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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Celebrate Rhone Wine Week with these two!




Rhone Wine Week
4th to 11th November
Two to try. đŸ·đŸ‘


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-SaĂŽne 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 CĂŽtes 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 RhĂŽne and the Dordogne, will be well known to you. I suspect that not may be the case with the Piava.


The RhĂŽne 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 PĂ©rigord 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 CĂŽtes du Rhone (AOC) Grande RĂ©serve 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 LĂ©rins 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 CĂŽtes du RhĂŽne “Belleruche” covers 4 departments (DrĂŽme, Vaucluse, Gard and ArdĂšche) 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.





Wednesday, October 21, 2015

France. Via le route rouge

France. Via le route rouge


Let’s take a red wine trip in France, not all encompassing by any means. Indeed, I’m being a bit contrary here as two of our areas visited, the left bank in Graves and the Loire valley, are perhaps better known for their white wines. But they've got some red gems from those gravelly soils as well.
Passed these vineyards in Graves a few times

Clos Floridene Graves (AOC) 2011, 13.5%, €16.35 Maison des Vins, Podensac.

D’accord, let us begin in Podensac, in Graves. It’s a small enough town with a nice restaurant called Chez Charlotte where a three course meal cost me €22.00 in 2014. The friendly proprietor speaks good English and is also proud of the area, listing the main attractions as Charlotte (big smile!), the Lillet Distillery, the Maison des Vins and the fact that they have a water tower by the famous architect Le Corbusier.

Denis Dubourdieu is also renowned in the Bordeaux area but as a wine-maker. In 1982, he and his wife founded Clos Floridene. This wine is a fresh and fruity blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (72%) and Merlot (28%).

Colour is a deep garnet and blackcurrant dominates the aromas. The palate is an intense mix of fruit, and tannic flavours, some spice too and, with a long silky finish, this left bank red is Very Highly Recommended.

Chateau Saint EugĂšne Martillac 2011, Pessac-LĂ©ognan (AOC), 13%, €12.80 in Graves

Colour is cherry red, a shiny one! Ripe red fruits and violets feature in the aromas. On the palate, there are excellent fruit flavours and a matching acidity, fine tannins at play here too. Rather powerful, with some spice, dry and warm and a long finish. Very Highly Recommended. The blend is 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot and it has spent 12 months in barriques.

The chateau is located in the heart of Martillac and its clay-limestone soil was newly planted, mainly with Merlot, in 1998. Owners are the Gonet family, well known as owners in the Champagne region for over 200 years. Martillac is a commune in the Pessac-LĂ©ognan area which itself is in the outskirts of Bordeaux and includes the legendary Haut-Brion.
Found this old vineyard tractor in Languedoc museum
Chateau la Bastide L’Optime 2011, Corbieres (AOC), 14%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

Let’s now take the L'Autoroute des Deux Mers from Bordeaux towards Narbonne - you’ll be glad of a glass of wine after driving around Toulouse on the peripherique - and head for Corbieres, one of the biggest appellations in the Languedoc.

We are tasting another blend, this of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache, from vines whose average age is 50 years. It has spent 12 months in barriques bordelaises. Colour is a dark red with a lighter rim. Intense red fruity nose along with some spice. The attack is fairly intense, fruit and pepper combining, round tannins there too, but it is smooth and warm as it spreads across the palate to a long dry finish. Powerful and concentrated, this too is Very Highly Recommended.
Lunch in a Rhone village
Cellier de Monterail Cotes du Rhone 2014, 13%, c. €12.50 O’Donovan’s Off Licence
It is just a short trip from the Languedoc to the Southern Rhone where most of the generic Cotes du Rhone is produced. Grenache is usually the main grape, as it is here with over 40%; its companions in this bottle are Syrah and Mourvedre (the usual suspects in the GSM trio) along with Cinsault.

Quite a light red with pleasant enough red fruit aromas on the nose. This basic wine of the region illustrates why the Cotes du Rhone is so popular and so well known in Ireland. It is well balanced, round and full with some spice and the tannins remind you gently that they in play. Recommended.

O’Donovan’s choose this to represent France in their recent Rugby World Cup promotion though they picked an even better French wine (Chateau de la Ligne) to represent Ireland!

