WineBat Tales: The Rhone

French Wine mapLast Monday was the WineBat Rhone tasting at Green Pastures. Six wines were presented for blind tasting, accompanied by some light apps, which were delish. Check the compiled results of the tasting here.

Food included charred beef with truffle oil and manchego, bacon-wrapped cherry-stuffed quail breast, blackened oyster with chimichurri, and dates stuffed with boursin — the latter of which was a huge hit at my table! There was a nice big crowd for this tasting, as you can see.

CrowdDamon told us ahead of time that we would have one Rhone-inspired new world wine in the mix of six, so I was on the look-out for that one, but I confess I didn’t peg it. Here is a list of the wines we tasted, from my most favorite to my least. The first three, to be fair, were pretty-much tied for first place with me:

Tasting TableE. Guigal Hermitage 1999, $70-110: 100% Syrah. Plummy, with a huge stank on it. Funky delicious barnyard aromas of manure and wet hay, with raspberry fruit and a whiff of bermagot. This is a monster nose, very heady and interesting to sniff. On the palate, black pepper, raspberry preserves and violets. Scratchy tannins, but a very stylish wine. I represented Guigal when I worked for a distributor, but I’ve never had a chance to taste their Hermitage. This was a knock-out, a beautiful example of the way the French can make a Syrah that has just as much power as an Australian Shiraz, but frequently much more fascination.

Gibson Barrossa Vale Wilfreda Blend 2005, $32: 50% Shiraz, 27% Mourvedre & 23% Grenache, this presented an intense, complex nose of smoked meats, plum, raspberry & strawberry with some pine needles sprinkled over all of it in about a half-inch-thick layer. This is a ripe, structured wine. Mild and round on the palate, with char, the blackest of blackcurrant, a dollop of ink, and rich, blood-rare meat flavors. Generally this varietal combo is called a GSM, and I’m quite fond of them: they present the some of the best character of all three grapes with New World sass. Rob “Gibbo” Gibson worked at Penfolds for 23 years, and now owns his own winery in Australia’s Barossa Valley, producing only 5000 cases a year. I’m very interested in trying more of their wines, when I can afford it; their Shiraz is listed at Specs for around $50 bones!

Blind! I’m blind!Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Chateauneuf-de-Pape 2005, $40: 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah/Mourvedre, and all manually harvested. Heady menthol, with blueberry and floral scents. With a little time in the glass, strawberry preserves are evident. On the palate, dark chocolate, mushroom (specifically huitlacoche), and mint. Powerfully tannic. This is early to drink this wine, I think; I’d lay it down for another 2 years at least. Very interesting, though.

Perrin y Fils Vacqueyras Les Christins 2005, from $18 at Wine Searcher: 80/20 Grenache & Syrah, this presented a subtle, elusive nose of cherry, raspberry and strawberry, with soft mint character. The palate was peppery and surprisingly tannic, with some great blackcurrant and a strong gamy note. I wondered if it was a Cotes du Rhone, but it’s Vacqueyras, that most southern of the Southern Rhone regions. This was actually part of the Cotes du Rhone AOC for a long time, but was given its own appellation in 1990, by law the reds there must be at least 50% Grenache. The Perrin family is practically Rhone royalty and also produces the superlative Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-de-Pape. In my experience, it’s hard to go wrong with anything the Perrins have a hand in.

Mas de Guiot 40% Grenache – 60% Syrah Costieres de Nimes 2005, $9: Blueberry, white flowers (gardenia, perhaps?), spearmint and bacon on the nose. On the palate, this wine put my tongue in a death grip, and tasted of cherry, cranberry cocktail and thyme. Insanely spicy when tasted with the blackened oyster. What an oddly labelled wine! I agree with Damon that this is a steal for 9 bucks; I’ve had good luck with the occasional Costieres de Nimes (not actually Rhone, though in the Rhone style). Sylvia and Francois Cornut own this estate: Francois and sons Alexis & Numa grow the grapes, and Sylvia is the winemaker. They have about 300 acres of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault, practice sustainable agriculture, and are big favorites for value lovers.

Andre Brunel Grenache 2005, $9: Powerful scent of cheddar at first, then developing into some cherry, blueberry and very black pepper. Maybe a flower or two? On the palate, I groped around madly for some kind of definable flavor, but it was so mild and minimally structured that I couldn’t tell ya. I first thought it was a much older wine which had been aged too long, but upon seeing the vintage I think it’s just… meh.

The last WineBat tasting of 2007 is tonight, and it’s Beaujolais, baby! This is one of the French regions I am enjoying the most right now for its reasonable prices and interesting complexity and freshness. I hope to be tasting some tasty crus this evening, and I hope you’ll be there with me.

0 comments

  1. Did you guys have any white Chateauneuf’s? It’s my new thing! They are great for the holidays because they’ve got a good fruit structure and plenty of acidity to stand up to the richer foods. Yum!

  2. I agree about white Chnf, for sure! These blind tastings by Winebat are all red or all white, because all the wines are jumbled up between the people and you can’t guarantee that everyone will get the white(s) before the reds…

    But I would love to attend a tasting of Rhone whites, I must say! Mmmmmm…. Roussanne…

  3. Actually…. next season, we are going to start mixing in some whites, on occaison. FOr example, for the Napa Valley tasting (1/7 at Green Pastures) we will have more than one varietal and I promise at least one white. We’ve decided to mix it up a bit, since I didn’t want to do an “all-white” tasting in the winter, but I also didn’t want to make my tasters wait five months before I served them another white.

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