the 53rd Cornas Wine Fair, or Market as they call it in their functional way, is the early December highlight, and features among a welter of tastings of 2008 Northern Rhônes in Tournon, along with similar close inspection of 2008s at Gigondas, Lirac and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Comments on these will be posted later in the month. For now, having tasted a wide selection of Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2008s, I find they carry friendly fruit, and will drink young, but they are miles better than 2002, which some armchair-bound journalists have wrongly put in the same category as 2008.
Something I have also noticed is the rather heady pricing on two prominent Châteauneuf-du-Pape estates, Clos des Papes and Beaucastel. I have not tasted the Beaucastel, but in December tasted the Clos des Papes at the estate in, please note, its yet to be assembled form. Please log in to see the note on this wine to be. What I also observe is that both these 2008s are being offered, in all their infancy, pre-final blending, at £400 per case of 12 bottles, in bond in Britain. Thus there is duty, shipping and VAT to be added; they therefore weigh in as expensive wines, which will have to do well to justify the price in what is not a great vintage. The old caution of Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) must apply for those who wish to rush in.
Cornas (cheval mascot) alert: the mighty Cornas WON by 13 LENGTHS (13 longueurs pour ses fans les vignerons) in his 2mile, 1.5 furlong steeplechase for younger horses on Dec 17 at Exeter. He was actually joint favourite at odds of 11/10 and eased round, jumping accurately, and won without being fussed by his rivals. His sore hoof (the first four letters of his name, actually) had been attended to, and he prevailed in style. I vaguely cheered him on from minus 15 Centigrade in Finland while discussing the merits or otherwise of the Finnish economy, (unemployment rising in 2010), while the race was run, without my usual bottle of 1991 Clape Cornas to hand. Probably just as well. ALLEZ, CORNAS! His fan club grows all the while, and I took the opportunity of informing the Mayor at the December Cornas Wine Market that his foreign ambassador had 4 legs, and a much higher profile than him. He took it in good part.
back from the Rhône, just, without sleeping the night in a snow drift near Brighton, from Helsinki, the first 2008 tasting notes are being gradually fed in. It is a vintage that needs micro-investigation - what the French term "le travail de fourmi (the work of an ant). No blanket statements can be made. Each domaine must be judged separately. Under Saint-Joseph, notes on the whites of Domaine Bernard and Fabrice Gripa should be looked at. Under Hermitage, the 2008s of Marc Sorrel, and his 2007s, all of which are now bottled, are also reviewed. Also under Hermitage, the new venture Nicolas Jaboulet, Perrin Frères has been added, a merchant business that started in August, 2009, and released its first wines in November, 2009. Under Cornas, the 2006, 2007 and 2008 (in cask) of Thiérry Allemandhave been tasted in December chez the enfant terrible.
Under Condrieu, the Domaine Georges Vernay range was tasted, including a 1976 Coteau de Vernon, which is also covered under Recent Tastings under the title 1979 & 1976 Georges Vernay. And the Domaine Faury has been updated, their whites from 2009 and 2008, their reds from 2008 and 2007. At Côte-Rôtie, the organic, sometimes no sulphur child Jean-Michel Stéphan and his range of 2007s, 2008s, 2009s have been entered. Jean-Michel is a rare example of carbonic maceration use, his inspiration being the late Jules Chauvet of justified past Beaujolais fame. Also the highly promising Christophe Billon`s 2007s, 2008s and 2009s have been reviewed, as have the 2009s, 2008s and 2007s of another young Turk, Stéphane Pichat, and the traditional Domaine Gallet.