notes on the 2009 and 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Clos des Papes red and white after a visit there. A few 2010 Lirac reds were also tasted in the Rhône. I especially highly recommend the not yet in bottle Domaine de la Mordorée - see their entry under Tavel. Also, some bottled already 2010 Gigondas - very early bottling, pressure on volumes from small harvests, but not a trend I like. use the Search engine Gigondas 2010 and 4 stars and up. More 2010 Condrieus entered - see under the 2010 Northern Rhône tab, click subtab The Leading Wines.
2010 Northern Rhône notes have been loaded on a wide selection of Cornas, Hermitage red and Côte-Rôtie. See the left-hand tab 2010 Northern Rhône, and once logged in, click on the subtab The Leading Wines. Domaine visits to Marc Sorrel and Bernard Faurie are also featured, under Hermitage. Under Vin de Pays, I suggest a look at the most promising Domaine Les Alexandrins, a Northern sector venture co-run by Marc Sorrel`s son Guillaume. From 2011 they will be offering a Crozes-Hermitage red, but for now their red from 85% Gamay and their Viognier are very good in 2010.
In the Southern Rhône, visits to three domaines at Châteauneuf-du-Pape to taste 2010s and some 2009s in bottle: Font de Michelle (which includes their very promising Gonnet Selection range, eg Ventoux and Gigondas), Vieux Télégraphe (which includes their Gigondas Les Pallières) and the Bruniers other Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine La Roquète, and the Château de Beaucastel, where the estate wines were tasted, along with the wider range, whose name has changed from Perrin & Fils to Famille Perrin.
Under Recent Tastings, a review of the Village of Séguretand its wines, from a tasting held in Paris in July, 2011, at the cosmopolitan Fish restaurant in the arty, fancy rue de Seine. Left Bank.
Also, a full review of the 2010s from Hermitage at Chapoutier and Delas, as well as from Cornas-based Jean-Luc Colombo has been entered under each of those domaines. Go to the Left Hand tab 2010 Northern Rhône, and, once logged in, click on its sub tab, the indented heading The Leading Wines to see a series of summaries on each of the Northern appellations in 2010. A raft of tasting notes and views will appear after extensive November 2011 visits.
Pierre Gonon of the Domaine Gonon, father of Jean and Pierre, died in early October, 2011. He was 78 years` old. He retired as a vigneron in 1989 due to ill health, but gamely kept going with his abundant vegetable patch, jardin, or potager, next to the cellars. His specialities were all local - "he was not the sort of person to go seeking outside varieties" - according to Jean. His potatoes were always a triumph - every family visitor had to try them, as well as his haricots verts (green beans), his tomatoes and his Oignons de Tournon.
He was also a representative of that generation, peopled locally by the late Gustave Coursodon and the late Maurice Courbis, also Auguste Clape, who worked tirelessly with absolutely no eye for publicity or marketing. This was the generation that formed the basis for the rise of the Rhône in the 1970s. Quality was a natural aim, with no short-cuts to achieve that. It is little surprise that his two sons set about hand grafting their Syrah cuttings and working with no use of artificial or chemical fertilizers, long before anyone saw that as a PR stunt, which is it has become in cases today.
Domaine Gonon is today the reference domaine at Saint-Joseph, from its base at Mauves, the village of the Chaves of Hermitage, the Gripa family at Saint-Joseph and Saint-Péray, the Marsanne family and the Coursodons. Their high quality and tremendous reputation can be traced back to father Pierre. My condolences have been given to the family.
Around 90 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Papes have been tasted, after bottling, and their notes entered. The most noticeable development for the vintage is the loss of what I term their "puppy fat". The demands of the dry ripening season and high late August heat have come through in the shape of firming tannins, and rather dry finishes. The wines have become more brooding, less innocent. The best retain a pleasing serenity of fruit, ripe tannins and calm balance. 2007 is a superior vintage, while the 2006s present free and pretty easy drinking in many cases now.
