Tue 27 Mar 2012

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The ?Red Rhône Varieties? section of the Wine Champions tastings encompassed some 87 wines, and therein a wide-ranging insight into how syrah, grenache and its numerous bedfellows express themselves throughout the Old and the New World; both in the vineyard and, given both camps? partiality for blending, the winery.

The ?wow? factor was never far away as we navigated our way through these wines; nonetheless, a Wine Champion must back this up with the all-important ?now? factor (see my first post for a brief outline of the rules), and several simply needed a little more time before they would be able to merit the accolade.

Pierre Mansour, Janet Wynne Evans & Marcel Orford-Williams
Partly for this reason some of the best performances in this large category came courtesy of the more reasonable end of the price bracket, the formidable tannic architecture of many top-end candidates being absent, but not the sumptuous, open flavours of the fruit.

Of course, when quality and readiness did align at the higher end of the scale, the outcome was predictably superb, and members should also look out for the Fine Wine Champions, which will be featured shortly after the initial offer in The Society?s Fine Wine List.

Given the nigh-ubiquitous lustre of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage et al today, it is remarkable to think that the red wines of the Rhône only reached this level of acclaim in the latter half of the twentieth century. Hitherto, ?rustic and thick enough to stand a spoon in? seemed the précised verdict of many. But quality has changed for the better (as to a lesser extent have our tastes) and, combined with an embarrassment of brilliant vintages (2010, 2009, 2007, 2005?), the wines? favour continues deservedly to soar.

Joanna Locke MW, Society buyer for South Africa
Today?s wine world is a fast-revolving one, and while the New World?s embracing of these full-bodied styles has been wildly successful on the whole, several wines strike me as having undergone a similar transformation of late, albeit in double-quick time.

South Africa is a good example, from which some shiraz, grenache and mourvèdre wines were themselves given a lukewarm reception for an abundance of spicy and bucolic flavours. Yet in many of the examples on show I found this quality had coalesced with fresh, appetising fruit profiles ? and the results were wonderful.

Blind tastings remain the unparalleled way to dispel the preconceptions of fashion, and I do hope members don?t miss the chance to try these wines for themselves.

Martin Brown
Digital Copywriter

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