Archives for posts with tag: Southern Rhone

Two sets of Notes for the price of one this month – A Tutored Tasting and an ICC Tasting I led on New Zealand…

A group of 11 W1NG members met at the Brigitte Bordeaux Wine Emporium on Bank holiday Monday, 6th May, for a Southern Rhone 2011,
Châteauneuf du Pape v Gigondas tasting. This was a wine society case purchased en primeur in September 2015.

1-Domaine du Cayron  Gigondas 14%  £18
78% Grenache, 14% Syrah, 6% Cinsault and 2% Mourvèdre
This had a powerful nose with nice volatile acidity. The palate was light with some liquorice notes. There was sour cherry and soft tannins. One of the group said this was their favourite and four would buy it.

2- The Society Châteauneuf du Pape £17.50 (Vignobles Mayard)
65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre
Nice acidity, more serious nose than last one, richer, non fruit flavours of liquorice and garrigue, thyme and rosemary.

3- Domaine Raspil-Ay Gigondas 15% £19
80% Grenache, 15% Syrah 5% Mourvèdre
This was very soft but with good acidity. Plummy fruit. Some port qualities.

4- Chateau Mont Redon Châteauneuf du Pape 15%  £20
60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre and others
Sweet orange peel, light fruit and a little spicy, vegetal, quite simple. The group’s least favourite overall.

5- Domaine La Bouissiere   Gigondas  15%  £19
70% Grenache 25% Syrah 5% Mourvedre
A little medicinal on the nose, mineral, tarragon, liquorice, not mainstream, more complex. Good. Two of the group’s favourite.

6- Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe 14.5%  £36
65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre 5% Cinsault
Restrained style, good balance and good acidity. lighter than expected. Quite a closed nose, lots of red fruit flavours and very long. 8 of the group said this was their favourite but were not all convinced it was worth the extra money.

An  interesting tasting. Overall the Gigondas were maybe a little more rustic, less powerful  and simpler than the Chateauneuf du Pape’s but they stood up very well and in some instances were better. Thanks to Matt and Kathryn for opening Brigitte Bordeaux for us.

Plus Corkmaster’s thanks to John and Ann for sourcing the wines, conducting the Tasting and the above notes.


Ten days later, after my excursion to Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda (see two posts ago…) it was my turn to lead a tasting of
New Zealand Wine: North Island v South Island. A tasting that had been near the top of the poll for Themes this year.
I decided to show three pairs of wines, all sourced from The New Zealand House of Wine. The wines were served blind and I tried to encourage expression of  simple preference before trying to guess which was which.

Here are my notes:

The first pair were a Marlborough and a Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc, each about £12.

WINE A had a nettle nose with some exotic fruit, later a hint of something in the Asparagus direction (I think of this as a fault). The palate had gooseberry and hgh acidity, grapefruit and a little green.
Ratings:    Voting: 10 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  14/20   Value:  15/20       

WINE B was darker but with slightly more restrained nose, the acidity was warmer giving a richer impression but more pliant and citric. Some chalky minerality at the end. Although a slightly bigger package it seemed more balanced and complex and therefore less boring.
Ratings:        Voting: 16 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  15/20   Value:  16/20


It turns out Wine A was from the South Island – 

KIM CRAWFORD 2017 (Marlborough)       

Wine B was from the North Island –




We then moved on to two Pinot Noir  each for about £17 – one each from Otago and Martinborough

Wine C had some farmyard and a herbal hint, with soft, even mashed red fruit. The palate had a slightly bitter “squeezed pip” quality and the whole package seemed soft and a bit grainy to me.
Ratings:    Voting: 10 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  14/20   Value:  14/20       

Wine D had more fragrant fruit, slightly sweet but less over-ripe. The palate had a crunchier sharper fruit and some clean tannic structure, darker fruit and a herbacious tinged tannic finish. Again a cleaner, better balanced more effortless package.
Ratings:    Voting: 18 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  16/20   Value:  16/20       