A full review of 2009 Gigondas features under the tab 2009 Southern Rhône. Click on the sub tab The Leading Wines. It is high quality year there. Visits to Domaines Martinelle in Ventoux and Domaine La Boussière at Gigondas have been written up - they represent the husband and wife team of Corinna Kruse and Thiérry Faravel, and are leaders in both appellations.
Please read an article on Le Vieux Donjon, one of the only domaines at Châteauneuf-du-Pape still making just one red wine. Reflections on that, the history of the 15 hectare domaine, and comments specifically on their 1990 and 1981 feature under Veterans Corner. Log in, and click on the bar under Veterans Corner marked The Wines
A newly scribbled essay around a June 2011 tasting in London of the white wines of Château Rayas at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the Reynaud family Côtes-du-Rhône estate Château de Fonsalette. "They" simply DO NOT make wines like this anymore. Log in, and go to The Big Tastings. Added as well: two extremely sound west bank domaines in the Gard, namely at Chusclan, the Château de Signac, maker of sophisticated reds; and at Signargues, the Clos d`Alzan, where Michel Collomb, the husband of the owner of Domaine de la Valériane, makes understated, slow-burn wines for which the word "honest" is well-suited. Recent liked wines include the 2008 Côtes-du-Rhône red from Cros de la Mure at Massif d`Uchaux, and the two 2010 rosés from Marcel Guigal at Côte-Rôtie, his Tavel and his Côtes-du-Rhône.
A full review of 2009 Côtes-du-Rhône Villages reds has been entered under the Left Hand tab 2009 Southern Rhône. Once logged in, click on the sub tab The Leading Wines. From the 17 Villages there is a great variety of good value wines: this is an exciting area for the Rhône, with some dashing wines with a real frame around them, ideal for a little cellaring and good dishes. The most racy in this category and that of the more simple Côtes-du-Rhône are shown under the w.o.w. Wines category, while the terroir-faithful, local examples are under STGT Wines.
This has brought up a wide variety of small domaines and Cave Co-operatives. Among the more notable, I would signal the recent joint venture of Laudun and Chusclan on the west bank, Les Vignerons de Laudun Chusclan, which is listed under the Chusclan tab. The Cave de Cairanne is still capable of turning out some good cuvées, as is the Cave de Rasteau. Note that Rasteau starts as a full cru appellation from the 2010 vintage - the 2009 remains a Village wine. North-east of Rasteau, a visit to the the Cave Comtadine at Puyméras has been put up, with reliable and understated wines the order of the day. At Sablet, the Cave Gravillas is another competent performer, while at Costières de Nimes, the grouping of Les Vignerons Créateurs is doing well, with the family-owned Château l`Ermitage also making supple, modern wines of some quality.
Elsewhere in the Villages area, note the following new entries. At Séguret, the tiny domaine run by Pablo Hocht, genial and culured cellarman at Château de Saint Cosme in Gigondas, has been entered - his first vintage of Domaine du Crève Coeur was 2010. The wines of Saint Cosme at Gigondas have also been tasted, including the merchant range, and that estate remains a top performer. On the Plan de Dieu, the Domaine Martin has long been a good source, including for Rasteau. At Valréas, the Domaine du Séminaire is a valid address, while a couple of British entrants are worth noting. The importer Boutinot now has a vineyard at Cairanne, while the retailer Mark`s & Spencer has produced an excellent, great value Saint-Maurice in 2009. Sound suppliers of Côtes-du-Rhône range from the small Domaine de l`Aure to the large scale Compagnie Rhodanienne, where quality is on the up.
On a literary level, I have received a copy of Gerald Asher`s anthology of his Gourmet magazine articles, most charmingly titled A Vineyard in My Glass. My quote on the back cover will express my views on this volume: "Wine can occasionally be silken textured, as can its prose, especially in Gerald Asher`s hands. He is the Maestro, the Doyen, and my inspiration since the 1970s." I highly recommend this uplifting book to all readers. It is published by University of California Press, and its ISBN is 978-0-520-27033-6.
