A while ago Lara and I invited our occasional Clonakilla tasting group to our place for a Rhone and Friends tasting. I thought it might be interesting to investigate the question ‘How do Rhone reds Age?’ Well, the tasting confirmed the answer that has resonated with me for years: very well indeed.
We tasted older and more recent vintages from four important Northern Rhone appellations: Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Saint Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage, and naturally we threw in a couple of Clonakillas to see how the home brew stood up against the French heavy weights. There were some fascinating interlopers at the end too.
If, like me, you love the wines of the Northern Rhone, diving into some fully mature examples and comparing them to their youthful siblings in the company of wine loving friends is a fantastic way to spend a Saturday evening. A really memorable night.
Here is how I saw the wines:
2009 Coursodon St. Joseph
Warm ripe spices, ripe plum notes, juicy fruit, ripe vintage notes.
Middle weight, gentle fruit. No great impact but really quite pleasant.
2009 Ogier Cote Rotie
Altogether more aromatic, really jumps out of the glass, musk sticks, florals; so bright and joyful. Bacon fat (smoked ham?) Clove. A very good Rotie from a generous vintage. Given that this is the entry level, I am looking forward to seeing Stephan’s top wines from 2009.
1999 Jaboulet Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage
Hay bale, complex, macerated plum, iron, rust, blood. Great aged notes, autumnal indeed.
2009 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier
Potent, intense fruit, black to red, soaring really. I have said before that this might just be the best Shiraz Viognier we have made. It looked exuberant yet restrained tonight. Decades ahead of it.
2009 Yann Chave Hermitage
Dense, black fruit, intense plum skin, rhubarb and graphite.
This Hermitage from the lesser known Chave has a very distinct, potent personality. Dark and profoundly ripe with an authoritative presence about it. I’m glad I have a few of these in the cellar.
1999 Gaillard Saint Joseph
Warm fruit, potent, lovely, perfectly framed by oak. Perfectly poised palate. Savoury notes (rhubarb again?), showing the class I have come to adore in this great Rhone vintage.
1995 Clonakilla Shiraz Pinot Noir Viognier
Timeless, this hasn’t changed. Gentle florals, compost, warm earth, really beautiful fragrance. Perhaps a whisper of brett, but no alarm. This has always been a highly fragrant wine. I remember the fruit when first de-stemmed was 12.2 baume. It soaked on skins for three days before fermentation kicked off and by the end of that time the baume had crept up to 13.0, the result of the shrivelled berries slowly releasing their sweeter juice. 10% each Viognier and Pinot Noir. A tough bracket to sit in but standing up well.
1983 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle
Stunning aroma, ethereal, glowing embers, raison, herbs simmering in the casserole, exuberant, almost muscat like. This is a very good bottle of the ’83 (they do vary). A contender for wine of the night with the signature element of great Shiraz: an ethereal glow at the centre; a warm heart.
1983 Guigal Brune et Blonde Cote Rotie
Looking terrific; dark chocolate, deep spice, herbal in a wonderful way, authoritative but tender too. The Guigals put some of their best fruit into this wine in those days, fruit that would now find its way to the Chateau D’Ampuis. It shows. 29 years old and singing brilliantly tonight.
1990 Jaboulet Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage
Still very vibrant. No sign of decay. Milk chocolate perhaps, mulled herbs, baked biscuits, warm, generous palate. Mushrooms in butter. This wine proves that Crozes-Hermitage given the hands of a competent maker and a great year, can age with gravitas. The greatest Crozes ever made?
2009 Bilancia ‘La Collina’
Delicious warm spice, elegant and alluring, beautifully ripe. Oak present but integrating well. High tones, even floral, but subtley so. Acids and tannins fused brilliantly to produce that sought after savoury impact. Bravo.
2009 Benetiere Cote Rotie “Cordeloux”
This came across as bretty at first, but over the course of the evening improved and brightened. Very tight, stemmy and a little reductive. Not a ripe, slinky wine as you might expect from 2009. Smokey bacon aromas, always hard tell how much of this is oak derived. The tannins are dense, but ripe. Best leave this in the cellar a while to give it time to unpack.
1991 Wendouree Shiraz Malbec
Dense red, brooding, black fruit nose, the faintest suggestion of eucalypt, together with the fact that Alistair brought it, has me thinking Wendouree. You have to love the warm, persuasive authority of this wine. This, along with every other wine on the table tonight, has a warm energy at the centre. 21 years old and a lifetime to go. A great Australian.