On Monday 3rd April WING met to taste 2013 White Wines from Northern Rhone. Led by Laurie

Northern Rhone Whites is quite an esoteric topic. Only about ½% of all Rhone wine would come in this category. But 2013 is a promising vintage for the whites. The year suffered from a cold spring and early summer starting the season rather late, and even then was quite cool for a long time. Coulure and millerandage reduced yields by about 25% and hail striking some vines caused problems too. The ripening of the grapes was finally produced by a long warm “Indian Summer” through September into October, occurring at a time when the nights are cooler – thereby preserving acidity. Growers were dicing with extracting the last warmth of this period and oncoming rain in mid-October. Those that picked late but before the rain will have good fruit and clean acidity. This avoids the danger for many Rhone whites – North and South – a tendency to become flabby.

We tasted in 3 flights: Viognier/Condrieu; Marsanne/Rousanne blends and pure Marsanne. The wines are in the £19-£37 range, the average around £25! They were all sourced en primeur from The Wine Society – where you may soon find the 2015 versions…

Here are my notes:


CONTOUR DEPONCINS VIOGNIER, DOMAINE VILLARD 2013
Nose is quite quiet at first with peach developing later. The palate has a sharp note that recedes with time and reveals some spice and a slightly bitter note which offsets the growth of fruit. A little clumsy as the initial impression is of (over-aged?) dullness, against a growing peach fruit line indicating under-ageing if anything, a combination (diminishing dullness) that makes me wonder about lack of air (reduction!?)…. A bit off-centre!

CONDRIEU, DOMAINE PICHON 2013
A much more classic Viognier nose, with soft fruit – peach more than apricot – tinged by a green inflection – indeed maybe greengage. The palate has a clean refreshing acid line that lasts through warm fruit to  a creamy finish. Pretty typical, pretty good!

CROZES-HERMITAGE MULE BLANCHE, PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ 2013
This is 50:50 Marsanne/Rousanne, The nose starts slowly but opens to show floral hints, herbs and wood. Palate has a very clean acidity with a green-tinged fruit line. Quite long, refreshing and opening at the finish. A little “international”, but good.

SAINT-PÉRAY LES BIALÈRES, VINS DE VIENNE 2013
This is a darker wine: Marsanne with 20% Rousanne, and a heavier nose: nut oil and slightly apple hints. Oily nuttiness follows on the palate too with a slightly bitter olive tone. This seemed rather the opposite of the previous wine – rather off-fruit development and initially seemed inferior. With time, however, it seemed to gain interest and appeal…

SAINT-JOSEPH BLANC LES ROYES, DOMAINE COURBIS 2013
This is aged for 16 months in mostly new oak and it shows. Furniture polish hints at first, oaky vanilla, herbs and a bit old-fashioned White Rioja stylistically. Palate foregrounds citrus, vanilla and herbs which take us to … a reappearance of the furniture polish…

HERMITAGE BLANC LES MIAUX, FERRATON 2013
Initially quiet nose that opens to show hints of honey and slightly over-ripe soft fruit. Palate is smooth, with understated but clear acidity underpinning a warming floral honey-line, just a hint of soft fruit appearing later. The acid frame becomes even a bit lime and lasts for a long time. Probably the only wine to give an impression of needing more time – maybe a couple of years. Classy and promising.

I thought the wines showed well, and at least gestured at the balancing, required in these types of wine, between depth and freshness. The balance was best brought off – in my view – by the Condrieu (to drink now) and the Hermitage (very satisfying, and with some promise)….

Until next time…

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