It turns out Wine C was from the South Island – 


Wine D was from the North Island –

PALLISER ESTATE 2016  (Martinborough)




The final pair were two £19 Syrah, again from Marlborough and Hawkes Bay:

Wine E had a nose of slightly pithy olive and black fruit. The palate was grainy but supple and structured with a black fruit acidity and a tinge of salinity. Quite a persuasive Syrah
Ratings:    Voting: 16 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  15/20   Value:  14/20   

Wine F had a much quieter nose with a palate of sweeter fruit, hints of blueberry and some soft tannins. A passable wine, with the lack of Syrah character a double-edged thing IMHO. However a simpler, slightly overdone wine.
Ratings:    Voting: 9 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  13.5/20       


It turns out Wine E was from North Island –


and Wine F from the South Island –

SERESIN ESTATE 2016 (Marlborough)      



So an interesting result. The majority preferred the North Island Wine of each pair – with a combined score of 50 to 29! I concurred with those preferences, strongly, and surprisingly so in the case of the Pinot Noir, of which the Martinborough was my favourite of the night. I also noted that of the first two pairs – the North Island Wine had lower alcohol and wore it’s heat and richness more lightly. The final wine was less clear to me – I find Syrah a bit grainy at the best of times – but the South Island wines all seemed a bit muddy, maybe over-extracted and somehow trying-too-hard… Of course this is a small sample, easily explained by individual grower or terroir factors.. However a bit of a surprise – and something to think about with future NZ sampling.

À Bientôt


The ICC group tasted 6 Wines from Gard on Thursday October 4th.

Here are my – rather brief – notes and scores:

“LES ALBIZZIAS” BLANC (DOMAINE SAINT ETIENNE) 2011  –   13% – Leon Stolarski Fine Wines (LSFW) £10
This is a simple Côtes du Rhône from a winery midway between Avignon and Nimes, composed of 6 or 7 Grapes with Grenache Blanc leading the way. The nose is light with mineral and pear notes. Oily rich palate and a bitter lemon peel twist. Later as it warms a fruit element appears: apricot? A wine that needs food, quite understated despite its richness.
Quality:  14/20      Value: 16/20

LIRAC BLANC “LA FERMADE” (DOMAINE MABY) 2012  – 14½% – Wine Society  £10
This is mainly Clairette with some Granache Blanc, Viognier and Picpoul. Oily, alcoholic slightly volatile nose – hints of floral elements and apple. Palate is really very oily, with warm alcohol perceptible, and very big indeed for a white. A bit overblown IMO, but has the body to cope with quite strong flavoured food – which it needs, really.
Quality:  13/20        Value: 15/20

PRIEURÉ DE MONTÉZARGUES, TAVEL 2013 – 13½%  –     Tanners £15
Red fruit nose – raspberry! Quite a vinous character – acidity, even a little tannin – opening to red fruit. Cried out for food – with which (cheesy crackers) it has a supple earthy note. Rather good.
Quality:  16/20     Value: 15/20

This is a Costières de Nimes. Farmyard, then heavy floral aromas: Lilies? Violets?? Palate has a sweet damson and cherry fruit character and a line of herby acidity, good length and a chocolate texture at the finish. Complex, and surprisingly fresh and interesting.
Quality:  17/20     Value: 18/20

BEAUCHAMPS 2009 ( DOMAINE DES BOUZONS)  – 14% – La Bastide £12.50
This is a Côtes du Rhône Villages from just South of the CDRV Laudun area. Fruity nose – blackberry and coffee with hints of lily again – altogether rather a Syrah nose although this is ¾ Grenache. Round palate, with plum fruit rather than blackberry, garrigue herbs and a warm finish. Very typical, mature and pretty good. A favourite with the group on the night.
Quality:  16/20       Value: 17/20

This is a Côtes du Rhône Villages from in or near the relatively new (2012) CDRV Signargues area. The main grape is Syrah and this has a very typical Syrah nose of blackberry and salty notes. The palate has the same flavours – sweet black fruit (a little too sweet IMO), salt, spice, some woody character and quite strong grainy, coffee tannins. A touch young perhaps but very good example of the (more Northern Rhone) type.
Quality: 15/20       Value: 17/20

A very interesting tasting I thought. For me wines 3, 4 and 5 showed interest beyond comparable prices from Vaucluse bigger name wines – therefore good value and worth tracking down.

