Tue 02 Oct 2012

Rhône 2011 and 2012 Looking Good


The first trip is in the bag. This was the first of three visits to the Rhône Valley. By the time I will have finished in November I will have tasted from a hundred or so producers.



So far, so good. Lovely wines in 2011, wines that make one smile because they are so delicious. Very different to both 2010 and 2009, which is a good thing: much more uneven, it is true, but there are plenty of successes. Great Cornas with one of my best tastings ever at Domaine Voge. The southern Rhônes seem to have been especially good along that northern strip which includes Vinsobres, Valreas and the Massif d’Uchaux. For the first time I visited the Tricastin, a Cinderella appellation if ever there was one. On this leg of my trip I shall report later.

From Vinsobres, down to Bandol and Cassis where the vintage was in full swing and looking very good. For Domaine Tempier, incidentally 2011 will be an exceptional vintage.

Rhône 2012s look very promising though only a few whites were actually finished and these were fragrant and fresh in style, and not unlike 2011 which itself was good for whites.

There is still a little way to go and some Châteauneuf growers have barely started to pick. We shall see.

Older vintages
The job of wine buying often goes beyond the mere task of selection. We like spotting talent and working with young growers and winemakers over many years, sometimes helping them by broadening their horizons. I remember once turning up at the salle polyvalente in Vinsobres with a bootful of Australian shiraz and giving a tasting to an audience of Vinsobres growers. It was some occasion; even the Mayor was there with his tricolour sash.

Just before leaving for the Rhône, my colleague Toby Morrhall was playing host to a group of Chilean winemakers from Undurraga. Much of their time at The Society was spent in the tasting room, where they were given a tasting of Rhône wines. Different producers, styles and vintages, and a world away from South America. For me, the tasting was just what I needed on the eve of my departure.

This is what was tasted:

2007: Séguret, Cuvée Tradition, Domaine de Mourchon and Notre Dame des Celettes, Domaine Sainte Anne
Both grenache dominated and both absolutely gorgeous and ready to drink. The Sainte Anne probably has more keeping potential but both really lovely now.

2007 again: Terres d’Argile, Domaine de la Janasse, 2007
This comes from outside the Châteauneuf area but is made in much the same way and from a typically Châteauneuf blend of varieties. Sumptuous but no hurry to drink

2006: St Gervais, Domaine Sainte Anne
Mourvèdre dominated. Spicy and rich. Still very young and in need of another year maybe. But what lovely complexity

1999: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château de Beaucastel
Drinking very well now. Surprising density and concentration. Needed decanting.

1998: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine de la Janasse
Blockbuster wine. Very full, very concentrated. Again decanting needed to get the best out of it.

1995: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Clos des Papes
This was the best of these three Châteauneufs. Perfect, poised with great balance. Probably at its best though it will keep for ages.

And finally, Bandol, Domaine Tempier La Tourtine 1998
Sensational. Nothing else to say. Lucky Chilean growers.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

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