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Southern Rhône Blind Tasting

Last week it got as good as it can get for a wine geek. Not only did our hosts Eva and Nick cook a delicious dinner, but they also complotted a superb blind tasting of “Southern Rhône Reds” for us. But there was even more to come since after that “official program”, we indulged 2 extra bottles and the surprise effect wasn’t small.
Here are the wines in the order they were tasted. We only uncovered the bottles in the end after our verdicts.

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2006 Le vieux Donjon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Nose of dark fruits with maybe a bit of plum, later it was rather reminiscent of berries. On the palate heavy astringency struck first but tannins mellowed a bit after a while. Taste-bud-wise the wine was rather on the bitter side with hints of leather and some spice but also not in such an appealing manner. Finish was medium long with a bold alcohol feel. Not really my kind of wine but maybe it just needs a few years. At first I scored it 84-85 points, but after a second glass a bit later it was more harmonious and deserved one or two extra points. Still, given the name and the price of around 35 Euro, one would have expected a much more convincing wine…

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2008 Château de Saint-Cosme, Gigondas – That’s quite a name in the region and we had no clue of course (on the other hand, their “product line” is quite broad also). Dark colour with purple hue. The nose had something delicate in the sense that it felt lighter and more into finesse than the previous wine. It also revealed some delicate spice note like cumin and maybe also a bit of rose. On the palate the lightness is harshly combated by very strong cedar wood tones (cigarbox-licking) and a slight bitterness in the finish. Fruit is very hard to discern with those overwhelming cigarbox flavor but it could appear one day, and then the palate would show the same finesse as the nose. In the end I rated it weaker than the first wine but with more potential. The strong tannins will require quite some time but chances are good it will one day more than justify its price tag of around 20 Euro. 82-84++

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2006 Cuvée Réservée, Domaine du Pégau, Châteauneuf-Du-Pape – Again a huge name and again we had no clue judging by the quality (at least I had a clue about the origin: I wrote down “CDP or Gigondas”). The nose was of cooked, overripe (albeit intense) fruit. On the palate it was a mix of cooked fruit, bitterness, chocolate and tannin that seemed a bit worn out or tired. Not bad, but far from stunning either. A bit later some spice tones appeared and added a bit of complexity. Finish was medium long and slightly bitter. I scored it 83-85, well maybe it will still develop further but it’s hard to tell for me. (PS:Some in our round even saw a flaw in this wine emanating from the bottling process or cellaring).

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2007 Château des Tours, Côtes-Du-Rhône – This is one of the Domaines of Château Rayas owner Emmanuel Reynaud and at the same time maybe one of the wines with the lowest price tag of the evening… But not the least favorite. First we observed lots of tears on the glass . The nose was more of cooked fruits. On the palate it had this sweet alcohol (glycerine) feel which together with fruit was rather reminiscent of raspberry jam. A hint of clove was also in there accounting for the Rhône spice note. The style is not really my cup of tea but appealed to a few in the round. It’s true though that it went well with food and appeared quite harmonious despite the glycerine. 85-86

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2007 Prestige des Hautes-Garrigues, Domaine Santa Duc. This was actually the first wine that instantly and unanimously pleased. After the first sniff and sip, the happy expression of affirmation stood in each one of our faces. The nose was of dark fruits (backberries) and herbs such as bay leaf for example and there was also a hint of freshness. On the palate this darkness of fruits continued within a dense body. Notes of tar were also notable as well as the same mineral freshness we had in the nose. The wine appeared somewhat voluminous or exuberant and ended in a nice finish. (It’s that exuberance in dark fruits that made me think of a Grenache which ex-post happened to be the main grape in this wine). 88-89+ points from me. For half of our round this was the favorite wine of the tasting. I preferred the wine which was to come since this one still had a more rough tannic structure. BTW, it’s not the first time I had this wine; I wrote about the 2000 vintage here (in German)

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2008 Persia, Domaine Fondrèche. Similar expression on the face than with the last wine – at least on my face. This wine was also enticing from the start with an ink-like dark colour and a captivating nose that was of dark fruit and bay Leaf; the scent was maybe less intense than with the Santa Duc, but had a certain finesse and elegance to it. On the palate it appeared generous of dark fruit but definitely not like marmelade. In fact, it was rather light-footed and elegant. On the other hand a certain lightness also stayed way into the finish evoking dilution – that might be its only weakness. At that point I thought I’d really like to taste it again for confirmation. But after a while tannins appeared a bit more strong and lent the wine more structure. Also, some notes of dark bread added complexity. This was probably my favorite wine of the tasting and one to note down since the price quality ratio really is convincing (about 15 Euro) 89-90 . (btw, an interesting fact: the wine stays one year “sur lies” at the estate for obtaining a maximum of complexity)

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2006 Romane Machotte, Gigondas, Pierre Amadieu. The nose of this wine was of currants and seemed somewhat aggressive, like it’s jumping into your nose. But fruit is always nice, no matter how much it stings your nose right …? On the palate though a bit more stinging fruit would have been welcome since the only thing I could sense was a big pile of tannins. The whole wine thus felt very astringent and also bitter. My guess is that it would need a lot more time before the next judgment. 85-86+

Now we were through with the “official” program, but our host Nick had 2 extra bottles to share with us: one blind and another one uncovered.

