a dollop of Counoise has crept in which gives the wine a real lift) and has the classic Usseglio nose of herbs and cherry liqueur, a lovely mouthfeel which is not overdone and lashings of red/black fruit (sorry, I have been reading Famour Five books to my younger children). The tannins are fine and well balanced and the wine is clearly going to develop well over the decade and, perhaps, beyond.

As indicated above, the prestige cuvee has long been a favourite and the 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Imperiale is no exception. Made almost entirely from Grenache planted at La Crau in 1902, with just a dash of other varieties (principally Cinsault, Counoise and Muscardin) to add seasoning, this is more intense on the nose with deeper, richer, blacker fruit. It has more body too, balanced tannins and acidity and a structure to age well (the 2001, tasted recently, is still very youthful).

I enjoyed the 2007 debut of a Mourvedre-based wine produced by Stef but, if anything, find the 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Part des Anges even better at this stage. This is exceptionally ripe Mourvedre (which forms 70% of the wine along with 20% Grenache and 10% Syrah): intense black fruit and whiffs of new oak which follows through to the palate. It will undoubtedly need time although I have enjoyed a bottle of the 2007 after 3-4 hours in a jug to soften the tannins. Exceptional.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Decanter’s top Rhône wines under £20

The moratorium is over. Decanter’s December issue has been published and I can announce our successes in the recent tasting undertaken by their Rhône expert, Matt Walls who has recently returned from a year and a half in the region. If you look on Decanter.com today (November 2020), you will see a link to ‘Top Côtes du Rhône wines under £20’. What the article doesn’t tell you is that the brief of its writer was to taste and rate wines from across the valley in that price range and that the top scoring white wine was actually a Ventoux. No prizes for guessing that it was  Château Juvenal’s 2019 ‘Ribes de Vallat’ Blanc , awarded 91 points, which, at £12.60 is also the best value of any of the white wines on the list: 'From 30- to 40-year-old vines grown on granite south-facing slopes; half of the wine is matured for six months in demi-muid leaving no overt oakiness to the aromatics. Full-bodied, rich and opulent style, very ripe and fulsome. Some mango and pineapple juice. Unmist

Postcard from Provence

With lockdown more or less over, we made a dash to the other side of the Channel and are currently languishing in the Vaucluse  d épartement , home to the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape  et al . Mont Ventoux, known to cyclists the world over, is staring at me as I write, only providing a shield from the sun in the early hours of the morning before the heat hits. Exercise here, recently so highly prized (the French were allowed no further than 1 km from home to exercise during their lockdown), is necessarily limited to a gentle morning stroll around the village to collect bread from the  boulang ère.  In time it may be possible to acclimatise but, looking at the locals, I wouldn’t bet on it. France went into lockdown before us, of course, and came out earlier as well so, if we in the UK are fortunate, what I am seeing is a glimpse into the future. We are welcome here – I know plenty of people with concerns about this but it is the Parisians they fear most here it seems. The UK, until

Watching and drinking Perseides concurrently.

Being British, I am obliged to comment on the Provencal weather this summer. Mostly hot with the occasional Mistral wind and, a few weeks ago, a threatened storm which yielded some highly unusual clouds, identified by a friend’s meteorologically talented daughter (moments before o ne of my own clever clogs) as being of the mammatus variety, these being, in effect, upside down clouds which, said expert explained occur when   the cold, moist poc kets of air sink rather than rise. Pic included of clouds over neighbouring property (would you believe me if I said it was sunny over us? No?).   What I ca n ’t give you a picture of bec ause (a) it hasn’t properly occurred this year yet (a brief flirtatio n last night but that’s all so far) and (b) my technological wizardry has yet to master how to tak e a still image of a (literally) flying circus, is tonight’s extravaganza of shooting stars, known as   Per séide s . (Some of you will, by now, have figured where this is going.) The useful peop