Showing posts with label Rhone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rhone. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Out of Africa: A Wine and A Novel. “Inspiration” from the Rhone


Domaine de la Zouina Volubilia Rouge Classic Morocco (VDQS) 2012, 13.5%, €18.45 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

In 2001, two French golfers went to Morocco to play. A few stray shots later and they bought this estate. Gérard Gribelin (Chateau de Fieuzal) and Philippe Gervoson (Chateau Larrivet-Haut-Brion) knew their stuff, invested in their new 85 hectare vineyard and soon their Bordeaux experience was reaping rewards in Africa.

This Volubilia is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), with Syrah, Mourvedre and Tempranillo and has a mid to dark cherry colour. Nose is fairly intense with cherry, blackcurrant, meat and smoke. Big supple palate, juicy and fruity and just a hint of soft tannins, a touch of spice also. A velvety soft red with a long dry finish. 

Volubilis, a partly excavated Berber and Roman settlement and an UNESCO heritage site, is 45 minutes away from the vineyard and in this series of wines you’ll also find a white, a rosé and a gris. And that gris featured in the 2017 novel There was a crooked man  by Irish writer Cat Hogan. Both the wine and the thriller are Highly Recommended.

Domaine de la Ville Rouge “Inspiration” Croze-Hermitage (AP) 2015, 13%, €22.95 

This gorgeous youngish Syrah is organically produced, matured 12 months in stainless steel (80%) and in oak (20%). Try it, they say, with poultry, red meats ad cheese. I had it with a fairly young cheddar and it was perfect.

It has quite a dark red robe. Plum and spice on the nose, rather ripe plums. Fresh and medium bodied, that plum is an assertive character on the concentrated palate, good acidity though, close to smooth tannins, approachable and easy-drinking, yet with a certain elegance. Young or not, this is a fairly serious wine and Very Highly Recommended. By the way, no guarantee that a glass of Inspiration will lead to a novel!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Two Outstanding White Wines


Carl Ehrhard Rüdesheim Bischofsberg Riesling trocken 2015, Rheingau (Germany), 12.5%, €19.65 Karwig Wines


I’ve long been a Carl Ehrhard fan and that continues after sampling this Riesling trocken from Bischofsberg, one of his vineyards. It has lovely bright gold colour. Apples feature in the aromas. This enticing crisp wine sees apples also in the flavours, a lively acidity too and then that minerally finish. This is a food friendly wine, Asian food and cheese are among the suggestions. Excellent too on its own and Very Highly Recommended.


If you’re new to German wine, you may need help with some of the words on the label:
Rüdesheim is the town.
Bischofsberg is the vineyard, named after a local archbishop.
Riesling is the grape.
Trocken means dry.
Rheingau is the wine district.
Ehrhard - you’re on a winner!



The vineyard has a gentle south-facing slope and the area in general is well known for its dry Rieslings - “full bodied with racy acidity”.


Yves Cuilleron á Chavanay “Les Vignes d’a Coté” Marsanne 2015, 14%, €17.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny



The Marsanne fruit for this Vin de France comes from an uncle’s vineyard revived by the return of Yves Cuilleron to Chavanay at the northern end of Saint-Joseph, one of the eight Northern Rhone crus.

If you like this, you are in good company as Victor Hugo was an admirer of Saint-Joseph wines. The main white grapes here are Clairette, Marsanne, Roussane, Viognier, Bourboulenc and there are two secondary grapes White Picpoul and Ugni Blanc.

Anticipation was high as I settled down with this. Cuilleron comes with high ratings: …superstar…leading light…bright shining star..are adjectives applied to him by leading wine writers and publications.

Colour is bright yellow with tints of green, limpid in the bottle. On the nose there are white fruits, hints of honey and light floral notes. It is round, rich with exotic flavours, a semi-creamy texture, acidity enough and a long dry finish. This fresh and generous wine over-delivers. It is a high quality entry level wine and Very Highly Recommended. Marsanne can age well but this one (all 18,200 bottles) is made to be drunk when it is young and fresh (sur le fruit).

