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All-Rhône Reds Blind-Tasting

Last thursday we were about 10 wine-buddies gathering at our generous host Nick‘s home for a blind-tasting of red Rhône wines. This time there were absolutely no limits as all reds from all-over the Rhône-region were permitted, drastically differentiating it from our last tasting at Nick’s when only Southern Rhône reds were allowed, as well as from the last blind tasting at my place where boundaries were set by the Syrah varietal, originally stemming from that area but now being planted all over Planet Wine.

This means that each of the 12 bottles we popped that night could be anything from Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage to Côtes du Ventoux and Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, hence also mixing single-varietal wines with those that represent cuvées. As you can see, with each blind-tasting we are slowly encircling what both Rhône and Syrah have to offer. Are we gonna grasp the essence of it tonight? Dream on, dreamer..

Anyhow, we were all set for a wonderful and fun-loaded wine-evening, also elevated by the great cooking of Eva and Nick. Thanks again! Here are my notes on the 12 wines we had blind, followed by a few “bonus-wines” that closed the tasting.

2009 Vacqueyras La Balmeraie

2009 Vacqueyras, Domaine La Balmeraie (around 7-8 Eur) – Transparent and bright color which reveals the young age and the possibly reduced concentration of this wine. Nose is of fruit but not so expressive, rather simple and a spike of alcohol also comes through. On the palate a lightweight calibre for a Rhône wine and with no tannin whatsoever. Easy-drinking and simple with cherry fruit, a hint of vanilla, leather notes as well as a good dose of bitterness reminding the crust of dark bread. Quite thin on the mid-palate, and not so long lasting. An everyday Rhône wine for the more simple pleasures. 84 points.

2010 Château Pesquie Les Terrasses

2010 Château Pesquié “Les Terrasses” (around 10 Eur) – With a darker color than the first wine but as well displaying a bright rim, thus revealing its youth. Nose is Perfumed with straightforward fruit aromatics of  dark cherries but also raspberries. More weight on the palate than the first wine but not a heavyweight still, even though there are tannins this time. Those appear quite young as well and somewhat are drying-out my taste-buds. On the fruit-side there are notes of dark cherries backed up by a juicy acidity which also holds for a certain lightness and freshness – not an alcohol-bomb. Shows a bit short in the finish. I guessed it “a more complex version of a simple CDR” and gave 87 points. Actually this is a cuvée of Grenache and Syrah from the Ventoux region and for around 10 euro, I must say the PQR is quite good.

2007 Rasteau Domaine St Gayan

2007 Rasteau, Domaine St Gayan (around 9 Euro) – Darkest color of the first 3 wines here, but also a little lighter on the side. Nose is nearly the one of a Port or any other fortified wine, with cherries that seems to be preserved in liqueur and Schnaps: alcohol-loaded. Also some plum-compote reminding overripe and cooked fruit. Palate is soft, round and sweet with melted tannin. Admittedly, there’s good presence. Olive tapenade with thyme and rosemary add a little depth, a vanilla note adds a little kitsch. Finish is not too short but with much alcohol heat. There are quite a few fans of this one at our table but it’s not really for me – overly extracted, overly alcoholic. The roundness of the wine which makes one think it’s harmonious clearly comes from alcohol. A typical Parker 90 points dazzler I thought. I guessed it a CDP as there are many going by this scheme and noted ” 84-90 points depending on your taste” – I’m more with 84. Talking numbers: a price of 9 Eur kind of makes it attractive, but alcohol-content of 15% rather induces the opposite feeling.

2009 Cotes du Rhone Domaine Jamet

2009 Côtes du Rhône, Domaine Jamet (15 Eur)– One sniff and I knew which wine this was (my contribution). I sound cocky now but believe me, you’d probably recognize it as well if you had it before. Such an expressive nose with a basket of fruit interlaced with leather and a touch of herbs. Quite perfumed but also very pure and joyful. On the palate this 100% Syrah rather shows the exuberance and richness of Grenache while at the same time being light and gracious as a ballerina and also displaying the typical masculine character of Syrah with notes of leather and pepper. It’s generally not easy to impress after a big 15% wine but this one will charm after any wine. Soft, silky and “gouleyant” with seductive fruit and despite its quaffable character there’s substance which indicates that this one comes from a grandmaster – and Jamet indeed is also known for making some of the most compelling Côte-Rôtie‘s around. And at that price it’s a must-buy. 90 points.

