11 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On 12:30 PM by The Bloggers @ 67 Wine in , , ,    No comments
These have been some exciting times for Rhone wines. The 2009 and 2010 vintages were both superlative. No “vintage of the century” nonsense; the weather has given us good or great vintages almost every year. Right now, we’ve seen the recent introduction of several outstanding wines from the Northern Rhone – 100% Syrah wines that needed a bit more time before release than the Grenache based wines of the Southern Rhone. Robert Parker rated the 2009 Northern Rhone vintage at 98 Points, his highest ever for a region he regularly champions.

Decanter Magazine columnist John Livingstone-Learmonth, who also hosts a website devoted to Rhone wines, calls the 2009 vintage in Crozes-Hermitage “a triumph”, especially in the more favored terrain north and west of Hermitage and on the hills and plains of Les Chassis. For the 2010 Northern Rhone vintage he uses a musical metaphor, comparing it to a Mozart Piano Concerto: “The clarity, the delicacy of the piano summons the wonderful floating elegance and purity of the Syrah fruit; the violins and orchestral surround wash gently on to the shores of the piano, just as the silken tannins embrace the fruit of 2010. Quelle joie.”

Alain Graillot is a producer we’ve long favored, and now his son Max is making wines from the same vineyards on Les Chassis. Max’s Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage 2010 is full of black fruit (blackberry, black raspberry), black pepper, and a touch of black olive. 

The negociante bottling from Michel Chapoutier, the Petite Rouche Crozes-Hermitage 2009, is similar in many ways and distinctive in others. It shows bigger fruit than the Lises, more black olive notes, some smoke and anise, but is less peppery. Still, it is pure Northern Rhone Syrah, almost unmistakable for anything else.

The 2009 vintage in St.-Joseph was slightly more problematic due to drought conditions in the spring and early summer. Livingstone-Learmonth called 2009 St.-Joseph “a great success”, though those with vines on granite soils had problems. Rain in August saved the day. 

Pascal Marthouret’s old vines did well in those conditions, though he lost some production from his younger vines. His St.-Joseph 2009 still came out beautifully, with bold fruit & pepper on nose. The palate shows ripe black fruit, spice, and pepper, finishing dry and long with ripe tannins.

The Laurent Betton St.-Joseph 2009 shows similar ripe black fruit, but from there the wines diverge. The Betton shows a little pepper, but is most notable for its slightly gamey quality. That trait gives it a strong affinity for lamb, duck and other strongly flavored meats.

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