Until next time…..

The original title of this topic is “Little Known Southern Rhone Gems”, which I took to mean less well known wines of quality and/or unusual type. However, after initial research I began to re-cast the meaning.

You will be aware that most of the Southern Rhone, Côtes du Rhône, wine area is East of the Rhône itself: mostly in Vaucluse, partly in Drôme. Vaucluse is the home of Châteauneuf, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes-de-Venise… and most of the well known Côtes du Rhône Villages [CDRV].

Bordered on the West by the Rhône river, Vaucluse is part of Provence for administrative purposes. However the other side of the river, technically part of Languedoc-Roussillon, is Gard – which is also considered part of the Southern Rhône wine area.

As you will know, the best wine in S. Rhône is in the individual village appellations (e.g. Gigondas) and the next level down in the villages that are allowed to add their name to CDRV (eg Sablet, Cairanne).

At these two levels (individual Rhone AOC and named CDRVs) Gard only produces about 23% of Southern Rhône Wine (though the inclusion of the large Costières de Nîmes area takes this up to 42%). So it’s not so surprising that the area is a bit neglected.

Whereas the East side of the Rhône is home to the most famous Southern Rhône AOC (Châteauneuf-du-Pape; Gigondas; Vacqueyras; Beaumes-de-Venise; Rasteau; and Vinsobres), Gard has only two AOC in their own right: Lirac and Tavel – which are most famous for Rosé. In addition (further south around the town of the same name) there is the Costières de Nîmes AOC, which is balanced between the S. Rhône and Languedoc in position and style.


NB - Both Rasteau and Beaumes- are now AOC for red wine too. Vinsobres (in the NE of the region) is also AOC.

NB – Both Rasteau and Beaumes- are now AOC for red wine too. Vinsobres (in the NE of the region) is also AOC.


At the level below AOC are the Villages allowed to add their village name to the label of Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC. There are 18 of these, but only 4 in Gard: Chusclan, Laudun, Signargues & Saint Gervais.

(BTW Vaucluse has 10 [Cairanne, Puymeras,   Massif d’Uchaux, Plan de Dieu, Gadagne, Sablet, Séguret, Roaix, Valréas, Visan] while Drôme has 4 [Rochegude, Rousset-les-Vignes, Saint-Maurice-sur-Eygues & Saint-Pantaléon-les-Vignes]).

Is there a discernable difference in style between the two sides of the river? Naturally, you’ll make your own mind up about that, but there are some objective differences.

Of course the red grapes are the same: mostly Grenache; substantial amounts of Syrah; smaller amounts of Mourvèdre and Cinsault among the reds. On the white side there are Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Picpoul. Only the presence of the last is really a West Bank trait.

Also Rosé is relatively uncommon in the East, but much more often found in the West and is the main product in Tavel, where it is sometimes promoted as “the winter Rosé”

However there is considerable difference in soil types. Most of the East side is based on clay with seams or bases of limestone and granite. This combination gives heavy, powerful wines and tannins and longevity to the reds. On the West side only Lirac has a similar geology, and permits big powerful wines – whites as well as reds.

In the rest of the West, however, sandy and gravelly soils are much more common giving lighter than expected and softer wines.

Further South gravel is widespread in Costières de Nîmes, allowing deep rooted vines and allowing access to water in the intensely hot periods. The cool on-shore breezes also ensure a high temperature difference between night and day. This is good for vines, developing higher acidity and leads to fresher and lighter wines than might be expected from the Southerly latitude.