Driving through Southern Rhone vineyards
M. Chapoutier Les Meysonniers, Crozes-Hermitage (AOC) 2012, 13%, €21.95 Bradley’s Offlicence

The highly respected winemaker Michel Chapoutier, one of the big names in the Rhone (ref: Larousse)  is an uncompromising terroir lover and committed too to organic and biological winemaking, preferring to “use the power of life” rather than “the power of death”, the -ides (herbicides, pesticides etc), in the vineyard. He doesn't like to see wine being over-analyzed as it takes the fun out of it and you’ll note that all his labels are marked in Braille.

And, yes, as well as talking the talk he walks the walk. Just take a glass of this hand-harvested foot-treaded Syrah from the Northern Rhone. It is in the classic style, fresh and fruity. Colour is a medium to dark red with a bright hue. Aromas are of ripe red fruit. The initial fresh and fruity attack is long lasting, tannins there too but smooth; it is ample and round and then the long finish. Superbly balanced wine and Very Highly Recommended.
On the Loire. I was safely on the bank, glass in hand!
Chateau du Petit Thouars, Cuvee Amiral 2009 Touraine (France), 12.5%, €15.00 at the chateau
After the Rhone we head to the north and to the area around the town of Chinon in the Loire which we will leave with the boot full of wine and just a short journey to the ferry port of Roscoff!


“Many great men of our family served in the French Navy,” owner Sebastien du Petit Thouars told me when we called to his chateau near where the Vienne and Loire rivers meet.  And so, in memory of those great men, he called his top wine Amiral.

Colour is a deep red, close to purple, with a great sheen. Red fruit dominates the intense aromas. Fruit, fresh, juicy with a lively acidity and a pronounced dry and lengthy finish. Tasted this first when I bought it two years ago and it is definitely heading in the right direction. Only trouble for me is that this was my last bottle of the Very Highly Recommended wine. By the way, du Petit Thouars wines now come under the Chinon designation.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Two Portuguese Reds. One Rhone Ranger

Two Portuguese Reds.
One Rhone Ranger.


If it’s a red weekend (and the weather forecast indicates that it is), Karwig Wines have got you covered with this trio: two serious contenders from Portugal (and there are more on the way) and a consistently good performer from the banks (both of them!) of the Rhone. Check them out in the store or online.
Quinta do Penedo Dao 2009 (DOC), 13%, €17.25, Karwig Wines

It seems that many wine-drinkers now realise that Portuguese wines are by no means short of personality and class. Quite often, in the reds, that class is supplied by the native grape Touriga Nacional. It makes up 70 per cent of this blend while another indigenous grape, Alfrocheiro, accounts for the balance.

They sure seem to work well together in this dark red with its beautiful intense and warm aromas of juicy dark fruit. That intensity is also evident on the palate, some spice too; it is complex and elegant, with soft tannins and an impressive finish. This friendly juicy wine is Very Highly Recommended.

Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho (Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal) 2013, 13.5%, €14.35, Karwig Wines.

Touriga Nacional pops up again in this blend along with Aragonez, Trincadeira, and Syrah and a pretty good blend it is too. Colour is a light ruby with aromas of ripe red fruit. On the palate, it is fresh, fruity, light and elegant, with a fairly serious structure, well balanced and boasting a decent finish as well. Highly Recommended. The estate was founded in 1267, so they should know what they are doing.
Domaine AndrĂ© Brunel Est-Ouest 2011, Cotes du Rhone (AOC), 13.5%, €13.95 Karwig Wines


More often than not, Cotes du Rhone, whether from a tanker at a crossroads in Provence or at a top class northern city restaurant, delivers. This one sure does and is highly recommended.


The family estate is located on both sides of the Rhone. In the east, there is the stony soil of the Vaucluse and, in the west, the sandy slopes of Gard. Garnache (75%) is the lead grape in the blend, supported by Cinsault (15) and Syrah (10).

The red colour is medium, tending to light, and it has aromas of fruit (blackcurrant prominent). It is fruity upfront, spicy too, well balanced for sure, and the fruit element is maintained through the pretty long finish as well.