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Hundred of the Best from Le Caveau. Starting with Franciacorta and a Clonakilty Girl


A Hundred of the Best from Le Caveau
Starting with a Franciacorta and a Clonakilty Girl
Meeting Rhona at St Peter's last week

“We are a small vineyard, ten hectares in total, eight planted with Chardonnay, two with Pinot Noir,” said Rhona Cullinane of the 1701 vineyard in the Franciacorta region of Italy when I met her at the Le Caveau portfolio tasting in Cork’s old St Peter's Church last Thursday. So I hear you asking: Rhona Cullinane, from an Italian vineyard? Well, Rhona is from Clonakilty and went to Sienna to finish off third level education and fell in love with the country and now divides her time between the 1701 vineyard and London with plenty of opportunities to get back to Clon.

1701 is an unusual name for a winery . It comes from the year of the first vinification there by the Conti Bettoni Cazzago family; that was in the “brolo”, a four hectare vineyard framed by X1 century walls. In 2012, brother and sister Federico and Silvia Stefini took over the estate and the winery and named it 1701 in honour of that long-ago first vintage. Rhona works with the Stefinis and they were the first in the Franciacorta region to be awarded the coveted biodynamic Demeter certification in July 2016.

There are about 100 to 120 producers in the area and they are now “slowly focusing” on external markets, Rhona told me last week. “there is a regional ambition to move to organic and biodynamic”. 

Rhona was showing the 1701 Franciacorta Brut DOCG. It is a blend of Chardonnay (85%) and Pinot Noir (15%).  The summer heat of the vineyard is tempered by the breeze from the lake (Iseo) and the mountains to the north. “We choose to keep it on the lees for 30 months, well above the appellation minimum. It is made in the traditional manner, manually harvested, with the indigenous yeasts, and a secondary fermentation in the bottle but with zero dosage.
Ballymaloe sommelier Samuel (left) and Damiem of Clos de Caveau

St Peter's
It is a gorgeous sparkling wine, the palate full and generous, clean, fresh and elegant, apple notes, citrus too and that typical brioche note, beautifully balanced and a dry finish. Expect to pay in the mid 30s, considerably less than what you'd pay for the bigger names of the region; lovely wine, great value.

Jules, who is spending a few month in L’Atitude (Cork) improving his English, was keen to show me some of the wines he was familiar with from his home in the south west of France, beginning with the family’s impressive Chateau de Cedre héritage. “This is 95% Malbec, 5% Merlot,” he said. “Four of the five parcels are organic but the next vintage will be fully organic. It is started in cement tanks, matured in barrels.” 

It is medium to full bodied, gorgeous black fruits on the silky palate with a clean finish. Colour is a light ruby, it is easy-going, no shortage of drinkability. Another quality wine at a very good price (15.40).

The small Mirouze vineyard in Corbieres produces some excellent wines, including that Ciel du Sud that Jules showed. It is a lovely lively blend, 50% Grenache, 50% Carignan. It is raised in cement tanks and no sulphur is added. 
Margaret of Le Caveau and, right, Dave of Café Paradiso

The little vineyard is surrounded by garrigue. That means the vines are well away from the sprays of neighbours. On the other hand, wild boar enjoy the cover of the scrub and so the Mirouze family have to use an electric fence to deter them.
My cuvée!!

Domaine No Control is into wine (of course) and music. One of their Gamay is called Fusion, the other Rockaille Billy. I had spotted the Billy on the list early on and wasn't leaving until I had a taste of it. The domaine consists of just five hectares and Jules agreed that this was that bit different to Beaujolais Gamay. “Lovely, great drinkability”. Must get a few bottles of that for the table when I have guests!

from Oregon
The next chat I had was with Damiem and he was showing the Clos de Caveau Vacqueyras AC Carmin Brilliant. Vacqueyras village, under the shade of its large trees, stays cool when the vineyards all around are warm. 

And this is one cool wine, coming from a height of 200m, higher than most of its neighbours, and bearing the distinctive diagonal wraparound label designed by Karl Lagerfeld. It is a superb blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, natural yeast is used and nothing is added. Good structure and bite, lovely ripe tannins, excellent acidity and freshness.
Sustenance via L'Atitude 51

Superb
Then it was on to the Alsace table where there was a strong showing from Meyer-Fonné. Always find the Gentil wines from the Alsace very drinkable and the MF 2016 was typical. Later, I would come across a similar effort from Oregon’s Ovum Wines called Big Salt! 