Lastly, the riots in London have been a most depressing manifestation of all sorts. A restaurant that we in the wine enthusiast trade use for tasting lunches and dinners, the Ledbury, was caught up in the maelstrom. It has risen to 2 star Michelin status through much hard work, allied to reasonable pricing, notably at lunch time. It is in Notting Hill, west of London. The eyewitness account on this published link may bring home some of what was going on to you, in all its bleakness. It is written by Louise, a Californian book reading blogger. The postscript is that the Ledbury had no door the next day, but was open for lunch. http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2011/08/london-riots-comes-to-the-ledbury/
Northern Rhône action recently: a full review of the 2009 Saint-Joseph reds, a highly accomplished vintage. See 2009 Northern Rhône, sub tag The Leading Wines. Visits to Thiérry Allemand at Cornas, the new, promising domaine of Pierre-Jean Villa, based at Saint-Joseph, but with vineyards also at Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie- Pierre-Jean left Les Vins de Vienne in late 2009.
In the Southern Rhône, see 2010 Southern Rhône, sub tag The Leading Wines, for a review of 2010 Tavel rosé - given the freshness of the vintage, this has been a successful year. Côtes du Rhône domaines entered include, notably, Domaine La Manarine, whose Gilles Gasq also works at Domaine de Monpertuis at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Good quality wines here. The quirky Clos des Grillons run by Nicolas Renaud in the Gard (west bank) is full of interest - small lots of wines with an abundance of character - they are Vins Naturels in style, on low SO2 rations. A visit to the much-admired Matthieu Dumarcher in black truffle country has been logged, along with the Domaine de l`Olivier in the Gard (very correct wines), while the Domaine Barbanot near Vaison-la-Romaine has been newly entered.
From the Rhône Villages, the Domaine du Val des Rois at Valréas has been put up, tinged with the sadness of the passing of its doughty, intelligent owner Romain Bouchard, aged 88, in July 2011. Romain`s son Emmanuel has been running the estate for several years now. His father was committed to many causes to help the disadvantaged, and was indeed a man of substance. The ex-Tricastin appellation of Grignan-les-Adhemar, a truly ridiculous amalgam of two villages, features the Domaine de Montine, whose Vinsobres is a good performer. At Rasteau, a few Vins Doux Naturels, VDNs, have been tasted: I signal the Domaine des Escaravailles, and the Domaine des Banquettes, the latter always a good performer.
After tastings at the Hermitage names of Delas, Chapoutier and Jean-Louis Chave, the report on Hermitage 2009 red and white has been posted under the 2009 Northern Rhône tab on the left hand column. Visits to Yves Gangloff and Domaine Georges Vernay - both big names - at Condrieu and the Domaine Bernard at Côte-Rôtie have been entered. In the Veteran stage, I would highlight the 1994 white Hermitage from Jean-Louis Chave, and the 1996 Condrieu Coteau de Vernon from Vernay, the last vintage made by Georges before he retired - both are in great shape still.
Prior to a visit of Northern and Southern domaines, including J-L Chave, Delas, Chapoutier, Gangloff and a big 2009 Gigondas tasting sur place there, several solid domaines have been added. Under the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, the Domaine Saladin run by two enterprising sisters in the southern Ardèche has been put up, and under Côtes-du-Rhône, the latest on their neighbour the Mas de Libian, always a true quality destination. Other Côtes-du-Rhône domaines added - Fond Croze, the latest on Domaine de la Rouette (son has returned, promising therefore) and the interesting vin de pays domaine in the Gard, Domaine La Gramière. See also: the latest at Signargues at Domaine de la Valériane, a good, steady name in female hands. On the Plan de Dieu the Ferme Saint Antonin is up now, and at Ventoux the British-owned Château Unang - above average, good reds and whites in an authentic manner.