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1993 Château Latour 1er GCC, Pauillac – A wine of vivid color was poured. In the nose Paprika was the predominant flavour which made Cabernet Sauvignon as a varietal an easy guess. And indeed, with my subsequent naive claim “Bordeaux” I was somewhat close. But with my other guess, that this wine was 2-3 years old I was damn far on the other hand. Indeed it happened to be 17 years old. On the palate the wine appeared with a dense albeit fine grained tannic structure within a rather light body. There was also fruit on the palate but nothing too complex or sophisticated. It was pleasant to drink with a medium length but none of us would have guessed this wine a Château Latour and , ex post, considering the big name, the wine is rather a disappointment. 87-88. On the other hand it’s the first time I had a Latour and I’m quite happy about that!

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1982 Château Musar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – This is another famous name which I never tried. Our host said he had 2 bottles left of this wine he once bought a case of and which he never really enjoyed. He offered to open a bottle if I was interested – of course I was. The nose was of berries and also with a fresh mint note. But there was also something that smelled like a mix of toffee and cardboard, but that impression slowly faded. On the palate it appeared medium-bodied with a somewhat opulent elegance. The wine was certainly not at its best but still very pleasant. 88.

What a nice tasting this was! All my thanks go to Eva an Nick who received us with superb food and wines. My own conclusions are that the Rhône has a few surprises when it comes to the famous price-quality ratio. The Persia of Domaine Fondrèche is one example: a steal for about 15 Euro. Some of the more expensive wines disappointed a bit, but maybe they’re also more long running. Time will tell. As for the Château Latour, I would be happy to try a few other vintages to see the contrast :=P.

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  1. Didier G. Said,

    Wow, impressive tasting!

    I once posted about the ’07 Saint Cosme, which is one of my favorite Gigondas actually, although Prestige des Hautes Garrigues from the same vintage is pretty nice too, but needs more time in my opinion. The ’05 Amadieu Vieilles Vignes is the wine that got Mizuki into Gigondas in the first place and we’re big fans.

    For the CdP, Pegau is very powerful and perhaps a bit too ripe for my taste. As for Emmanuel Reynaud’s wines, which I tried at the estate, I actually prefer the very bright, fruity Vin de Pays!

    I’ve only had Latour once myself, and as an ’06, it was quite a mouthful, but I was very, very impressed. I’ve also tried an ’04 Musar (as well as a younger vintage, maybe ’06?), and I remember aromas of raisins/dates being quite predominant. Their slightly oxidative white is quite interesting and worth a try.

    Anyway, I’m jealous you tried them all in one sitting, and I’m very interested in trying out the Persia. Maybe I’ll buy a couple bottles for my dad as a birthday present, given he is Persian himself and likes Syrah :)

  2. Didier G. Said,

    oops.. I meant, ’94 Musar!

  3. alexis2 Said,

    Thanks for your comment Didier! I think the Saint Cosme has quite some potential, but at the moment everything seems a bit broad and out of place.. needs a bit of time.
    You can try the Persia with me before buying it since I ordered a few bottles. Was quite impressed with price/quality.. :P

  4. Tweets that mention Blind Tasting Club - Wine Tasting Notes and more -- Topsy.com Said,

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alexander Haller, Wine Rambler. Wine Rambler said: RT @blindtaster: New post on my blog: Southern Rhône Blind Tasting http://bit.ly/bNFC5P […]

  5. Didier G. Said,

    I like ’em young ;)
    But I also think ’07 is a much more approachable vintage and Saint Cosme nailed it, without getting too sweet and jammy. As for the Santa Duc, looking back at my notes, it was actually a 2005, and still a sleeping monster! I need a couple of those in my cellar.

  6. Daniel Said,

    great post, thanks for sharing

  7. Freestyle Half Double Blind Tasting with Friends — Blind Tasting Club Said,

    […] The Domaine de Fondrèche 2009 “Nature” from the Côtes de Ventoux was the last red we got served blind. What a colour! Between black and fluorescent purple with a blurry thing to it. The nose is very straightfroward with baskets of black fruit but also with something reminding banana. I would lie if I didn’t say this tone reminded me of Beaujolais Nouveau: can I suspect some carbonic maceration in this wine? The technical sheet only mentions passive winemaking and no sulfites added. Anyhow, the wine is a fruitbomb, easily drinkable and offering good concentration and lightness at the same time, plus a lasting finish. A happy wine and probably a crowd-pleaser at any party. (In the past, I was also very satisfied with Fondrèche’s Cuvée Persia) […]

  8. All-Rhône Reds Blind-Tasting — Blind Tasting Club Said,

    […] 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 […]

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