The Meyer-Fonné Gewürztraminer 2015 Réserve was aromatic and rich. Hints of sweetness too in the Pinot Blanc but this was dry with  a minerally finish. Also excellent - it suited my palate well - was the 2015 Riesling while the 2013 Grand Cru didn't quite do it for me, almost always find it hard to tune out that whiff of petrol. 
Mayer-Fonné well represented on Le Caveau list

The 2016 Pinot Gris was much more to my liking and the winery points to this one as “the archetypical Pinot Gris for the table”. Will put that on my list. Indeed, I think I may just make a list of all the Meyer-Fonné wines and see how I get on.

I had been pointed towards the Kumpf et Meyer 2016 Riesling by Ballymaloe sommelier Samuel. And with good reason. From its fresh, fragrant and full nose through its complex palate to the long and savoury finish, this is worth a second longer look and so another that will make my ever lengthening shopping list!






Friday, March 9, 2018

A Couple of Decanter Winners for you!

A Couple of Decanter Winners for you!
Ragondin

Les Closiers Lirac (AC) 2015, 14%, €15.00 Marks and Spencer.

On the Rhone, a town called Roquemaure,
Drank some Lirac in a noisy bar.
After lunch of Poulet l’Estragon,
On the river, I saw the Ragondin.

Lirac, on the right bank, is, since 1946, one of the 16 crus of the Rhone and Roquemaure is one of the towns in the appellation. Marks and Spencer winemaker Belinda Kleinig says this is “an opulent example” made from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault and recommends trying it with steak and sausages. One thing that struck me while drinking it, not on the Rhone but here in Cork, was the reliability of Rhone wine.

Decanter are also impressed and made it a winner in last year’s awards saying it was exquisite. “Lirac is often overshadowed by better known rivals but is a source of outstanding value wines.”

This has a beautiful deep ruby colour. Aromas are also enticing, mainly black fruit with spice and herb notes. Not at all shy on the palate, generous, well balanced. Try this lovely Lirac with red meats and game and you may well become a fan as did Avignon popes John Paul XX11 and Clement V. Blessed be the winemakers. An excellent drop and Very Highly Recommended. Very good value too. 

And the Ragondin? A relatively recent import, a kind of a cross between a rat and an otter, from South America. The French don't have much regard for them; you can't eat them, though one lady told me that someone had made a passable paté.

La Fête du Baiser ("festival of the kiss") is a festival celebrated in Roquemaure on the Saturday after St. Valentine's Day. The town also claims to be the place where Hannibal and his army (including elephants) crossed the Rhone in 218BC.

Torbreck Marananga Dam - Roussane, Marsanne, Viognier - Barossa Valley, Australia, 2015, 14%, €22.00 Marks & Spencer

This is another of the Platinum winners from the most recent Decanter awards. The Mediterranean grapes each add to the excellent blend. The Roussane provides structure and finesse. The Marsanne gives palate texture and richness while the Viognier offers a pure floral lift and finishes the wine with refinement and elegance. It is certainly a winner and Very Highly Recommended.

You immediately note the bright and beautiful light gold colour. White fruits and floral notes mingle in the nose. It is rich and fruity (apricot, citrus), hints of honey too, flow across the palate, no shortage of finesse in this medium to full-bodied wine. And there is a persistent finish, the dry finalé still with pleasant echoes of the fruit.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Allez Les Rouges. And The Whites Too. French Wine Fest At SuperValu


Allez Les Rouges. And The Whites Too
French Wine Fest At SuperValu.

The French have taken over the wine aisle of your local SuperValu and they’ll be entrenched until the last day of the month. So you'd best get in there quickly and take advantage of the current generosity. Some big cuts in regular prices here and other tempting offers; watch out for case deals and also get another ten euro off if you buy six bottles.

The Reds
Remy Ferbras Vacqueyras (AOP) 2015, 14%, €12.00 (20.99)


Colour is ruby red and ripe dark fruits abound in the inviting mix of aromas. There is a great balance between the ripe fruit and spices, plus a hint of liquorice, impressive texture, full bodied and rounded.  A good bottle to have on your table at this time of year, great with duck and roast meat dishes, and also the goat now being sold by Eoin O’Mahony in the English Market. It is SuperValu’s Wine of the Month and Very Highly Recommended. Note that massive discount!

