Archive for the ‘Rhône-valley’ category

Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage 2006

December 22, 2008

img_50932The story of Domaine Yann Chave is similar to that of many wineries in this appellation: an ambitious young son joins his father in the family business, stops selling grapes to the local cooperation in Tain while improving viticultural practices by using organic standards and drastically cutting back yields. The new approach has clearly paid off, resulting in impressive wines from both Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage and making this domaine one of the northern Rhône’s fastest rising stars. Chave’s standard Crozes-Hermitage is all about maximum expression of fruit with basically no oak  used. Fragrant and intense aromes of violets, blackberries and spices follow through to a medium-bodied palate with a round and supple mouthfeel, grainy tannins, bags of ripe fruit and very well balanced acidity. The peppery finish gives this wine plenty of regional personality. 89 points

Source: The Prince/Swanbourne Cellars  Price: $60  Drink: Now-2011


Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Ventoux 2005 ‘Les Traverses’

August 6, 2008

The anonymous appellation of Côtes du Ventoux is named after the famous mountain that forms the scene for some of the most heroic stages of the Tour de France. Unfortunately the wines of this region often resemble this limestone peak in their bare simplicity, but when the winemaking is accurate they can offer relatively good wines for little money. Take this blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Shiraz, a lovely uncomplicated, medium-bodied and fruit-driven wine that offers about anything you’d like to see in an everyday drinking red Rhône: a nose with lush red berries, plums, liquorice and a hint of herbes de Provence that follow through to a palate where sweet fruit is wrapped in firm but polished tannins. Simple but good, especially at this price. Buy a case and enjoy! 87 points

Source: Fine Wine Wholesalers  Price: $17.99  Drink: Now-2012


Domaine des Sénéchaux Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2000

August 4, 2008

I had no intention to write about joint ventures again but with the ever globalising dynamics of modern wine business it’s hard not to do so. Take for example this iconic Châteauneuf du Pape producer. Acquired in 2006 by Jean-Michel Cazes, it adds to a prestigious portfolio including Château Lynch-Bages, Ormez de Pez, L’Ostal Cazes and Tapanappa, the latter a joint venture with our own icon Brian Croser. Time will tell what direction the wines will take stylistically,  this one is made under auspices of previous owner Pascal Roux. Deep ruby in colour the nose still shows remarkable fresh primary fruits as blackberry, raspberry and plum while notes of spice, earth, garrigue and leather add an intriguing complexity. Time has smoothed the tannins, lending the wine an appealing elegance only found in Châteauneuf with sufficient bottle-age, without loosing its finely woven structure that guides the core of sweet fruit towards a long and satisfying finish. Maybe a bit old fashioned but certainly well-made. Bravo! 92 points.

Source: Swanbourne Cellars  Price: $60  Drink: Now-2010

Gilles Robin Cuvée Alberic Bouvet 2005

June 23, 2008

With just over 1200 hectares Crozes-Hermitage is the biggest appellation in the northern Rhône. it is clear that an area of this size produces a great variety of styles. At the cool northern end wines tend to be more subtle and fragile while the ones from the warm south are rather big and sturdy. Gilles Robin’s flagship Cuvée Alberic comes from a zone called Les Chassis, an ancient riverbed of gallets and clay left behind by the mighty river Rhône. Combined with mature vines and yields that are kept well below the permitted maximum the quality of the fruit is excellent, allowing Robin to mature the wine in partly new barriques for approximately 15 months without losing balance or finesse. On the nose the oak plays a prominant role with loads of vanilla, olives and bacon perfectly complementing plums, raspberries and blackcurrants. The same characters follow through on a sleek palate with lovely fruit wrapped in creamy tannins and smoky oak before a refreshing and spicy finish. A stylish, modern and typical Crozes-Hermitage that shows dedicated and skillful winemaking. 91 points

Source: Vintage & Vine/Liquid Library  Price: $55  Drink: Now-2012+

Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage ‘Papillon’ 2005

August 7, 2007

Although the Cave Coopérative de Tain l’Hermitage is one of France’s best, every year young and dynamic growers leave this cooperation to make and bottle wines themselves. One of them is Gilles Robin who started his own domaine in 1996. His vineyards are located in the appellation of Crozes-Hermitage where over 11 hectares of Syrah is planted on the stony and sandy ‘La Terrace de Chassis’. The soil of this plain is rich in round ‘galets‘ on brown clay-limestone, producing showy wines that are round and fruit-driven. The ruby coloured Cuvée Papillon is an excellent example of this style with a nose of ripe plums and prunes, mulberry, violets and olives. The palate is round and pliant with lots of ripe fruit upfront that slowly stretches to a spicy finish. The springy character of the youthful fruit is further enhanced by a short – about 6 months – élévage on oak. This is really different and interesting drinking. 90 points.

