What’s in the glass tonight May 29th – Côtes du Rhône


Leon Perdigal CdR 2016

Off Topic: Léon Perdigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2016 – $

Rough and raffish, red fruits, savoury, white pepper tickles the nose.

A simple and enjoyable Rhône rouge. Light red fruits, balanced.

Recommended 86 points.

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RW Worth Cellaring Tasting: Côtes Du Rhône And Related Reds, with Geoff Kelly


CDR worth cellaring 1

Once again, Geoff Kelly hosted another evening at Regional Wines and Spirits looking at a range of affordable Rhône reds. Three years back I had attended a similar event, which hooked me on wines from the Rhône valley, so I was very keen to come and have another review of these wines in Geoff’s erudite company.

His invitation set the scene: “Time to run another ‘Worth Cellaring’ tasting of the warm red grenache-based wines of the Southern Rhone Valley.  At best these can be the most food-friendly and best-value red wines on Earth.  They can have all the soft charm and appeal of pinot noir, yet just be that little bit more substantial.  In general, one has to pay quite a lot to achieve substantial pinot noirs.  This is where the Southern Rhone wines come into their own.

Selection is the key.  Because many of them are matured more in large vats, even concrete, than smaller barrels, we have to be on the lookout for heavy dull wines showing some reduction.  Most winewriters will never tell you about that aspect of wines, hence the appeal of having our own evaluation tasting, to decide for ourselves which are in truth worth buying.

Good Cotes du Rhone will cellar for years, ageing very gracefully.  The layout for the tasting will therefore be:  to taste the Guigal wine first as a yardstick – any wine better than this will be worth buying;  then a 10-year-old wine to demonstrate that the good ones cellar well;  then a sampling of both Cotes du Rhone,  and some of the named villages formerly in the Cotes du Rhone-Villages appellation.  They cost a little more.  This approach should give us a good feel for the wines of the district, and what price level to buy.

By and large Cotes du Rhone is based on Grenache, with varying amounts of Syrah.  Cheaper ones have Carignan and Cinsault in them, and don’t keep so well,  whereas the best cellar wines have more Mourvedre.  Many are raised in concrete, some in stainless,  some better ones in big old wood,  and a few modern ones have a touch of new oak.  We have 12 wines, ranging from the simplest Cotes du Rhone around $20, to representatives of the elite villages formerly in Cotes du Rhone-Villages, but some now with their own AOC,  such as Vacqueyras and Rasteau,  now in the $40s.  The whole idea is to find more affordable Cotes du Rhone-related wines with some of the quality, flavour and weight of Gigondas or Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  but at maybe half the price.

The wines will be tasted blind, on this occasion 25 ml samples were used,  then a vote on which is best (still blind),  before discussion of each sample,  to sort out why it is good,  bad or indifferent.”

The wines for tasting:

2015  Domaine Alary Cotes du Rhone La Gerbaude

2015  Domaine Les Aphillanthes Rasteau 1921

2015  Domaine de la Charbonniere Vacqueyras

2016   Delas Freres Cotes du Rhône Saint-Esprit

2014  Domaine des Espiers Gigondas

2016  Domaine Les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone Les 3 Soeurs

2014  Domaine Les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne Cuvée Maximilien

2013  Maison Guigal Cotes du Rhône

2014  Jerome Quiot Vacqueyras

2016  Domaine Ogier Cotes du Rhône Heritages

2016  Famille Perrin La Vieille Ferme Ventoux

2008  Chateau de Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone Les Deux Albion

The wines were, by and large, all enjoyable. As Geoff also wrote, “As the Australians used to say,  before they became more aware of of the wines of the world beyond their shores, in a warmer climate, vintage does not matter so much” so these wines were all drinkable and appreciated in their own way. The lighter, simpler offerings, like the 2014  Jerome Quiot Vacqueyras and the 2015  Domaine Alary Cotes du Rhone La Gerbaude I wasn’t that thrilled with myself, perhaps due to price point and related density of fruit, so I won’t be writing up the whole flight. I’ll concentrate on the wines I enjoyed most:

CDR worth cellaring 2

2013 Maison Guigal Cotes du Rhône – a reference Rhône rouge and a great ‘sighter’ for the flight. Very good flavour and fresh finish.  I have scored this at 90 points previously, and wouldn’t revisit that assessment.