Vacqueyras is one of the nine villages in the Southern Rhone that is allowed its own name as the AOC name. The others are Cairanne (the most recent, 2016), Rasteau, Vinsobres, Gigondas, Beaumes de Venise, Lirac, Tavel and Chateauneuf-du-Pape and all nine are regarded as crus.

The village itself is small and tree lined. Indeed, when I called there a few years back, the summer canopy of leaves had the centre in deep shade in the early afternoon. Looked a bit unreal.

Homage du Rhone Vinsobres (AC) 2015, 15%, €12.00 (15.99)

Vinsobres may not be as well known as its fellow Rhone wine Vacqueyras but it is well worth checking out. Grapes allowed in the Vinsobres are Grenache (50% minimum), Syrah (25%) and/or Mourvedre, other varieties allowed 25% max. Serve, they suggest, at 16 to 17 degrees, with Provencal dishes of lamb or game. Goat perhaps?!

Colour is mid-purple and the legs are indeed slow to clear (as you'd expect with the high ABV). Aromas are rather intense, plum and cherry prominent. Spice and fruit lead on the palate, an intense tango; tannins there too but they are gentle. Bring on the red meat, that game, a stew perhaps, then the cheese. With this in our cups, we are well prepared. Highly Recommended.

Chateau Mauleon Cotes du Roussillon Villages Caramany (AOP) 2014, 13%, €10.00 (11.99)

This mid to deep purple wine features strong red to darker fruits in the aromas, floral hints too. There is a spicy introduction with strong fruit, the tannins close to velvety. Quite an impressive assemblage of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache. Recommended. Pairing dishes suggested are Mountain ham, Pata Negra, Rack of Lamb (with spices), or Pork chops (with herbs of Provence, stuffed tomatoes or mushrooms and cream).


Les Blancs

Andre Goichot Mâcon-Lugny (AC) 2016, 13%, €10.00 (14.99)

This is a terrific example of French Chardonnay from the grape’s birth place (there is a village called Chardonnay a short drive away). After a few years of tasting, I am coming to the conclusion that most AG wines are good and that quite a few are very good indeed.

This has a very light strawy colour. A nose of stone fruits, floral notes too. Palate features flavours of those fruits (peach, nectarine, apricot) plus apple and citrus too, a crisp acidity, and some minerality also. Highly Recommended. Well priced too by the way.



Andre Goichot Pouilly-Fuissé (AC) Les Feuilles d’Or 2014, 13%, €16.00 (22.99)

Colour is a medium gold and there are aromas of citrus and white fruits among quite a medley. In the mouth, it is smooth, close to creamy, richly fruited and soft with good acidity too plus a lingering finish. An elegant wine indeed, one of my favourites from the sale, and Very Highly Recommended. 

La Baume Elisabeth Viognier Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2016, 14%, €10.00 (12.99)

This friendly, fresh and fruity white wine has a light, and bright, straw colour. Inviting white fruit aromas, floral notes also. The palate delivers a delicious mixture of citrus, peach and apricot flavours, a little tingle too, even a hint of sweetness, yet the fresh finish that follows is lip-smackingly dry. Highly Recommended. Sufficiently full-bodied to pair with Asian cuisine.


Others to note in the sale
Chateau Camp De La Hire 2010 (Castillon, Cotes de Bordeaux), 13%, €12.00 (15.99)

Intense colour here; the fruity aromas are also quite intense. Medium to full bodied, with soft tannins, it is fresh and elegant, well balanced and pleasingly complex with long finalé. Highly Recommended.

This is not the Bordeaux of the big chateaux. But the same grapes are used, mainly Merlot in this case. Castillon, one of four Cotes de Bordeaux areas, is squeezed between the Dordogne River to the south, St Emilion (no less) to the immediate west and the Dordogne department to the east.

Alchimie Sauvignon Blanc (Coteaux du Giennois AOC), €12.00 (14.99)

This little known little appellation (202 hectares) on the eastern edge of the Loire Valley northeast of Sancerre (4181 ha) produces almost equal amounts of light-bodied red and white wines. With extensions of Sancerre limestone geological formations into the area, you can expect good Sauvignon Blanc and this doesn't disappoint. Highly Recommended.