From the Maldives to Mere, Witshire, England, in one nearly fell swoop. A visit to Yapp Brothers, which is explained in the Yapp website http://www.yapp.co.uk/blog/index.php/2011/06/j-l-l-drops-in-to-mere/link. I fully recommend the 2010 Maby Tavel rosé La Forcadière, by the way.
Added recently has been a range of domaines from the Southern Rhône, with an emphasis on Gigondas 2009s: so Domaine Burle, des Florets, Gour de Chaulé (a w.o.w. rosé, rare), Moulin de la Gardette (2008 is w.o.w. and STGT, also rare), Paillère et Pied Gu, Santa Duc, St Francois Xavier, Domaine du Terme.
From the Plan de Dieu Villages, look up the good, hearty Bastide Saint Vincent and Domaine de l`Espigouette. Rasteau domaines now posted range from old to recent - La Soumade of the charismatic André Romero, and La Collière from André`s protegé Georges Perrot. Another pillar of the community at Cairanne, the Domaine Rabasse Charavin of the tenacious, very public-spirited Corinne Couturier, has been posted as well. I also recommend looking up the regular high quality of Domaine Cros de la Mure at Massif d`Uchaux - w.o.w. wines. I would also highly recommend a tiny, 2+ hectare organic-biodynamic domaine, Le Mas de Casalas, listed under Côtes-du-Rhône, also STGT style wines. Lastly, from the Gard, Château Boucarut, one of the better Liracs.
following the dinners in the Hilton Iru Fushi in the Maldives with Pierre Perrin of Château de Beaucastel at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the following wines tasted (drunk) have been noted under this estate, along with full report under Recent Tastings: Roussanne VV 2009, 2008, Hommage Jacques Perrin 2007, 2001, 2000, Cru de Coudoulet 2003 red, and Beaucastel red 2007, 2006, 2005, 2003, 1998, 1990. Full report to follow. The now-bottled 2008, as well as the 2009 and 2010 Hermitage red and the now bottled 2008 Hermitage white from Domaine Jean-Louis Chave have also been entered. At Tavel, the Domaine Maby red Lirac and their w.o.w. Tavel 2010 rosé have also been put up.
Engine room Southern Rhône entries recently, with the emphasis on some new and exciting domaines. There is much to like about the approach of young growers who are often highly motivated, and I would signal some of these to readers. At Roaix, the most promising Domaine Pique-Basse deserves speacial attention for its Villages wines. At Cairanne, the Clos des Mourres likewise, while under Côtes-du-Rhône, have a look at Domaine Nicolas Croze - not a start-up, but good nonetheless. Under Brézème, see Domaine Helfenbein Charles, a singular journey for this young man who is working the most southerly Northern Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards at Brézème, but also vineyards from the Ardèche across the river.
At Cairanne, prime domaines Oratoire Saint Martin and Domaine Alary have been visited - also see Denis Alary`s interesting comments about his whites under the latter. From Rasteau, Elodie Balme`s wines of finesse have been tasted, which now include a Roaix. At Vinsobres, the 2009s have been tasted from a range of domaines, led by Domaine de Deurre (STGT qualities), Jaume and Chaume-Arnaud. For the full range, use the Search engine under 2009 Vinsobres.
At Signargues, the quite recent Rhône Village in the west bank Gard département, the accomplished maker of fine wines, the Château Haut-Musiel has been entered, while nearby at Saint-Gervais, the regular leader of the pack, Domaine Saint-Anne, has been visited. Under Côtes-du-Rhône, I would also point out the regular quality of the Château La Borie, a wine popular in Britain.
From the Northern Rhône, Yves Cuilleron`s range has been updated, from Condrieu on to the reds and the Vins de Pays as well.