2007 Chateau Gigognan Vigne de Regent

2007 Château Gigognan “Vigne de Régent” Châteauneuf-Du-Pape (around 25 Eur)  – Plastic fantastic – A Port-like nose with a slight glue note but also an odd rubber-smell, then some funk with animal/meaty kind-of aromatics. On the palate, very concentrated and of great weight, powerful and with a long finish coming with a good dose of alcohol and I thus guessed it a “small CDP“. Alas, those rubber-tones also appeared there and I’m not sure if I shouldn’t call it a flaw! Well, to be fair, I have to say that I was the only one at our table getting that rubber, but this wine isn’t my cup of tea anyway with it’s alcoholic “Parker”-kind-of style. 82 points.

2007 Chateau de Montlys

2007 Château de Montlys – Côte Rôtie (around 60 Eur) – Parsley! A nose of parsley! Now this might sound odd but this wine has a wonderfully pure and fresh nose with well-defined aroma of parsley, mint and leather, but maybe with not so much fruit on the other hand. On the palate then, more fruit: blackberries, gracious fine-grained tannins, smooth and silky, with weight but not heavy, harmonious and balanced. There’s grace and lightness all over. I was guessing a big name Côte-Rôtie and must admit I never heard of this estate (at least I got the AOC right). This was my favorite wine of the tasting and I think it was also the unanymous winner at our table. Even the lovers of big CDP couldn’t fight the captivating grace of this “featherlight heavyweight”. Apparently a hard-to-get wine – this one was sourced at the estate by one of the participants of the tasting. 93-94 pts

2008 Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierelles

2008 Crozes-Hermitage “Les Pierelles”, Domaine Belle (around 15 Eur) – Very dark and beautifully shiny color. Some cigar-box in the nose but else it appears very “silent”. On the palate it shows a good dose of cherries lying on a structure of small-grained tannin that are again drying out a bit. Further, it is clearly lacking acidity and hence appears a bit flabby. Finish is quite short. Admittedly, it was pretty hard for this fella after that spectacular Côte-Rôtie, but it was also quite obviously not such an impressive bottle with blatant lack of depth and complexity. Is there a slight chance for improvement over time? 83+? points.

2005 Hermitage Domaine Belle

2005 Hermitage, Domaine Belle (around 60 Eur) – From the same winery, this time a seductive nose of “griottes”(St. Lucie cherry), beautifully defined and crystal-clear. On the palate it appears sweet but not overly so. There’s harmony and again very well defined fruit, all wrapped in a body of more than just medium weight. Tannins are fine-grained and there’s also a nice juicy acidity. One of the top wines of the evening. I liked the fact that it showed sweet and seductive fruit without playing the big alcohol and overextraction card. The way it should be, somehow a potential role-model for many so-called “Parker-wines”. 91-92 points.

2006 Gigondas Pierre Amadieu

2006 Gigondas “Le Pas de l’Aigle”, Pierre Amadieu (around 20 Eur)- Nose has a slight glue tone and fruit seems a little evolved so that I guessed 3-4 years of maturity. Many liked this wine but it seemed a bit disassembled on the palate to me. Acidity, fruit, tannin and alcohol were a bit next to each other instead of unified. Not sure if this isn’t a vintage-related issue – 2006 wasn’t necessarily bad though.. otherwise this one also had rather pronounced alcohol.. 83-85 points.

2007 Saint-Joseph Maison Chapoutier

2007 Saint-Joseph, Maison Chapoutier (price unknown, probably around 15 Eur) – Nose is jumping back and forth. On one sniff I get alcohol, on the next there’s fruit aroma. Palate then comes surprisingly in a light and fresh fashion although the wine certainly has its weight. There are notes of sour cherries interlaced with shreds of leather. The wine has a strong acidic structure, probably the strongest of all wines that night, but it is very welcome in that case, adding a nice freshness and presence throughout a long-lasting finish. Further, tannic structure is drying-out the palate a little, but all in all this is a solid wine eventhough not overly complex. 87-88 points

2005 Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde Domaine Guigal

2005 Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde, Domaine Guigal (39 Eur) – The nose first shows a strong glue tone which was off-putting and many at the table hence categorically dismissed that wine from the start. But with a little patience this tone diminished and nearly went away entirely, but even then the nose stayed shy with some raisins maybe and only hints of dark fruit. On the palate it shows weight and structure, appears compact and concentrated. I sensed some kind of hidden inner force in this wine, nearly something like a pulsating minerality. There’s an animal-like touch with leather and beef floating within dark fruit. Tannins are pumping up and softening down constantly. Great presence and length. Palate seems very young and obviously presented this wine as something valuable such as a great Côte-Rôtie could be.raises questions – is the wine just “in a phase” or is it gone for good? 88-89+-?.