Fancy a little sparkler? Try Andre Guichot Vin Mousseux Blanc de Blancs Brut €12.00 (17.99).

Price in brackets indicates the normal price per bottle.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Celebrate Rhone Wine Week with these two!




Rhone Wine Week
4th to 11th November
Two to try. 🍷👍


Pope, Parker, Mistral
A Pope and a Parker were among the key figures that enhanced the reputation of wines from the Rhone Valley. Wines had long been made in the area even before Julius Caesar arrived in Chalon-sur-Saône and found two Romans already in the wine trade there.

The shell of the Papal holiday palace
 remains after wartime bombing
Fast forward now to 1309 when Pope Clement V moved the papacy from Rome to Avignon. Most of the wine drunk in the temporary papal palace (they also had a summer palace called Chateauneuf du Pape) was from the local area and so the fashion for Rhone wine began in earnest. 

Clement of course came from a Graves wine family (think Chateau Pape Clement!) and would be followed by five more popes before the move back to Rome. The papacy was here was 67 years, a lot of wine!

The Rhone was firmly among the most respected wines in France when infallibility of another kind arrived in the 1980s. Robert Parker, the American wine guru, "intervened". He just loved the naturally ripe style and gave them very high scores and his many international "followers" took his word for it, bought the wines and found out for themselves just how good the Rhone bottles really are.

In between Pape and Parker, there was the wind of 1956, perhaps even more influential than the famous pair. Then the Mistral battered the region for three weeks and contributed to the temperature dropping to minus 15 degrees. The olive trees, then the big crop in the area, suffered badly but the vines resisted so well that a majority of farmers turned to vine cultivation.

Santa Duc Les Blovac Rasteau (AOC) 2011, 15%, €18.45 Le Caveau, Bradley’s Cork

If you’re thinking of celebrating Rhone Wine Week, then this Rasteau is a great choice. Even Robert Parker agrees, at least he did seven years back when he praised Yves Gras of Santa Duc saying he “produces some of the best buys in Cotes du Rhone”. Viticulture in this vineyard has always been organic in style and intent and full certification was achieved in 2012.

This wine is the typical Southern Rhone blend, often called GSM from the initials of the three varieties. The 2011 is a blend of Grenache (70%), Syrah (20) and Mourvedre (10). There has to be a minimum of 50% Grenache, so this is well above that. The fruit is late-harvested so no shortage of ripeness or power - note the ABV of 15%. No oak is used and the wine is bottled without filtering.

Colour is a deep ruby and the legs are slow to clear. Aromas are complex, a melange of red and darker fruits, hints of pepper too. Upfront on the palate, generous fruit flavours prominent, well balanced though, tannins still grippy and there is a persistent tingly finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Rasteau was, from the 17th century, best known for its fortified wines. But was gradually forced to accept the conditions of the C. d. R village appellation and eventually came onboard in 1967 and gained the coveted cru status for the village in 2009.


You can still get a Vin doux Naturel (VdN) here, of course. The red is perhaps best known and the only one that I've ever tasted. That was in the village itself and led to a little argument with the salesperson. She had suggested pairing it with Stilton but I flew the flag and told I’d be taking it with Cashel Blue. We got on very well after that. 


Domaine Chaume-Arnaud Côtes du Rhone (AOC) 2015, 14%, €16.95 Bradley’s (Cork), Le Caveau


There are, as you know, many skilled wine-makers in the Rhone and they don’t suddenly lose those skills when they turn their attention to white wines. Indeed, their well-made whites can often be better value than the more popular reds. In any case, Chaume-Arnaud, (along with Santa Duc above), is one of the area's leading producers, according to Grapes and Wines.

This particular bottle is a blend of Marsanne, Roussane, and Viognier. Other white grapes that are permitted are White Grenache, White Clairette and Bourboulenc.

You see a lot of lovely light gold in your glass. The aromas, white fruit and blossom, are harmonious. Refreshing white fruit flavours abound on the palate, with a refreshing acidity at play, well balanced, and with a long mineral-y finish. Very Highly Recommended.


Try with grilled fish, shellfish, fish stew and goats cheese. My own tip: Goatsbridge trout with Mothergrain Quinoa (with Golden Veg.).

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three Rivers. Three Reds. Rhone. Dordogne. Piave.

