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Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

31 January 2010

Millésime Bio 2010: Rhône valley highlights

Domaine Clusel-Roch - Côte Rotie
Brigitte Roch and Gilbert Clusel have a massive four (which probably is in this super-steep, small-parcelled wine area) organically farmed hectares (10 acres) lying in, or on rather, the almost legendary "roasted slope" appellation, plus a few rows in nearby Condrieu; and their cellar is located in the village of Verenay close to more famous Ampuis (home of Guigal among others) alongside the Rhone in the so-called "northern" region (if you see what I mean). I tried all their reds, I think, all of them 100% Syrah, at this year's (2010) Millésime Bio wine fair in Montpellier:
2006 Côte Rotie - quite a bit of spicy wood still dominating the nose; smoky and peppery vs ripe and rounded palate, fairly elegant in the end actually. 87
2007 Côte Rotie - similar aroma/flavour profile but richer and fruitier too, velvety vs firm mouthfeel and finish; needs time to express itself better. 88
2007 Les Grandes Places Côte Rotie - from a specific "lieu-dit" plot: attractive herbal spicy black peppery and black cherry notes; again relatively soft and elegant palate then tight and punchy on the finish. 89+
2008 Côte Rotie - juicier and less oaky on the nose; showing nice fruit overlaid with touches of creamy oak, solid but subtle finish. 87
2009 Côte Rotie (barrel sample) - lush with lively fruit, firm and spicy mouthfeel with good weight and tight framework; should be good. 89
www.domaine-clusel-roch.fr
Clos du Joncuas - Gigondas
More than just Gigondas actually, as the Chastan family (Dany, Fernand and Carole) has 29 organic hectares (72 acres) in total around the latter village, Séguret and Vacqueyras; all nestling quietly in that southern Rhone paradise valley. Well, not always: it snowed quite a bit there this year I believe. I digress... they've been doing the organic thing since the beginning, 1989, with a hint of biodynamics now thrown in too. My tastebuds got stuck in to the following reds at this year's Millésime Bio show in Montpellier (2010):
2004 Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache 70% plus Carignan, Mourvèdre etc.) - maturing smoky nose with dark savoury notes; chunky firm mouthfeel vs mature fruit, a tad old with extracted tannins but quite nice still (with food). 85
2004 Vacqueyras (Grenache 80% + Syrah etc.) - enticing herbal minty spicy aromas underpinned by maturing black fruits; powerful and pretty grippy still yet lush too, big old tannins layered with nice savoury vs dark fruit finish. 87
2004 Gigondas (Grenache 80%, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Syrah) - similar profile to above but more complex, developing meaty fruit; again very grippy tannins but I like that lush sweet vs savoury fruit underneath. 88
2005 Gigondas - richer smokier nose and palate, lovely concentration vs firm structure; smoky, liquoricey and peppery finish. Quite wow. 88-90
www.closdujoncuas.fr

Domaine La Fourmente - Visan
This 46-hectare (110-acre) organic estate (since 2005) is owned by Rémi and Valérie Pouizin and found in the Côtes du Rhône Villages Visan appellation (a bit longwinded to say but now producing some superb reds, as you can see), which lies a good bit northeast of Orange and north of Cairanne or Rasteau. They also produce natural lavender oil, by the way: I tried to copy one of the nice pics of lavender fields off their website, but it must be an annoying "flash" thing as I couldn't! See for yourself @ www.domainelafourmente.com. These were sampled at Millésime Bio in Montpellier (January 2010), a bit of a discovery, I'd say, especially those two 100% Grenaches:
2009 Nature rosé (Grenache Syrah) - clean and fruity, crisp and juicy; nice enough quaffer. 80+
2009 Amour de Fruit Côtes du Rhône (Cinsault Grenache Syrah) - attractive juicy fruity style with a bit of grip and substance too. 85
2009 Nature Visan (Grenache Syrah) - richer spicier Syrah-prominent style (although with more Grenache actually), perfumed black cherry fruit vs chunky tannins, lush and peppery; yum, promising. 87+
2007 Les Vieux Grenache des Garrigues Visan (14%) - sexy liquorice, spice and dark leather edges; very rich and concentrated vs uplifting floral peppery notes; dark lush fruit turning savoury, firm and powerful finish. Wow. 92-94
2007 La Fourmente Grains Sauvages (old Grenache) - delicious liquorice, dark plum and spice notes; "sweet" vs floral fruit too, gripping tannins on a very tasty finish; perhaps firmer and tighter than above, but similarly gorgeous! 90-92

"Now that's what I call a chateau,"
taken from www.chateaulanerthe.fr
Château La Nerthe - Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This simply famous estate has been in the hands of the Richard family since 1985, the latest in a line of owners spanning its, well, historic long history. The vineyards were first converted over to organic growing back in 1998, one of few in Châteauneuf-du-Pape actually (you have to wonder why?), which must be a challenge for estate boss Christian Voeux and his team managing 80 ha (200 acres) accordingly; while probably being surrounded by non-organic spraying neighbours (it's a compact appellation). Their impressive "Cadette" cuvée is sourced from a particularly senior and cherished plot with 100+ year-old Grenache and their oldest Mourvèdre and Syrah. And the powerful yet complex Clos de Beauvenir white shows how well good white CNdP can age. I tasted these wines with Christian at the earthy Millésime Bio show, Jan 2010 in Montpellier:
2008 La Nerthe white (Clairette Grenache blanc Roussanne Marsanne Bourboulenc among others) - a bit closed on the nose to start with, moving on to a much more exotic palate vs mineral and light wood spice notes; oily and weighty mouthfeel vs nice juicy, yeast-lees tinged finish. €28 87+
2004 Clos de Beauvenir white (Roussanne Clairette) - lots of hazelnut and oily maturing notes, rounded and creamy mouthfeel vs fair bit of oomph; long mellowing finish but certainly not old. €57 89+
2007 La Nerthe red (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre Cinsault & others) - lovely rich Grenache-styled, liquorice and spice aromas followed by a tad of sweet oak although subtle; dark ripe fruit explosion with firm and fiery backdrop, tight closed up finish yet plenty of delicious fruit. Promising. €30 90-(92)
2005 cuvée des Cadettes (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - showing more wood but there's lots of maturing sweet fruit underneath; attractive dry vs ripe tannins, actually finishing more elegantly than I thought it was going to! €62 90+
2006 cuvée des Cadettes (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - more developed and leather-edged supported by sumptuous fruit, concentrated vs firm palate; again big and bold but lush and dark too, dry texture vs intensity and great finish. €63.50 92+
Route de Sorgues, 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. www.chateaulanerthe.fr, 04 90 83 70 11.

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