2016 Domaine Ogier Cotes du Rhône Heritages Rhône – Good fruit weight and flavours, structure and body. Savoury  ‘garruige’ quality. Should hold well.

2016  Domaine Les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone Les 3 Soeurs – another good wine at great value which I liked enough to buy following the tasting to review in more detail. It showed boldness and character and length, with lovely pepper and shrubby herb notes.

2014  Domaine des Espiers Gigondas Soeurs – from a famous appellation, showing a reductive complex character, fragrant, with the fruit aromas fading slightly in the glass as it sits. On the palate there is great fruit intensity and freshness. This was one to buy for the cellar.

2014  Domaine Les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne Cuvée Maximilien – from a new sub-regional appellation, with slight reduction, slight unripeness, but complex fruit flavours, fine grained tannins, herby finish with a celery note. Another one to buy for the cellar, and like three years ago, the importer had left none to sell!

2015  Domaine Les Aphillanthes Rasteau 1921 – fine aromatic quality, aromas of dark fruits. Lovely richness and body to this wine. Showed density and power and grace. Soft, long with a fresh finish. Delicious. Another one for the Pool Room!

What’s in the glass tonight March 21st – Cotés du Rhone


Dom Les Grands Bois Les 3 Soeurs 2015

Off Topic: Dom. Les Grands Bois les Trois Sœurs Cotés du Rhone Rouge 2014 – $$

Named for the three sisters of the producer.

Inky carmine colour. 14.5% alc.

This wine smells soft and savoury and gracious. Ripe plums and red berries. Cardboard box.

Full and fleshy, ripe and luscious to drink. There are chewy raspy tannins, a sweet finish, and pleasant heat at the death. Lovely!

Recommended 89 Points

What’s in the glass tonight March 15th – Cotés du Rhone


Famille Quiot Jerome Quiot CdR 2014

Off Topic: Famille Quiot Jerome Quiot Cotés du Rhone Rouge 2014 – $$

I am off on a Rhone Rouge bender…Deep carmine. 14% alc.

A rustic fruit nose, with a little savoury note.

This was a cheapie. It showed simple and thin at first opening. It softened on standing to show some fruity lusciousness, but not enough. Continued to improve with air. Best for French barbecues, or beef with wine.

Commended 83 Points

La-La land


e-guigal-la-mouline-2006

E.Guigal Rhone wine tasting

I was pleased to attend a wine tasting of selected wines from the noted producer E.Guigal a little while ago. It was hosted by Negociants rep Brett Crittenden, and Meredith Parkin of Glengarry Wines and Spirits. A small crew were in attendance, including a few rogues from the MS.

Brett Crittenden is a very engaging raconteur, and set the scene for us well.

Guigal was established in 1946 by Étienne Guigal, who had worked for Vidal Fleury for 15 years before setting up his own business. It has been managed by his son Marcel Guigal since 1961.

Guigal, under Marcel Guigal, came to international fame in the early- to mid-1980s when Robert M. Parker, Jr. followed by other wine critics heaped praise on Guigal’s top Côte-Rôtie wines, in particular the three single vineyard wines La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque.

The Rhone valley is divided into Northern and Southern zones. The north has a cool climate, well suited to Syrah. The South has a Mediterranean climate, and better for Grenache, Carignan etc. E. Guigal source grapes from their own properties, from contract growers, and from other suppliers as juice. The area boasts many appellations, and we were fortunate to try wines from several over the course of the session.

E.Guigal make a lot of wine…

We started off with a heavy-weight white, a complex and concentrated way to begin the tasting:

Guigal Lieu-Dit St Joseph Blanc 2014 – $88 – an exceptional vintage. 95% Marsanne with 5% Rousanne, grown on granite soils, and aged in 100% new oak. 100 years ago this wine was France’s most expensive white, and is still a ‘cheffy’ favourite with food.  My notes say: oak, vanilla and honey on nose. Lifted, perfumed. Lovely fruit expression. Remarkable. To taste: packed, structural, power and tension, with mineralite. On sitting, I saw viscosity and spice emerge from the glass, like a Viognier from nearby Condrieu. 94 points.

Side Note: From Wkipedia: Lieu-dit (plural: lieux-dits) (literally said-location) is a French toponymic term for a small geographical area bearing a traditional name. The name usually refers to some characteristic of the place, its former use, a past event, etc. English speakers seem to have discovered the concept through oenology and have considered it as a wine term which in its typical usage translates as “vineyard name” or “named vineyard”. Typically, a lieu-dit is the smallest piece of land which has a traditional vineyard name assigned to it. In most cases, this means that a lieu-dit is smaller than an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC).