These facts tally a little with my limited and subjective impression: that rather like the landscape, the wines are a little more open and herbaceous than their more eastern counterparts. Euro for Euro they are also a bit better value. In my view the wine styles are a little more rustic and, except for the big Liracs, a touch more immediate. In addition, they have been spared the International hype of the bigger names in the Vaucluse and (to be fair) like the majority of the whole area built to accompany the (olive oil, herbs and tomato) cuisine.

We’ll taste 6 wines from Gard on Ocotber 2nd, for the WING group to decide if those impressions are borne out. Notes will be posted in 4 or 5 days….

Until then…..

6 of the WING group had the pleasure of attending Hart’s Wine Tasting and Supper on 22nd May. I think this was the 6th or 7th such event for me, but the first for a couple of the party. As usual the format was a tasting of 8 wines – in two flights of four, followed by a 3 course supper with more wine.

A very enjoyable evening ensued – here are my notes of the wines. Please comment if you disagree or have anything to add.

2009 Côtes du Rhône, Nicholas Boiron
The first wine is basic CDR, and showed plums, spirit notes and a hint of compost on the nose. The palate was simple, warm – from both alcohol and spice – and slightly hard. Grenache dominates and the plum fruit opened a little with time.

2010 Mourges du Grés, “Galets Rouges” Costières de Nîmes
Very pungent, farmyard almost drains, but underneath black fruit came through. Palate is calmer than the previous wine, better balanced although the tannins are still very firm. Later a typical Syrah olive-saltiness comes through.
Later, with the main course of Guinea Fowl with a green pea and bean risotto (fabulous, in typical Hart’s style, and worthy of a slightly more developed wine IMO) the wine seems more supple and soft and the harsher salty element is recessed.

2010 Chateau Valcombe “Epicure” Côtes de Ventoux
This has a quieter nose, with damson hinst and redcurrant. The palate is lighter but still has tannins and warmth – the best balance so far, and easiest to quaff.

2011 Lirac , Domaine Pierre Usseglio
Perfumed nose, with floral and plum hints – later red and black berries. The palate is quite closed now, but one can sense the pleasures to come…

2009 Vacqueyras Clos Montirius
Slightly soapy nose, which actually persists with time and a sweet fruit-cordial note. Supple first palate with plummy fruit and then a drying salty tannin finish. A little as if the Grenache and the Syrah (this is 50:50) are not quite integrated.

2005 Gigondas “Terre Aîné”
The nose has similar fruit profile to the previous wine but with a herby spirit element replacing the “soapy” flavours. The palate is big, with sweet plum and blackcurrant-pastille fruit and a warm finish. Big and satisfying – benefitting from its age?

2011 Chateauneuf du Pape Domaine du Pegau
Lilies and briar fruit, ebbing and flowing as the nose opens. Lovely supple fruit on the palate with a line of balancing acidity and a fine tannic structure. Slightly tight at the moment – but very good….

2006 Chateauneuf du Pape, Chante le Merle, Vieilles Vignes, Bosquet des Papes
Slight vanilla notes within a sweet fruit nose. Sweet fruit at first on the palate, with a tendency to be jammy, a warm mid palate and a slightly grainy finish. A good wine suffering in comparison to its predecessor?

After the tasting we were served a 3 course supper. With the main, as discussed above, with the Costières de Nîmes. The starter was a salmon pastrami, served with – 2011 Côtes du Rhône Laudun Blanc, Domaine Rouvre St Leger. The wine has herby peach aromas, with a hint of sweetness. The palate has an oily quality with a slightly brackish tone (from Viognier and Rousanne respectively?), and enough acidity to balance the food, which itself showed a balance of citrus flavours with the oil in the salmon.

A lovely evening, my only cavil is I would have preferred a slower pace and 15 minutes more with the wines before supper even if it meant a slightly later finish. With wines of such family similarity the time to appreciate the subtleties and complexities of the differences would have further increased my pleasure.

That said, it was a fantastic evening. Thanks to Tim Hart.

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