2006 Gigondas Romane Machotte Pierre Amadieu

2006 Gigondas “Romane Machotte”, Pierre Amadieu (around 13 Eur) – Nose of a stereotype Southern-Rhône wine with sweet fruit and a touch of alcohol. On the palate again, sweet fruit and alcohol come first but then there is some more: a nice mint tone accounting for some freshness and a beautiful touch of dark chocolate adding soulful elegance. The wine still shows a young tannic structure and gives one the feeling that there could be further aging potential. Finish is of good length and with a touch of bitterness. A solid Gigondas on the brink of being jammy but it doesn’t show overdone. Interestingly, we had this one in the last Rhône tasting as well where it still showed massively tannic and received 86+ points. This time it’s much more palatable and open.  89-90 points.

So that was a nice ending to this blind tasting. My personal ranking is quite obvious after these notes. My clear winner is Château de Montlys with its compelling elegance and grace right before Domaine Belle’s Hermitage which is a little more “Southern Rhône” in style. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that Northern Rhône wines performed better with me. Then there were a few wines with a more than convincing PQR such as Jamet, Pierre Amadieu Gigondas Romane Machotte and Château Pesquié. Jamet will probably remain my all-time-favorite-Rhône-PQR-champion.

I was a little disappointed with Guigal’s Brune et Blonde: whereas the palate showed very promising, its nose was just unbearable. Then there are all these alcoholic wines which I don’t tend to like anyway: biggest disappointment here probably Château Gigognan with a 25 Euro price tag and Pierre Amadieu’s Pas de l’Aigle also at around 20 Euro. But luckily we still had some non-blind

Bonus wines

with 2 more interesting Rhône wines. But first we popped a couple of off-topic bottles that a friend of our host Nick doesn’t want in his cellar anymore. That friend somehow started to despise aged wines. Good for us!

1976 Chateau Guiraud

1976 Château Guiraud 1er GCC, Sauternes. A first-timer for me! And then from such a good year: indeed, 1976 should be the best Sauternes vintage between 1967 and 1986 (according to one source). This one had a beautiful color with a nice orange-like shine. The nose had a slight age-note but in an elegant way and interlaced with subtle citrus fruit. On the palate there was enormous freshness paired with an unexpected powerful body. What an intriguing wine – sweetness of a Sauternes is nearly gone and left a fruit-loaded essence with lots of grapefruit and orange peel. A top-notch “palate-cleanser” after those 12 reds with lots of presence and a superb finish. Fascinating.

1975 Chateau Pontet-Canet

1975 Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac – Corked. What a pity! Would have loved to taste an ancestor of nowadays biodynamic superstar among Bordeaux Grand Cru’s.

1988 Breganze Cabernet Azienda Maculan

1988 Breganze Cabernet, DO Fratta, Azienda Maculan – Oops, no notes on this one, I must have been in an advanced state already. But same thing goes for a 1996 Amarone (“nose of walnuts reminding a Jura wine” is all I put down), a 1990 Tsar Simeon and a 1993 Château Citran ( “Very ripe Cabernet nose with bellpeppers, extremly dry-out tannic structure”).

2001 Gigondas Domaine Santa Duc

2001 Gigondas “Prestige des Hautes Garrigues”, Domaine Santa Duc – I wasn’t surprised about the harmony and gentle roundness of this wine but rather of the fruit notes that appeared much younger than expected. A wine that also hit the right tone in terms of alcohol richness and pleased many at our table, brought by our dear friend Steffen. (I had the 2000 vintage of this wine – see notes (in German) here)

2007 Domaine de la Charbonnière

2007 Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, Domaine de la Charbonnière – Our last bottle and a very satisfying one. A CDP that hits the spot in terms of balance and harmony. Not too alcoholic, no overripe fruit, beautifully quaffable but still with enough weight and structure and a charming finish. There’s hope for Châteauneuf, taste-wise and finally also price-wise – first wine from the 25-Euro-range that is worth its money. A domaine I definitely have to remember. Thanks a lot Oskar for bringing this.

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