Though a little late in the posting – given this is based on a tasting conducted on the 6th November – if you’re reading this before Christmas Day then in theory this is actually perfectly well timed for the festive season. That’s how I’m validating the delay to myself anyway.
Last month I popped in to the Big Rhône Tasting that took place in the atmospheric subterranean vaults of Ely CHQ to get my chops around the wines of the famous southern French wine region.
This is the second iteration of Rhône Wine Week, organised by Rhône experts and general all-round lovely people Tyrrell & Co. (Wine Importers) Ltd with a little help from Inter Rhônes. It’s heartening to see the love and support Simon Tyrrell et al receive from the wine community before and during this week, all of it absolutely warranted.
Events are run up and down the country in the shape of everything from light and fun intro evenings to serious tastings and brain-churning quizzes that would make the most expert wine buff sweat.
Throw in radio spots, dinners and lots more besides, and you have an amazingly well-assembled and comprehensive paean to a region Simon Tyrrell feels is under-loved; at this rate there no fear of that being a reality for much longer.
The Findlater Selection
My first port of call was the Findlater Wine & Spirit Group stand to call in on some friends and former colleagues who on this occasion were showing a nice broad range of wines from renowned – and sometimes controversial – Rhône producer M. Chapoutier. I’ve written extensively about the living legend that is Michel Chapoutier and his company which you can swot up on again here.
Chapoutier ‘Belleruche’ Rouge Côtes du Rhône 2013
€15.99 from O’Brien’s nationwide; The Vintry, Rathgar, Dublin; Molloys Off-Licences, Dublin; Martins of Fairview, Dublin; Next Door Off-Licences nationwide; Mitchell & Son, Dublin
Soft and sweet but still some nice drying tannins at the end; cherry and coffee with some of the expected spiciness, but not excessively. Quite good value for money and another wine that dispels my quickly-fading fear of generic Côtes du Rhône.
Chapoutier Gigondas 2011
€25.99 from O’Brien’s nationwide; WineOnline.ie
A really lovely wine with a much more floral nose than expected, underlaid with some herbal characteristics and leather. The palate is light and silky but has a slightly bitter, tannic finish that cries out for food. Great tasting on its own at a table but would be amazing with some meaty fare.
Chapoutier ‘Les Meysonniers’ Crozes-Hermitage 2012
€20.99 from O’Brien’s nationwide; Millésima
This wine was much more the ‘typical’ Rhône style I had come to expect with noticeable spice and a kick of heat over savoury, leathery flavours and dark red fruit. Despite this the palate was again much lighter and silkier than expected, with tannins nice and integrated.
Chapoutier ‘La Bernardine’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012
€34.99 from O’Brien’s nationwide; The Vintry, Rathgar, Dublin; WineOnline.ie; Millésima
Much more deep and concentrated this one, with brambly fruit, damson and blackberry with some grilled meat notes too. The palate is taut with only a gentle lick of black pepper spice – again another food-hungry wine.
Chapoutier Rasteau 2012
I’ve written “more tactile than flavoursome” in my notes, but that’s not in a negative way: apart from some nice but general savoury, blackberry, slightly spicy characteristics, for me the wine was better enjoyed for its silky, taut, brooding palate. At this price it’s really good value for money, a sort of little brother to the ‘La Bernardine’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape perhaps. Really good value for money.
Best of the Rest
It’s incredible in retrospect, but I didn’t get to taste any white wines, most definitely a loss on my part as I rarely (correction: ever) get to taste white wines from the Rhône normally. But given the tight timing (I had to rush off to a dinner with friends) and the fact I was with a friend who was definitely a ‘red’ guy, then the whites had to be sacrificed in order to prioritise those wines that the region is most noted for. Next year I’ll be sure to sample some whites!
Simone Joseph ‘Les Vignes Paralleles’ Côtes du Rhône 2012
€13.45 from TheWineStore.ie; TheDrinkStore.ie
I had to do a double-take at the price of this wine – at €13.45 it’s incredible value for money. Though hardly the most complex wine of the evening, understandably, for some decent change out of €15 you get a lightly pleasant, interesting wine from Simon Tyrrell’s own négociant business.
Domaine Brusset Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages ‘Les Travers’ 2010
€19.99 from Mitchell & Sons, Dublin
Initially I got some worryingly ‘green’ aromas on the nose, which thankfully faded quickly enough to give way to deeply brooding, interesting, dark fruit aromas, and a taut, rich, long and spicy palate of black fruit and dried currants. Really quite excellent, another excellent value for money wine.
Domaine La Monardière Vacqueyras 2010
€22.85 from JNwine.com and WineOnline.ie
Another wine with little by way of tasting notes, but this time due to chatting away to the affable Jonathan Tonge of JN Wines. What I do have recorded, however, is that this was a delightfully light wine but with a palate that defied its weight with taut, heady, savoury flavours and a long delicious finish.
Domaine Brusset Gigondas ‘Tradition Le Grand Montmirail’ 2012
€25.99 from Mitchell & Sons, Dublin
A really good wine made somewhat unapproachable by its immense tannins. Paired with some intensely meaty dishes – an/or a little time – this would soften out to be a really notable wine.
Pierre Gaillard Cornas 2012
€45.99 from Mitchell & Sons
One of the highest of highlights of the evening. I remember it taking my breath away, but evidently it took away my ability to write also as I simply have one word scrawled beside it in the booklet: “Wow!”
So I’ll have to refer you to Frankie Cook – who liked it also – who noted that, “it’s a delicious wine that showcases some of the best that Rhône Syrah can do. There is bacon and black olives, pepper and spice, but above all refined power from the fruit.” Read the full review here.
Domaine M. et S. Ogier d’Ampuis Côte-Rôtie 2010
€74.95 from TheWineStore.ie
Wow wow wow – incredibly alluring and multi-faceted aromas above a saline, gorgeous palate of coffee, dates, cassis; long and luxurious, a stunner.