Source: Vintage & Vine/Liquid Library  Price: $45  Drink: Now-2009

Jean-Luc Colombo ‘Les Méjeans’ Cornas 1999

July 19, 2007

img_3005.jpgThe appellation of Cornas is one of the smallest in the northern Rhône where its terraced vineyards are situated in a protective amphitheatrical basin. Hot temperatures in combination with granitic sand/clay soils produce Syrah-based wines that are sturdy yet pure and intense. Although the wines get solid attention, the appellation only recently revived from decennia of decline combined with conservative and backward winemaking practices. It was Jean-Luc Colombo who changed this by introducing modern techniques like total destemming of grapes and ageing in (partly) new barriques. He not only applies this to his estate-grown fruit, he also acts as consultant-négociant for numerous other domaines and growers in most of the Rhône-appellations, Côtes du Rousillon, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence and Languedoc. Les Méjeans is one of Colombo’s wines made from purchased old vine fruit. It hasn’t got the grandeur of Les Ruchets or La Louvée but it’s still an excellent expression of Cornas moulded by modern winemaking. The deep purple colour of the wine didn’t give away any clues and only the sediment left in the bottle after decanting underlined the age of the wine. With lots of raspberries, blackcurrants and chocolate the nose is still fresh and fragrant with little signs of ageing. In the mouth the wine starts with supple and round primary fruits while rustic tannins, earth, leather, tobacco and game dominate the mid and back of the palate. With primary and secondary characters all balanced, fresh acidity and solid tannins this wine is in the prime of its life and offers genuine but civilised, somewhat polished Cornas. 90 points.

Source: Domaine Wine Shippers  Price: $70  Drink: Now-2009


Côtes-du-Rhône (Villages)

July 11, 2007

When it comes to the wines from the Rhône Valley most reviews are about the great crus from illuster appellations like Hermitage, Côte Rôtie or Cornas. However, the commodity of this region consists of wines made within the appellation Côtes-du-Rhône, an area of 40,326 hectares that is spread over no less than 171 communes between Vienne, Valence and Avignon. With different soil types, climes, more than 20 permitted varieties and 6000 growers it’s a heterogenous region that produces wines of various style and quality. Most wines are blends of the main varieties Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre although secondary varieties as Carignan and Cinsault are commonly used supplements. According to the regulations Grenache should constitute at least 40% of any blend while the secondary varieties may not exceed 30% of the total. Because of the relatively low price generic Côtes-du-Rhône is a pre-eminent good value introduction to the wines from the Rhône Valley. Even better value and quality can be found in the appellation Côtes-du-Rhône Villages which allows 18 villages to use their name on the label. With a significant lower basic maximum yield of 42 hl/ha – rather than 52 for generic Côtes-du-Rhône – and compulsory minimum components of 50% Grenache and 20% Syrah-Mourvèdre these wines generally show more structure, depth and concentration.

Although the heartland of the appellation is the southern Rhône most négociants from the north produce their own Côtes-du-Rhône. They often bear the distinctive mark of Syrah because the regulation doesn’t prescribe a minimum quantity of Grenache when the winery is based north of the town of Montélimar. This is clearly shown in the Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône 2003 ($27, Negociants Australia) in which Syrah dominates the blend. It gives the wine a fragrant nose of raspberries, cassis and plum supported by spicy and vanilla oak characters. The palate opens with round and smooth red fruit that gives way to a rather fleshy mid-palate with just enough weight and tannins to carry it to the finish. This uncomplicated medium-bodied wine may be miles away from Guigal’s top cuvées, it still gives a hint of what his wines are about: the highest quality. 88 points.

Another good drink is the Perrin Réserve Côtes-du-Rhône 2004 ($29, Negociants Australia) made by Domaine Perrin & Fils from the famous Château de Beaucastel. With 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre this wine is moulded in the typical southern Rhône style. The nose of this deeply red coloured wine runs through dark berries, cherries, cinnamon and pepper but the real bonus is the incredible velvetly palate with a very fine tannin structure and full, fleshy fruit flavours. I reckon this wine is best enjoyed with a good steak aux poivre. 88 points.

The 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône Villages (Valreas) from Clos Petite Bellane ($30, James Busby Fine Wines) is one of the best I’ve had so far. Entirely crafted from 70 years-old Grenache vines this inky coloured wine has a nose of ripe plum, liquorice and spice. The initial roundness of the highly concentrated dark plummy palate quickly gives way to firm, mouthdrying tannins that never get too harsh. The finish is equally firm and concentrated with lots of cracked pepper and a hint of dried herbs. 89 points.