Rhône 2009: On to the South

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September 17th 2010

The countryside looks very different as we head south. We are technically in the Vaucluse but it feels as if we are in Provence. The sun is shining, we drive through pretty villages and fields of olive trees alternate with the vines. Mont Ventoux dominates the scenery.

Sunny Provence
Sunny Provence

The big question is will the wines match up to the high standards set by their northern cousins? Given the ripeness and richness we have tasted so far there is a possibility that further south the wines may be overblown or lacking in acidity and structure.

Our first stop is in the centre of Gigondas at Domaine Cayron. Run by three sisters this is probably the simplest domaine we work with – they make one wine in an antiquated cellar under the family home. There is nothing simple about their 2009. It is everything we hoped for – as in the north we are struck by the balance of the wine. It is full and ripe with intense fruit flavours, but the tannins are firm and smooth.

On to Clos des Cazaux where we taste in the garden in the shade of a fig tree looking out over the vines to the Dentelles de Montmirail in the distance.

Nice work...
Nice work…

The harvest started today but Jean-Michel Vache makes time for a whistle stop tasting before rushing back to the vineyard. I realise I am getting repetitive but the wines were very very good. Again there is the combination of succulent ripe fruit with refreshing acidity and velvety tannins. They will be drinkable early but clearly have potential to age as well.

Idyllic views at Clos de Cazaux
Idyllic views at Clos de Cazaux

A quick lunch in Bédarrides sets us up for our tasting with Guillaume Gonnet of Font de Michelle in Chateauneuf du Pape.

Welcome to Châteauneuf du Pape
Welcome to Châteauneuf du Pape

Our arrival coincides with a truck unloading grapes – they are poured down into the fermentation tanks and the noise is like the drumming of rain in a storm.

Guillaume’s 2009s are stunning, rich and balanced: some excellent Cotes du Rhone and then on to his three Chateauneufs. The fruit is incredibly sweet and ripe, the tannins are velvety, they are powerful and intense but not overdone. Guillaume compares them to a richer version of 2004 or 2006 – elegant and rich yet also soft and subtle.

We also retasted his Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition 2008. The 2008s suffered by comparison to the Parker-inspired hype of the 2007 vintage, however this is a lovely wine. Perfumed, delicate and feminine with a juicy succulent core this is a charmer and should not be ignored just because it falls between two grander vintages.

David Roberts has worked with Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe for many years.

vieux-telegraphe.JPG

Daniel Brunier showed us around their cellars – the facade is that of a well appointed villa, but this conceals a wine-making empire including vaulted cellars pushed back into the rockface of the adjacent hill.

The cellars at Vieux Télégraphe
The cellars at Vieux Télégraphe

These are impressive, polished wines and a fantastic addition to our well-established quartet of Chateauneuf producers.

Avignon’s rush hour traffic means we arrive later than planned at our hotel. Entre Vignes & Garrigue is in the middle of nowhere, a stunning converted farmhouse tucked at the foot of a rocky cliff, with the pool and garden looking out onto the vines. Dinner is delicious paired with a bone dry Montlouis from Jacky Blot and a velvety red from a Languedoc discovery “Roc d’Anglade”. Highly recommended.