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2014 – $24 – Light and fruity – red apples. Good acid, crystal clear finish, no bitterness.  86 points.

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2012 – $22 – Can you believe this? 4,000,000 bottles of this wine was made from a blend of some 40-odd parcels. Incredible, and to get such uniformity across the bottling, and across the vintages as well. Apparently 7000 bottles are shipped to the restaurants of Lyon daily. Cleaner than previous vintages, this wine still displays typical character. Warm, enveloping nose. Plummy, soft, with medium tannins. A great food wine, and for everyday drinking. Holds its shape well in the glass. The winemakers rightly take great pride in this wine.  89  points.

Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 – $79 – From the Rhone’s original appellation: 3000 hectares. 28 growers. 60-100 year old Grenache vines. Elegant and spicy. Aroma notes of pencil shavings, graphite and herbs. Shows a clear identity. Nervous. Dense. Showing richness of the Grenache. Plums, sour cherries, raspberries. A grainy textural finish. Delicious. 92 points.

Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2012 – $50 – From off 1200 hectares arrayed around the base of the hill of Hermitage. 100% bought-in juice. Fermented in 3rd-use oak. Funky on the nose, feral and almost gamey.  A cool climate style – lean, light, with lighter ripeness of fruit, with cutting acid, sour cherry, celery leaf and capsicum. Burgundian in its expression. 87  points.

Guigal St Joseph Rouge 2012 – $59 – 100% Syrah, from bought-in fruit and own grapes. Soft and fruity on nose, and immediately more attractive to me than the preceding Crozes Hermitage. There was depth of ripe fruit, soft, with plenty of flavour and richness, along the lines of the CdR Rouge, but with more character. 90 points.

Then we got into the three heavyweights reds of the tasting….

e-guigal-tasting-oct-2016

Guigal Hermitage Rouge 2010 – $149 – From a stunning vintage. Wines aged in 60% new oak for 36 months. I saw power, opulence and richness. Silky, spicy. Sweet entry, acid balance, amazing fruit intensity, tight grained. Long, long. Absolutely amazing. 96 points.

Guigal Cote Rotie 2011 – $145 – From the Côte Brune and Côte Blonde. Own vineyards. Again aged in 60% new oak. Perfumed, ethereal, such grace! It explodes in the mouth, then shows tight and linear and refined. Perfect physiological ripeness. Silky tannins. Absolutely amazing again. 97 points.

Guigal La Mouline 2006 – $250-450 – One of the famous La-la vineyards, along with La Landonne  and La Turque. La Mouline is a vineyard-designated wine from a parcel inside the lieu-dit Côte Blonde. A blend of 11% Viognier and 89% Syrah and therefore often the most floral of the three top wines. Produced from 100 year old vines, aged for 40 months in new oak. 6000 bottles made. This particular bottle was ferreted out from Glengarry’s store rooms for the tasting. A repeat tasting would be likely impossible. It was feminine, oh so rich and oh so opulent. Enveloping. Mouthcoating. It went on and on. An exemplar of what heights a Rhone rouge can attain. 98 points.

What’s in the glass tonight September 10th – E.Guigal Rhône reds


eguigal-cdr-2012

D and R came around for a pre-dinner drink and snack. We polished off my open bottle of E.Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2012 , then I cracked open a E.Guigal Gigondas 2010.

eguigal-gigondas-2010

The CdR 2012 was excellent, and looks a great bet for the cellar (Decanter July 2016 rated it 87 pts, saying, “Bright aromas of crisp red fruits, with smoky roasted undertones. Soft notes of creamy vanilla [] fine tannins [] fresh mineral finish [] poised and polished”) (I would score a few pts higher than that), while the Gigondas 2010 appealed to me greatly for its extra concentration, ripe fruit, density and all-round superyumminess (to be scientific).

Good times. Good company!

What’s in the glass tonight August 23rd – Côtes du Rhône


Les Gemarelles CdR 2013

Off Topic: Les Gemarelles Famille Quiot Côtes du Rhône 2013 – $

A run-out special from RW. 13.5% alc. Bright carmine.

Subdued nose. Pepper and Vegemite.