Three Rivers. Three Reds
Rhone. Dordogne. Piave.
The arena in Arles
Vines need water and no surprise then that so many of the world's best known vineyards are planted on the banks of rivers. You’re all familiar with the spectacular pictures from the Douro and the Rhine, both World Heritage sites. Two of the rivers below, the Rhône and the Dordogne, will be well known to you. I suspect that not may be the case with the Piava.


The Rhône is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland, passing through Lake Geneva and running through southeastern France where it splits into two near Arles - its delta encloses much of the Camargue - before entering the sea. It is 812 kilometres long.
Monbazillac, one of the sweet wine areas on the Dordogne.
Venice
The Dordogne is a river in south-central and south-west France. The river and its watershed was designated Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 2012. It flows generally west about 500 kilometres through the Limousin and Périgord regions before flowing into the Gironde, its common estuary with the Garonne in Bordeaux. It flows through many vineyards, including those of Bergerac and Bordeaux, and there is much to see in terms of history (e.g. Castelnaud) and prehistory (Lascaux for example) in the area.
The Piave is the baby of these three. It begins in the Alps and flows southeast for 220 kilometres into the Adriatic Sea near the city of Venice. There is a cow's milk cheese with the same name and the river is known too for the Battle of the Piave (1918), the decisive battle of World War I on the Italian Front.
The Rhone
Pierre Amadieu Côtes du Rhone (AOC) Grande Réserve 2011, 14%, €16.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licences


This well balanced wine, a blend of Grenache and Syrah, has a violet colour, the legs slow to clear. Blackberry and plum more than red berries feature on a somewhat muted nose, hints of clove too. It is smooth, concentrated and spicy, tannins are silky, acidity not too obvious, but it is well balanced overall, a powerful palate but not short on finesse and with a very pleasing finish.


The grapes are grown different soils, clay and limestone for the Grenache, pebbles and gravel for the Syrah. The fruit used is a “very careful selection”. Harvesting is manual and the wine is matured for six months in oak barrels. A good result! Very Highly Recommended.


The Dordogne
Feely La Source Vin de France 2011, 13%, €23.50 Mary Pawle Wines


Saussignac, like neighbouring Monbazillac, is perhaps best known as an area that produces sweet wines. And it is here that Sean and Carlo Feely produce organic wines that are not sweet! Their vineyard is certified organic and biodynamic. Hand-crafted from old vines, this wine is aged gently for 18 months in French oak barrels. It is handpicked, basket pressed, with indigenous yeasts; it is unfined and unfiltered.


Colour is a deep purple. Plum is prominent in the aromas. Quite a depth of flavour (including plum), nice bit of spice too, concentrated and well balanced and the finish is good too. This 2011 blend is Merlot (80%) and Cabernet and is Highly Recommended.


The Feely suggests an Irish (Wine-Geese) connection to this Bergerac vineyard and there is. Read about it here. By the way, if you are in the area, why not visit Chateau Feely; it is just 75 minutes from Bordeaux and 15 from Bergerac. If you can't make it to Saussignac, maybe you'd like a little share in the vineyard? Details here.


The Piave
Conte Loredan Gasparini Malbec Colli Trevigiani (IGT) 2015, 12.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

Colour here is a fairly intense violet and red fruits feature in the aromas. Rich flavours on the palate plus a good input of spice, excellent acidity too. Tannins are fine. Very smooth and approachable and then a good long finish. Very good indeed and Highly Recommended.

While this particular wine is labelled IGT, the winery has been cultivating Malbec for the past fifty years as part of their DOC Venegazzu. They say it is ideal as an aperitif (I can vouch for that!), with fried food and red meat.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Raise Your Hat to Syrah! Praise Too The Shiraz.

Raise Your Hat to Syrah!
Praise Too The Shiraz.


Syrah is one the best known grapes in the world. The origins of this dark-skinned red have been widely debated but, according to Wine-Searcher.com, its modern viticultural home is unquestionably the northern Rhone Valley of eastern France. In Australia, Syrah is overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) known as Shiraz, and is regarded as the country's national grape.


There is a wee chapel dedicated to St Christopher on the top of Hermitage in the Rhone. But was it St Patrick who started Syrah’s rise to world fame? In Grapes and Wine (published 2015), the story that the Irish saint planted the first wines on the famous cnoc as he made his way to the island monastery of Lérins is raised.

