Northern Rhone with Giles Robin

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Everywhere you go in France today you see appellations revitalized by the new generation of winemakers coming through, and Giles Robin from the Northern Rhone is one of the up-and-comers. Regional Wines recently hosted a tutored tasting of his wines, lead by Giles, who was accompanied by and interpreted by, his wife Jean.

It is not often that in New Zealand that you can attend a French wine tasting hosted by the winemaker, and where a sizeable proportion of the audience is also French. Luckily earlier in the day I had a quick lesson on pronouncing Rhone place names from a Belgian work colleague – ie does the ‘s’ sound in Crozes and what is the right way to say St Joseph?  So I was at least able to follow some of the evening’s comments and information that were bandied about.

It was also a somewhat informal tasting, a bit chaotic, with a lets-make-this-up-as-we-go-along kind of structure to the evening, a departure from the usual normal & formal way we approach the wines at these kind of gigs. Indeed, when questions of residual sugar or oak handling were posed from the floor, the garrulous Giles tended to give a Gallic shrug before answering. He made his wines more to drink than to talk about…and drink we did, and so the group got quite noisy at times, with gusts of laughter. Very entertaining!

The majority of his wines are from the Crozes-Hermitage appellation centred around his home village of Mercurey, which spreads at the foot of the famous hill of Hermitage, with also a single St Joseph, and a small production of Hermitage itself.

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We started with a white – Giles Robin Crozes-Hermitage ‘Les Marelles’ Blanc 2015 – a blend of Rousanne and Marsanne from both his and a neighbours parcels, with a nice peach apricot nose, delicious rich fruit and a crisp finish. Fun.  Then to his first red – Giles Robin Crozes-Hermitage “Terroir des Chassis’ 2014 – his “winebar” wine, a simple easy-drinking cuvee with bright red fruit. This was followed by another “not intellectual” red – Giles Robin Crozes-Hermitage ‘Papillon’ 2015 – named for the butterfly signifying a new start. Another light easy drinking wine.  More structure and minerality than the previous red, with good balance and depth.

Up next came three vintages of his premier cuvee – Giles Robin Crozes-Hermitage ‘Alberic Bouvet’ 2014, 2013 and 2010, named for his grandfather who got him into the winemaking game. I noticed an immediate jump in quality. A great interest in the nose, intensity and body and freshness on palate, soft tannins, cassis, black olives, licorice. Beguiling. Very good. The older vintages were a little closed.

Also closed was his Giles Robin St Joseph 2014. I struggle a little with the appellation. It is stretched so long and thin on the map. I never know whether to expect a warmer style Rhone or a river-cooled style. This was fleshier that the Crozes, not so bright and fruity, and more linear. Quiet, I guess.

And then to the rockstar – Giles Robin Hermitage 2010 – land on the Hermitage hill is owned mainly by six domaines or families. To get fruit off this site you need to know someone. And Giles knew someone with half a hectare on the west side near Les Bessars who agreed to sell him fruit. And with it Giles crafted a wonderful wine with a fantastic bouquet, with such depth and richness. It was structured, with gorgeous fruit and lovely acid freshness. What a treat!

When you rub up against a great Rhone, you remember it. Thanks, Giles.

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