Northern Rhone

Decant, Christchurch

Tasted April 11, 2013 by Roland H with 515 views

Introduction

An excellent tasting with a strong emphasis of vineyard location and soil type, as well as the characters involved!

[Some notes taken from Terroir by JE Wilson, pp.287-290]
Mineral-rich soils from crystalline rocks of the Massif Central.
Cote-Rotie. In the northeastern part (Cote Brune) the bedrock is schist containing both muscovite (white mica) and biotite (black mica) which weathers to a dark brown material. Below Ampuis, Cote Blonde is characteristed by a complex of schist and gneiss (a granite-like, metamorphic rock) which weathers to a grayish material. Viognier does well on these latter soils.
Condrieu. In this region, granites are classified according to their texture and accessory minerals (such as mica). Weathering of the abundant mica has resulted in good clay binding of the gritty soils.
St.-Joseph. The bedrock is granite containing very large crystals (like a plum pudding). The brown soils on the slopes and terraces are deep and stony. Although the St.-Joseph vineyards are very old, the appellation was revised in 1992 to emphasise the slopes.
Hermitage. Complex. The hill mass itself is a combination of granite with Quaternary delta deposits and Pliocene clay plastered on to the eastern side. An erosional remnant of a fan-delta overlies the Pliocene clay. Capping the hill is loess containing calcareous "rock flour" which has washed into the coarser delta material. The best appelation (Les Bessards) is entirely on the granite. Another small terroir (La Varogne) is also on the granite.
Crozes-Hermitage. In an arc around the hill of Hermitage. Consists of 3 geologic terrains. The best red wines come from a narrow exposure of granite at Hermitage and extending northward. East of Hermitage is a highly dissected, low plateau comprised of Pliocene clay at the base capped by a late Quaternary glacial terrace with variable loess. This is best suited to white varieties: Hermitage, Marsanne, Rousanne. The terrain south of Hermitage consists of Quaternary terraces, growing both red and white Cotes du Rhone.
Cornas. A narrow block of Jurrasic limestone is down-faulted against granite of the Massif Central. Soils are a mixture of limestone, marl and sand. In the south, the soils are more sandy, giving well-balanced wines that mature more quickly.
St.-Peray. Produces sparkling wine by the Methode Champenois, but styles are very varied. Soils are derived from weathered granite, old terrace deposits and Jurassic limestones.

Flight 1 (2 notes)

White
2011 François Villard Viognier Les Contours de DePoncins France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes
94 points
Golden. Floral, then some stone fruit (apricot?), complex, sweet, soft. Moderate weight and very fresh with a core of flavour, almost nutty. Great acid finish. [Possible small amount of oak from de-classified adjacent Condrieu]
White
2011 François Villard Condrieu DePoncins France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Condrieu
96 points
Golden. Not obvious but rich. Less floral more fruit and very distinctive. Citrus and tropical. Full in palate, textured but with lovely underpining acidity. [Some oak treatment, c. 10 months]

Flight 2 (2 notes)

Red
2010 Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Crozes-Hermitage
92 points
Deep purple. Rich, smokey, ripe stems (!), hedgrerow berries, fermenting grapes. On the palate rich, juicy, obvious but balannced astringency, dry at the end. [Riverbed soils composed of gravel and some fines, no oak, 4-5 year aging potential]
Red
2010 Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Crozes-Hermitage
90 points
Deep ruby. Sweet, vanilla (although became less obvious), less complex, "mineral". Big and round in the palate. Softness underpinned with plenty of tannin. [Very gravelly site with little fines, 8-10 year aging potential]

Flight 3 (3 notes)

Red
2011 Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Crozes-Hermitage
89 points
Very dark purple, almost black. Rich and stemmy/sweet aroma. In the palate, very sweet fruit overlying acidity, hot; but not fat, good structure. [On site away from the river, deeper soils; 50% whole bunch]
Red
2011 Domaine Auguste Clape Côtes du Rhône France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
Deep, deep purple. Slightly odd aroma, a bit yeasty and green. Interesting palate - dry then sweet then dry. Lovely texture. Dusty tannins. [Unusual for Cotes du Rhone being 100% Syrah, from just outside Cornas AC]
Red
2010 Domaine Auguste Clape Cornas Renaissance France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Cornas
94 points
Really deep, deep purple. High note sweetness, fatty acids, complex. Lovely fruit in front, then dusty tannins. A very nice wine. [Aging potential, 15 years]

Flight 4 (3 notes)

Red
2010 François Villard Côte-Rôtie Le Gallet Blanc France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
96 points
Deep purple. A beautiful aroma. Complex and sophisticated, spicy. Lovely sweet but well-defined fruit. Refined,
Red
2010 Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
96 points
Deep purple/ruby. Fantastic aroma; fruit and lovely aromatics. Very elegant initial palate; fruit and spicy aromatics. Dry back palate. Long spicy finish.
Red
2010 Jean-Michel Gerin Côte-Rôtie Les Grandes Places France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
98 points
Deep purple/ruby. Wow aroma. Rich and very expensive spice/incense. Fantastic. Rich, round, spicy front palate with a hint of corruption/outdoor dunnies. Then pleasing tannins. Long, spicy finish. [Long aging potential, >15 years]
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