Bright fruit entry with some pizzazz. Somewhat spiky, with crunchy tannins. There was softness on the mid-palate, with a dried-fruit finish. It died in the glass a little over time, so showed not much extract or concentration.

A low-price foreign quaffer that exhibited commensurate personality. Alas, it died in-bottle completely by the 2nd day.

80 points

What’s in the glass tonight July 31st – Côtes du Rhône


E Guigal CdR 2010

From the Cellar: E Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2010 – $$

Following an immersive tasting of 2007 Chateauneuf de Pape’s, I arrived home with a taste for another Rhone. I don’t have anything of the power or depth as a CdP, but I do have a few of these kicking around…

Deep dark red. 14% alc. 49% Syrah, 48% Grenache, 3% Mourvèdre. Average vine age 35 years. 3.5M bottles produced of this vintage.

The bouquet is soft and floral as you would expect, some savoury and underbrush notes, with a hint of green herb.

On drinking I tasted medium-ripe red fruit – cherries, raspberries – with chocolate and vanilla. A sweet entry. Good balance of acid, with a nice tannic structure. The dry extract is not as intense as the CdPs, not being as ripe or full. I saw it as crusty on the back palate, and with a drying finish backing off. Pleasant easy style of red, a classic of its type, needs another few years to develop some secondary characters.

88 points

What’s in the glass tonight July 22nd – Cairanne CdR Villages


Dom. Les Grands Bois CdR 2014

Off Topic: Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages 2014 – $$$

Carrying on the Rhone theme, here is the real deal, a Cairanne CdR Villages blend 50% Grenache, 35% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah grapes.

The Cairanne appellation in the Côtes du Rhône was promoted to Côtes du Rhône cru status earlier this year, joining well-known names such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Crozes-Hermitage. The winemakers of Cairanne first submitted their application for cru status to the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) in 2008. Cairanne achieved Côtes du Rhône status in 1953 and became a Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation in 1967. Cairanne is the 17th appellation to get cru status; before that Rasteau was the most recent, which was promoted in 2010.

I am super-excited to drink this wine…Back in October 2014, L and I attending a Rhone tasting hosted by GK. We tried a bunch of wines from the region, and it was my first exposure to them. It started off my love for the wines of the Rhone valley.

Here are some notes from that tasting…”We also absolutely loved the inexpensive Dom. Les Grands Bois Côtes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne Cuvee Maximilien 2011. It was up there with the Guigal Gigondas, and would have lasted 30 years but alas, RW’s allocation was sold out, and we couldn’t get any…”

A-ha! Here is the 2014 edition…

Dark carmine. 15% – big!

Aromatic nose of herbs, sweet black fruit, a bit earthy and funky.

Very textural in the mouth, medium-to-full weight, with ripe sweet fruit – blackberries, prunes – and licorice. Crunchy forward tannins and bitter edge give this wine a rustic quality, but the fruit intensity lifts it up a level. The blend of grapes gives this wine a complexity you don’t see from straight syrahs, and the youth and tannic heft give this wine a distinctive sharp nip on the tip of my tongue. Best keep half a bottle for tomorrow. A day’s softening will give a good pointer to this wines age-ability.

The next day the wine softened and lost a lot of its sharp edges. The palate was still substantial with complex sub-notes, and held an attractive drying finish.

91 points

Tell the Executioner the password is…Homage


GOR 2016 2

Game of Rhones Wellington – July 9th

Last Saturday L and I wandered along the harbour waterfront to the site of the Wellington edition of the Game of Rhones celebration. It was held in the function centre at Chaffers Dock. A big crowd was well esconced by the time we got there (we were waylaid on the way by an wharfside snack of delicious piping-hot chips twice cooked in duck fat & served with homemade aioli) and a babble of happy voices greeted us as we walked in to receive our wristband and Plumm wine tasting glass (to keep).

The idea behind Game of Rhones was to try the various Rhone style whites and reds from the stands of the participating producers, and vote for your favourite. You then went into a draw to win a prize, but I didn’t win the big Lotto draw that night either…

We didn’t know where to start…so the nearest attendant suggested an aperitif tasting of the attractive d’Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2014 to get the palate working, and we went on from there…

I tried tastes of a whole bunch of wines…tipping out and spitting as required…including Langmeil Three Gardens SMG 2012 and Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz 2013 (v good)(love the black and gold label design). I dragged L to the stand of one of my favourite producers Elephant Hill where we tried the Elephant Hill Syrah 2014 and Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah 2013 (both great)…L then got into a Viognier kick after trying their Elephant Hill Viognier 2015, and she was away…

Then it was time for a taste of France, and a version of the real thing…first up was Delas with a run-through of their wines starting with the simple and straightforward Dela Ventoux 2014 and Delas Syrah Vin de Pays de l‘Arleche 2014. It got a bit more interesting with the regional Delas St-Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone 2013, then it got really nice and tasty with the Delas Les Launes Crozes-Hermitage 2014. L liked this.