My next assignment is a glamorous voyage to the Maldive Islands in the company of Marcel and Bernadette Guigal, a hommage to Marcel`s Decanter Man of the Year title, with events being organised in his honour. I am carrying the great man`s towels and lobbing in the odd comment, notably on his Mouline, Landonne and Turque wines from 1998 to 2007. After that, Pierre Perrin of Château de Beaucastel is presenting his wines on another island, and that, too, is a very high profile event.
A series of entries that centre on 2009, several from Gigondas, whose freshness contributed importantly to the quality of the 2009s. The authentic Domaine La Roubine, including their good Vacqueyras and Sablet, Pierre Amadieu, Saint-Damien, the extremely regular, STGT leaning Domaine du Pesquier, the always stimulating Château de Saint-Cosme, and the steady Château du Trignon. Added are one established Gigondas Domaine du Pourra, owned by the good doctor Jean-Christian Mayordome, and at Vacqueyras, a bright new grower and his Domaine d`Ouréa - making both Vacqueyras and Gigondas, starting out with the very promising 2010 vintage. Likewise, a recent young merchant based at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Romain Duvernay, has been included. His Northern Rhône selection, notably Hermitage red, has been successful in 2009.
From the Northern Rhône, have a look at François Villard at Condrieu - I note improvement in some of his whites since July 2010, with the malo in some cases taking until the middle of last summer to complete. Also at Hermitage, Maison Nicolas Perrin, the joint-venture between Nicolas Jaboulet and the Perrin family of Beaucastel; also the Vins de Vienne at Côte-Rôtie - emphasis on their Vins de Pays.
Under the left-hand tab 2009 Northern Rhône, please read about the 2009s in an often overlooked category, that of Côtes-du-Rhône and Vin de Pays reds and whites. These wines have a lot of personality, and frequently represent genuine value for money. In 2009 they are as rich as I have ever known them - a good vintage to buy at prices starting around £11 in GB and rising to dizzier heights when considering the accomplished Seyssuel Syrahs and Viogniers - the likes of Sotanum and Taburnum from Les Vins de Vienne.
visits and tastings have been entered on the following domaines, all seen in March 2011: at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Clos Saint Jean (lot of sugar in the 2009, so delayed bottling), Domaines Pierre André (longtime organic, very Grenache), Bosquet des Papes (Tradition v good value), Cristia (just bottled now), Marcoux, Pegau, Saint-Préfert, Pierre Usseglio, Raymond Usseglio. Mostly 2009 reds, some 2010 whites have been tasted. At Gigondas, the very accomplished Domaine La Bouissière - focus on 2009 also.
Recent domaines that have been brought up to date include the interesting Gigondas Mas des Restanques, where the style is refined and subtle. Two good Côtes du Rhône domaines are on the score sheet as well - the Domaine Coulange, which is making w.o.w. wines and the long-term classic Domaine La Réméjeanne, which I have known since the late 1970s. These are both in the Gard département west of Avignon. 2010 Tavel rosésare also being entered - a fresh and agreeable vintage.
mid-March 2011: following early March 2011 visits, two eminent domaines at Châteauneuf-du-Pape have been brought up to date: Domaine Monpertuis, where the red wine has STGT tendencies and the white wine is from the school of long-lived white Châteauneuf - the whites tasted back to 1998 and 1992. Also, I had a quick look in at the Château de Beaucastel, where tasting included the 2009 Hommage a Jacques Perrin and some villages 2009s that included Cairanne, along with 2010 grass roots whites. From Côte-Rôtie, 2009 and 2010 René Rostaing. My views on the excellence of the Northern Rhône 2010s have been stated before, and my enthusiasm continues unabated. I also had an agreeable check-up on René`s thickly set, excellent 2005 Côte Blonde.
A couple of organic Côtes du Rhône domaines who sell heir wine rather cheaply through Monoprix in France, and might be worth a look, particularly the first-named, Domaine Notre Dame de Cousignac and Château des Coccinelles (ladybirds). Also, from the Côtes du Vivarais, the Vignerons Ardechois, who have been around for a long time, and whose quality can be on the mark, especially in generous vintages such as 2009. About 18 red Hermitage 2009s have been entered as well, under each domaine. Use the Search engine to see their rating, starting at 3 stars and up, I suggest.
