the bi-annual Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône event was its usual whirlwind of colourful people from around the world, and the gang of journalists that meets up every two years - notably from Belgium and Denmark - which results in late night assaults on STGT Montlouis and other delights. Visitor numbers were down, unsurprisingly, but the audience was more professional and focused than in 2007. The USA and Canada were well represented, as were Belgium, Norway and Germany. British trade visitors were low in number, high in quality - Averys, Flint Wines, Berry Brothers - the last-named continuing to outpace most of the British traditional merchants through their commitment to the real Rhône of small domaines and good quality names that now include Beaucastel. London merchants that rely on Bordeaux have hard yards to catch up, especially after a less than star vintage in 2007.
The main focus was the 2007 vintage. The southern Rhône will be covered in detail in the coming weeks as I reside in England and scribble away. It will start with a bringing together of the Châteauneuf-du-Papes, red and white: many of these have now been tasted. Please also keep consulting the STGT and w.o.w. categories, where wines are being added all the time.
the bi-annual Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône event takes place from March 16-21. This is attended by wine importers, retailers, press and a few way out investigators - two years ago there was a VERY hearty bus of Slovakians who would all taste the same wine at the same moment, it appeared. Traffic problems ensued, and noise levels were high. Did they place many orders? I cannot say. It is that time again, and bookings will probably be down on 2007 - we will see. Reports will be posted the following week.
having tasted over 400 Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages reds in Avignon from 2006 and 2007, then 120 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Papes that have now been bottled, I need bread and water, possible the dentist, and also the time to assemble the notes on-line. These tastings took me 7 consecutive days, given that I am not a locomotive, unlike some of the high profile scribbling brethren. I will be leading with the most prominent domaines from those vintages.
CORNAS, our Cheval Mascot News: "mid-division, hampered 3rd, headway on outer approaching 3 out, close 3rd and going well when stumbled 2 out, ridden before last, weakened flat". The Form Book does not lie. Cornas, in the top race of the year for his group of young horses over 2 miles, performed with pulsating quality on March 10 at Cheltenham. He came cruising down the hill on the outside, the jockey sitting motionless, and hearts started to quicken. At the second last fence, a downhill obstacle, he made a good jump but slipped on landing, and in the words of his jockey Daryl Jacob "lost his momentum and about 3 lengths - otherwise we would have been fourth." Thus he was 7th, but I can say that he did what good Cornas wine should do - showed guts and a willing attitude, with no affectation (ie new oak). VIVE, CORNAS!!!
Previously: Cornas the Cheval Mascot, has his big, high-profile day on Tuesday 10 March at Cheltenham in the second race, the 2.05, called the Arkle Chase, over 2 miles - named after Ireland`s champion, the greatest horse I ever saw, when I was a callow youth in 1965. He is a 50/1 shot, in a field of 18 runners. He will run well, although a slight foot problem last week took a day or two to clear up. He should not be 50/1, and if all went well, he could finish in the first six. The place odds for him coming in the first three are around 10-12/1. I will be ringside for this race. ALLEZ CORNAS!!!
The end of February heralded the first inkling of spring in the southern Rhône, and by the first week of March, the almonds and mimosas were adding a bit of welcome colour to the landscape. The last of the pruners were also out and about. The 2008s are settling down, and will be reviewed for the first time since December in mid-March when I return to the Rhône, both north and south. With an anti-cyclone situated over the Azores for around 10 days, it was a good time to be tasting - very stable days, cool nights, and healthy sunshine.
Cornas (cheval) News: Cornas, our website Mascot, has now run WITH GREAT DISTINCTION in the 3.20 Novices Chase at Sandown, the feature race on the card. He was beaten a measly neck into second place, after a mighty round of jumping, only inhibited by a slight mistake at the second last fence where he lost about 1+ lengths. Without that, he would have won. There is something rather wonderful about shouting "Go on, allez Cornas" at the television, while jumping around and making the animals take to the hills. The forecast paid over 50/1, so there are funds from this latest venture of our Mascot. Hats off to Nick Brookes and the team at VineTrail.
Previously . . Cornas runs in the 3.20 race at Sandown tomorrow, the 20 February. The race is over 2 miles, and there are 5 runners, of which he is the outsider - just like Cornas (le vin), always underrated! We will find out if he is good enough to compete in the big championship race at Cheltenham in March, the Arkle Chase. Fingers are crossed for a good performance. ALLEZ, CORNAS!