at last, summer has arrived in the Rhône. But the real heat delayed until 23 June, with the flowering affected by cold winds and cool nights. The fourth week of June saw temperatures rise to the high 20°sC in the South, and growers started to smile again. At present, the harvest is running 10 to 14 days behind recent dates.
May delivered a big, initial catch-up after the tardy start to the cycle. Memories of the cold winter and the very late bout of snow on March 7 receded, and the first week of June saw flowering at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a normal date for it.
It is a curious year. When I was in Moscow in late May, the vegetation was 7 to 10 days ahead of the south of England, with high 20°s Centigrade temperatures already experienced. The Northern Rhône is further behind the South, too, with shivery temperatures in May. The gap between the two areas remains as distinct as ever.
2009 continues to look good for both red and whites - the latter low in acidity, but plumptious enough to be very good food wines. On the subject of white Rhône, I have added another noble wine, the Beaucastel 1993 Vieilles Vignes, to Veterans Corner. Yes, 1993: the year of mucho rain. The fruit from 1914 Roussanne is one of life`s eminent joys, so far off the Superhighway in an age of homogenisation. Worth an outlay at auction if you can track it down.
at last, after a seemly interval, I have put up a report on McLaren Vale, South Australia, a region I visited as the International Judge last October. I cover what this vineyard zone south of Adelaide is doing with its Rhône variety grapes, which hold a big say in the area`s future. McLaren Vale is reminiscent of parts of California in being coastal, breezy, and its food and wine scene is moving towards a more organic, more enterprising approach - a far cry from the old "lager only after 5 pm, mate", mentality that existed in the past. See the left-hand tab McLaren Vale.
Look up Veterans Corner for a duo of shapely 1980s Côte-Rôties - the 1985 Gilbert Clusel La Viallière and the 1988 Bernard Burgaud. Drunk in Oslo with my old friend the importer extraordinaire to Norway and Sweden, Christopher Moestue. One sole, careful owner, and a healthy Nordic climate brought out the best in these two old stagers.
Also a trio of old white Rhônes - the rain-sodden 1993 vintage features - and also for a magnum of 1979 red Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Les Cailloux. This was my contribution to a Wine Trade luncheon held in the august, historic surroundings of the Directors Dining Room at Berry Brothers in St James`s Street, London, with original William Morris wallpaper lining the top of the wood-panelled walls, and no doubt turning a blind eye as stories moved towards the ribald.
STGT: note the Ermitage Le Pavillon red 2001 from M.Chapoutier. Also a pair of Beaumes-de-Venise reds from two family domaines, Chiniard and Grangeneuve - an encouraging sign for this still young red wine appellation.
w.o.w. note the Vieille Ferme 2009 Ventoux from Perrin & Fils - a real winner this year.