Thursday, 14 July 2011

Rhone 2010 - Greater than 2009?

Posted by Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director

I look forward to the Rhone buying trip with particular relish. The place is beautiful, the weather a welcome change from grey London and the diverse array of wines fantastic. Rhone can never be accused of being boring, from the divergent blends of Chateauneuf, the varying styles of the Northern Syrahs, not to mention Condrieu, Marsannes and Roussannes. What's more I know that when I get back home, there will be more than a few things on my wine shopping list that I will actually be able to afford.

This July's aim was to re-taste 2009s and take an extensive look at 2010s. The schedule in front of me was bursting at the seams, 22 growers in 4 days including Clos des Papes,Pegau, Vieux Telegraphe, Chave, Domaine du Coulet, Alain Graillot, Rostaing, Clusel Roch and Stephane Ogier to name a few. I am very much becoming a victim of the Rhone's success, it seems that every year we add a new grower to the portfolio. The trip left me quite exhausted, albeit in a thoroughly satisifed way.

2009s are showing just as well as a year ago if not better, it is a rich vintage north and south, a show stopper, a vintage of opulence and seduction. For me the wines of the year, north or south, were those of Rene Rostaing, though the fabulous Chave 09s (to be released next year) will be snapping at Rostaing's heals.

As for 2010, well all I can say is that, taken as a whole, Rhone 2010 is greater than 2009. In the south, thanks to coulure, it is a very small vintage but the quality is excellent. The wines have the ripeness of 2009, the concentration, but more freshness and balance. Indeed they approach the 2007s in depth and will supercede them for drinkability. I thought Versino/ Bois de Boursan was particularly successful, as was Pegau, Vieux Telegraphe and le Bois Pointu (now made by Domaine Etienne Gonnet)

In the North, 2010 is a truely great year, whether greater than 09 depends on the individual producer. It is a very close call between the two in Cote Rotie particularly, whereas in Hermitage and Cornas I almost unanimously preferred the crisp, more defined and elegant structures of the 2010s. Rene Rostaing again came up trumps with an outstanding range, Francois Villard I think has made his best ever vintage, red and white, whilst the lovable Clusel Rochs have pulled a very special vintage out of the bag. Faurie and Domaine du Colombier (whose freshly ripened apricots were out of this world!) performed brilliantly and one of my very favourite growers Mathieu Barret of Domaine du Coulet, has yet again made stunning Cornas, far better than many Hermitages. For me Cornas is one France's most underrated appellations.

So there we have it, a great vintage and, hopefully, probably, maybe.... reasonable prices. Our full offer of 2010s will be launched in November.

Next stop Spain in a week's time, follow the action on twitter @gilesbg