What’s in the glass tonight May 6th – Hermitage


Delas Herimitage 2003

From the Cellar: Delas Les Bessards Hermitage 2003 – $$$+

In the world of wine there are many famous ‘bumps’ in the landscape from which superlative wines are produced. You can think of the Pomerol plateau from which Petrus hails, or the hill of Corton. There is the grand cru hill bearing Les Clos in Chablis, the hillsides of Barolo in Piedmont, and even NZ’s own Te Mata peak. But few are more famous than the hill of Hermitage on the left bank of the Rhône river in France. And on that hill, there are few more famous vineyards than Les Bessards.

I was fortunate to secure a bottle for the Pool Room, and it proved yet again why I drink old wine.

Dark carmine colour, browning on rim. 14% alc.

Gorgeous developed bouquet. Dark fruits, oak and vanilla. All soft and sensual and savoury. I could sniff this wine all night.

To drink the wine was deliciously smooth and rich and full of ripe fruit. There was engaging heat at the back, and it showed perfect fruit weight. There was acid and supple tannins in perfect balance. A superb food wine, and so rewarding as an aperitif.

I double-decanted this wine, and it hit the ground running. Superb.

Exceptional 99 points.

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What’s in the glass tonight September 28th – 2003 Y. Chave Hermitage


Y Chave Hermitage 2003

Off Topic: Yann Chave Hermitage Rhone 2003- $$$+

Deep ruby crimson colour. 14 % alc.

Smokey on the nose, funky, soapy, dusty, redolent of wooden-floored halls and dry grass. So much going on! It continued opening up gloriously in the glass – all tertiary character, developed dark fruit, dried blackcurrant, pink roses, lavender and pencil lead. Such exotic gorgeousness!

Opens with still primary fruit in the mouth, flavours of dark cherries, and lovely acid balance. Fine tannins. Huge length. Fat, rich and opulent, and a pure, mimeral seam throughout. A profound Rhone, just amazing.

Exceptional 98 points

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.

La-La land


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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….

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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.