Another famous visitor to the area was Alexandre Dumas. “In 1834, Alexandre Dumas travelled to the South of France along with his friend Jadin, arriving one evening at Tain-l’Hermitage. ‘On entering the hotel, I took Jadin over to the window and invited him to raise his hat to the hill that towered over the town. This Jadin did, and when I told him that these were the slopes of the Hermitage, he took it upon himself to raise his hat a second time.’ “  The above quote is from About Our Wines (a Cotes du Rhone booklet).



Wayne Thomas Shiraz 2004 (McLaren Vale), 14.5%, €26.80 Karwig Wines


Twelve years old but still displaying a great depth of colour, dark with only a slight lightening at the rim; legs slow to slide down. Aromas of berries and spice. Superb rich fruit and spice on the palate too, oak is well integrated and a long finish. Robust and balanced or, as his son said, Big and ballsy! This is more or less perfect and Very Highly Recommended.


Get on down to Karwig’s, or just go online, while they still have some of it. Sadly, Wayne Thomas died in 2007 and though his son is a winemaker he operates not in the McLaren but in the Hunter Valley.


Wayne “Thommo” Thomas was quite a character and you may read a tribute to him here.

 
Clairmont Classique rouge Crozes-Hermitage 2008, 13%, €22.50 Karwig Wines
This one hundred per cent Syrah (from vines over 30 years old) has a purple colour, slightly less so towards the rim; legs slow to clear. Red fruits are prominent in the aromas. Again, good fruit, some spice too on the palate, smooth with fine tannins, excellent balance and long finalé. Somewhat more restrained than the Thomas and also Very Highly Recommended.

The producers indicate that this red Crozes-Hermitage will pair well with grilled lamb, cold meat or roast turkey. Aged, it will be a great match to any kind of stew.                                        

Much larger than the prestigious Hermitage appellation which it surrounds, Crozes-Hermitage is also much more prolific.

  
Morambro Creek Shiraz 2008 (Padthaway, Australia), 14.5%, €23.40 Karwig Wines


The Bryson family “employ sustainable environmentally friendly viticulture” and “meticulous traditional winemaking”. It all adds up to gems like this!


It is purple in colour, a little less so at the rim, legs slow to clear. Ripe fruits and more in the aromas, blackcurrant for sure. Expansive on the palate, full of fruit and spice, yet great harmony there too, soft and balanced with a hint of sweetness, the wood is well integrated and you have a long and pleasant finish. Another excellent Shiraz and Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

M. Chapoutier. Poet of the Rhone

M. Chapoutier. Poet of the Rhone.
Enjoy. Don’t Over Analyse.

The M. Chapoutier motto is Fac et Spera - do and hope. Two words that sum up all the patience and daring that this art demands: patience in relation to nature which presides; daring for the winemaker, who observes, chooses and assists.The wine will be the faithful expression of this alchemy.

This winery and negociant business is situated in the Rhone area (and with vineyards further afield, including Australia). “Our own vineyards and the single vineyards that we select from are cultivated either organically or biodynamically.”

Michael, who introduced labels in Braille for his wines in 1999, is very much his own man as you can see from the numerous videos available on-line. I have  a short-list below and the first one is probably the best.
Lovely 2011 drive through the vineyards after coming down
 from a misty Mt Ventoux. Wish I was there now!

Michel, a terroir lover, is the current man but the family have been making wines for over two hundred years and there are other M. Chapoutiers in and coming into the business. I’ve read that If you are a Chapoutier baby, your first name will begin with M!

To give you an idea of Michel’s character, before you check the videos, I have a few quotes below. In one of the videos, you’ll hear him say that it was the English who added the H to Ermitage! Some of his wines are named Ermitage.

“I will not use the power of death (herbicides, pesticides, other -ides) but I will use the power of life.”

“Two people talk about love, the poet and the gynaecologist. I prefer the poet.” In other words, don't overanalyze as you may take the fun out of wine.

“It is very easy to concentrate a wine but it is gross….. Stuff fragrance…”

Quite a man. And quite a wine-maker too, one of the big names of the Rhone, according to Larousse. He makes beautiful wines and I enjoyed a few of them recently.