Joining Côte-Rôtie in a full 2009 Northern Rhône review is Cornas 2009 - click THE LEADING WINES tab under 2009 Northern Rhône in the Left-Hand column. More Crozes-Hermitage 2009 reds have been reviewed under their specific domaine names - see the LVT 2009 r category. This includes visits to father and son Domaines of Alain and Max Graillot, the latter also known as Domaine des Lises.
A trio of wines from Château Val Joanis in the Lubéron have also been entered. As is often the case, my preference is for the simple wines that are less tarted up with new oak etc.
the full investigation, 4,000 words and lots of comments and insights, on 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds is documented under the 2009 Southern Rhônetab.
By the way, once you have clicked on that tab, please go down one level and click on the Leading Wines title underneath it; there is no need to re-log in.
Leading Northern Rhône 2009s have been entered from Cornas, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph - wines around the ***(*) or higher category. Look out for the LVT 2009 tab against the domaine name.
As I have been working on a large contribution to a book on Gigondas organised by the Syndicat of Growers, there are some fascinating tasting notes appearing. I am covering the vintages from 1959 to the present day, year by year. Many old bottles have been tracked down, and they frequently surprise through their stability and freshness after thirty-plus years, particularly in the lesser, higher acidity vintages. Readers can use the Search option for vintage notes, or focus on a few domaines whose wines have been found for this exercise - for example, Domaines Moulin de la Gardette, Pesquier, Raspail-Ay, Saint Gayan and Teyssonières.
See Veterans Corner for a comparison of two wines from the sainted vintage of 1985, the Gigondas Domaine Raspail-Ay and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. A new domaine at Saint-Joseph, Domaine Christophe Blanc, has been entered, offering a sound 2009 from that excellent vintage, while an overdue listing for the accomplished Domaine Les Aphillantes at Plan de Dieu has been made.
I also urge you to catch up with the Vidal-Fleury range of wines, listed under their home appellation of Côte-Rôtie. Owned for decades by Etienne and Marcel Guigal, this largely merchant business is now receiving due investment and attention now that is established in a brand new cellar in the south of the Côte-Rôtie appellation. I have been impressed by both southern and northern Rhônes from them.
Under Laudun, the Dauvergne-Ranvier merchant business features their very respectable, modern 2009s from Côte-Rôtie and Saint-Joseph. The Côtes du Rhône Domaine de l`Olivier has been posted, as have two suppliers at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the young team at Domaine de la Biscarelle in the north of the appellation, and the established merchant based in the southern area, Les Grandes Serres, which has produced a good, limited quantity 2009 red Châteauneuf.
A full report on 2009 Côte-Rôtie has been posted under the Left Hand tab 2009 Northern Rhône. It is a vintage worthy of great respect. 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds will follow under the 2009 Southern Rhône tab.
A variety of domaines has been added, catching up on admin, as it were. Notably: Domaine La Cabotte at Massif d`Uchaux, always a strong source of good wine. The incomparable Domaine de Sainte-Anne, the only real address at Saint-Gervais; the traditional and very worthy Domaine Saint-Pierre in the Côtes du Rhône, an estate I have known since the early 1970s, also makers of good Plan de Dieu Villages and Vacqueyras. Other names worth a look include, at Vacqueyras, the Domaine de la Brunély, at Sablet, the Domaine de Verquière, at Gigondas, the Domaine de la Tourade, at Lirac the biodynamic Domaine de Mayran and at Saint-Gervais the Domaine Clavel.
From the Northern Rhône, please look at Marc Sorrel from Hermitage for some wonderful 2009 and 2010, as well as at Condrieu, the skilled Francois Merlin with his 2009 and 2010.
For those of you straying to the far north, please see the review of Restaurant Juuri in Helsinki, a real treasure.