Grapevine Archive for 1995
Armistice Day fell midweek. There was a time when this National Holiday was keenly observed in France. It might have been so elsewhere but not in the little town of Ampuis by the river Rhone, 20 miles or so downstream from Lyon. Here it felt just like a Sunday, very quiet. Some growers were busy in their cellars, racking off the promising wines of the 2009 vintage. Some people were out mushroom picking while others were at an annual apple festival in a village in the hills behind Condrieu.
There were flags at the war memorial and at some point during the morning, maybe when I was tasting Stephanne Ogier’s 2008’s, two cellophane wrapped bouquets of flowers been laid on the plinth. There were twenty or so names engraved in the concrete and arranged by year of death from 1914 to 1918 with a few additions to cover the Second World War, Indochina and North Africa. Many of the names were familiar, names of well known producers of Cote-Rotie and in some cases families had lost more than one son. There were two Garon, one for each of the world wars and two Dervieux.
Appropriately, my last appointment of the day was with Rene Rostaing who is married to a Dervieux. I mentioned the war memorial. “Well, he said, one of them was gassed and came home to die. The other went over the top and was never seen again.”
With so many men gone, the vineyards naturally suffered and many of the steep slopes that so characterise the northern Rhone were abandoned and even today many of these slopes remain overgrown. Rostaing’s 2008 Cote Rotie is a deliciously soft and fruity red but the tasting ended on a 1995 single vineyard Cote Rotie called la Viaillere which was at the heart of the Dervieux estate and from where many memorable wines were made.
… different! And ‘different’ is the word winemaker Gaston Hochar used to sum up the wines of Chateau Musar. The Society is proud to have been one of the UK’s very first importers of this wine, and last night, in celebration of four decades of cooperation Gaston, third-generation winemaker of this unique wine, presented 10 wines in his inimitable, softly-spoken and spellbinding manner to 150 members and guests, accompanied by The Society’s buyer for Lebanon Pierre Mansour.
The wines were, in order of tasting:
Reds: Hochar Père et Fils 2002, Chateau Musar 2002, Chateau Musar 2000, Chateau Musar 1999, Chateau Musar 1995, Chateau Musar 1993, Chateau Musar 1981, Chateau Musar 1969
Whites: Chateau Musar 2001, Chateau Musar 1989.
These wines are produced in as natural a way as possible, fermented using the yeasts on the grape skins in concrete vats, raised in oak and vat and bottle for 7 years before release on to the market.
They have what could be regarded as a cult following – not only are the wines different from any other, but each vintage is very different from another. A ‘show of hands’ vote at the tasting showed that every vintage had its fans. Last night the 1993 probably just edged it as the wine of the night, but next time, who knows. Like the wines, we can guarantee that the result will be ‘different’, but no less enjoyable!