Chapoutier links:


No shortage of choice when I sat down
for lunch in Gigondas in June 2011

M. Chapoutier Gigondas (AOC) 2014, 14%, €25.95 Bradley’s

According to M. Chapoutier, texture, flavour, length and body are more important than fruit, much more important than fragrance. “Stuff fragrance,” he emphasises in one of the videos above. Reckon he followed his own advice here with this Rhone gem, though there is no shortage of aromas in this bright and healthy looking ruby wine, an attractive mash of red fruit (strawberries mainly) on the nose.

It is strikingly fresh on the palate, superb body with no shortage of flavours, acidity light and effective in the balance, and the finish goes on and on. Chapoutier makes wine to go with food and this is just one excellent example. A classy wine and Very Highly Recommended.

Grenache is the main grape here, with Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre playing the supporting roles. A part of the wine is aged in oak casks before being blended with the other part. This wine is then aged from 12 to 16 months before bottling.

The village of Gigondas was a winegrowing area up until the time of the phylloxera epidemic at the end of the XXth Century. As a consequence of the disaster, Gigondas chose to turn towards olive growing. However, following the " Black Frosts " in 1956 which destroyed the greater part of its olive trees Gigondas reverted to winegrowing, re-implanting high quality vineyards- and which nevertheless had to wait until 1971 before gaining A.O.C. acknowledgement.

M. Chapoutier Rasteau (AOC) 2013, 14%, €19.95 Bradley’s

Colour of this blend of Grenache and Syrah is a quite a deep crimson. And there are rather intense aromas of very ripe fruit, also a little pepper. Generous fruit and some spice too on the palate, juicy in a light manner, lively acidity, well balanced and an excellent warm finish. Highly Recommended.

Rasteau is one of the Crus of the Cotes du Rhone; it is allowed use just the village name on the label and is a step up on the AC Cotes du Rhone Villages named village, two steps up on AC Cotes du Rhone Villages and three steps up on the AC Cotes du Rhone! Other villages on a par with Rasteau include Gigondas, Vinsobres and Vacqueyras. Rasteau and the neighbouring Beaumes de Venise also make a fortified wine, a red one in the case of Rasteau.


M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone (AOC) 2014, 13.5%, €14.95 Bradley’s

Garnet is the colour of this blend of mainly Grenache and Syrah. Aromas are mainly red fruit (cherry), some spice too. On the palate, you get that fruit again, a lovely drift of spice, good acidity, fine tannins too. An excellent and rather complex example of a very well made Rhone wine, at a level close to higher applications, and Highly Recommended

The vineyards of the red Côtes du Rhône “Belleruche” covers 4 departments (Drôme, Vaucluse, Gard and Ardèche) on different soils (clay and calcareous alluvial deposit terraces, clay…) giving to the “Belleruche” an extraordinary richness and complexity.

Also available in white.
Arriving in Beaumes de Venise

M. Chapoutier Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (AOC) 2012, 15.5%, €17.95 (37.5cl) Bradley’s
Vin doux naturel (vdn), or naturally sweet wines, have a long history. Like port, a spirit (in this case, a neutral grape spirit), is added before all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. Chapoutier also makes a similar wine to this in Banyuls in the Languedoc. Both are intended to “prolong the pleasure of a good meal”.

Colour is a light (and bright) gold and the attractive aromas are of candied fruits and there are also floral notes. The aromas continue strong in this well balanced wine. There is no excessive sweetness here, no cloying stickiness. Light and lovely and Very Highly Recommended.

The grape by the way is Muscat petit grains. Beaumes de Venise is quite a small place, in the shadow of Mont Ventoux. I have happy memories of a visit there. I had just come down from a grey drizzle on top of the mountain and a temperature of about six degrees. Down in the valley as we drove towards Beaumes it rose to the mid twenties.

We had a tasting in a shop in the village and a friendly lady was very generous when she poured the golden liquid into your tasting glass. There was no spittoon! And so we had to cut our tasting mission short but got back to the nearby villages, including Gigondas and Vacqueyras, a few days later.

Other
La Bernardine Chateauneuf du Pape 2013, €39.95
Les Meysonniers Crozes Hermitage, €21.95 See my recent review here. Very Highly Recommended.