I moved sideways to taste the decent M.Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhone 2015, then the rather good M.Chapoutier Les Meysonniers Crozes-Hermitage 2014 (prob. the closest I will ever get to a Hermitage…) and then a truly lovely M.Chapoutier La Bernadine Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2013…yuuumm…L tried the Vin de Pays Rose 2015 and then the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2013, which were both too sweet to interest me. The CdP was gunning for wine of the day by that stage…

Next door was the Craggy Range table. They had the Le Sol Syrah 2014, and therefore had me at hello. This was delicious, revelatory. Probably my wine of the day now.

Still, I had to move on. Other wines to try, gotta give everyone a go, etc. And that was a great idea…

L found an amazing Viognier – Seresin Estate Viognier 2012 – it was incredible. L described it as musty and fusty, with oranges and mushrooms. I thought it was great. L went on to find a delicious Villa Maria Cellar Selection Viognier 2015 and the Alpha Domus Wingwalker Viognier 2014, which now puts her in danger of being turned away from Rosés (which tells me it’s serious)…

I fell into conversation with a fellow Magnum member. He told me, “Tell the Executioner the password is …“homage”. I didn’t know what he was on about, but then it dawned on me.

In New Zealand there is currently a bit of an “arms race” between various producers for the title of NZ’ s finest Syrah. There is the Matheson from Matua, Airavata from Elephant Hill, there is Le Sol from Craggy Range (which I tried here), and hiding under the table of the stand across the room, a single bottle of Homage Syrah 2013 from Trinity Hill

I approached the winemaker who was dressed as an executioner. I spoke the password and asked for a taste, and he poured me the last drain of the bottle. And it was delicious. I wish I had time and space to consider it properly and tell you all about it, but it was very, very good. Wine of the Day?

After that I thought it would not get any better. And for a while I was proved right. The Vidal Legacy Syrah 2013 at almost $80 a bottle disappointed me; and the Pask Declaration Syrah of 2013 and 2014 were both unremarkable. The Te Whare Ra Single Vineyard 5182 Syrah 2015 didn’t stand out for me either. But along came the Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah 2012 to totally blow me away with its bouquet and persistence and heft, and I thought I had found my wine of the day (again)….

But then I visited the friendly people from over the hill. The Schubert Syrah 2013 from Martinborough was lovely, but the Schubert Syrah 2008 was some thing else again. Refined, powerful and cellared very well. This wine built a great rep in the room as the afternoon wore on.

Sharing the same table were the guys from Martinborough Vineyard. They shared with me their Martinborough Syrah Viognier 2013 and 2008, which were two splendid ways to end the afternoon. They know what they are doing in the vineyard.

Were there any great wines? You bet – the Le Sol and Homage were very memorable (and the chance to try them both side-by-side, priceless), as was the Seresin Viognier and the Shubert Syrah 2008. The M. Chapoutier CdP was fantastic. However, my wine of the day had to be the Dreadnought for its flavour punch, extract and complexity, which was a lovely surprise. But it shouldn’t have been, as the Man O’War Ironclad I drank two years back was my runner up for WOTY 2014.

GOR 2016

As for GOR itself, the hard floors and walls, loud music, and high ceilings made it all a little loud, but we got into the spirit of things nonetheless. Big thanks to all the producers who were there. I was told it was expensive to take part, and so I appreciate the commitment from all involved, especially the Martinborough crews. You guys rock!

I expect the danger of these events is that they turn into a posh kind of piss-up, but a piss-up all the same. The organisers tried to keep it classy, and I think they succeeded. I wouldn’t know what to suggest in the way of improvements if there is a next time, except look for a quieter venue so I can hear myself think and hear others talk. Oh, and more food. The wines on offer were a wide and deep selection, with enough stars to satisfy someone like me, and the service staff were friendly and attentive.

I liked all the dressing-up of the servers too.

Disclosure: L and I were guests of Bottle Shop Concepts.