A newly scribbled essay around a June 2011 tasting in London of the white wines of Château Rayas at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the Reynaud family Côtes-du-Rhône estate Château de Fonsalette. "They" simply DO NOT make wines like this anymore. Log in, and go to The Big Tastings. Added as well: two extremely sound west bank domaines in the Gard, namely at Chusclan, the Château de Signac, maker of sophisticated reds; and at Signargues, the Clos d`Alzan, where Michel Collomb, the husband of the owner of Domaine de la Valériane, makes understated, slow-burn wines for which the word "honest" is well-suited. Recent liked wines include the 2008 Côtes-du-Rhône red from Cros de la Mure at Massif d`Uchaux, and the two 2010 rosés from Marcel Guigal at Côte-Rôtie, his Tavel and his Côtes-du-Rhône.
A full review of 2009 Côtes-du-Rhône Villages reds has been entered under the Left Hand tab 2009 Southern Rhône. Once logged in, click on the sub tab The Leading Wines. From the 17 Villages there is a great variety of good value wines: this is an exciting area for the Rhône, with some dashing wines with a real frame around them, ideal for a little cellaring and good dishes. The most racy in this category and that of the more simple Côtes-du-Rhône are shown under the w.o.w. Wines category, while the terroir-faithful, local examples are under STGT Wines.
This has brought up a wide variety of small domaines and Cave Co-operatives. Among the more notable, I would signal the recent joint venture of Laudun and Chusclan on the west bank, Les Vignerons de Laudun Chusclan, which is listed under the Chusclan tab. The Cave de Cairanne is still capable of turning out some good cuvées, as is the Cave de Rasteau. Note that Rasteau starts as a full cru appellation from the 2010 vintage - the 2009 remains a Village wine. North-east of Rasteau, a visit to the the Cave Comtadine at Puyméras has been put up, with reliable and understated wines the order of the day. At Sablet, the Cave Gravillas is another competent performer, while at Costières de Nimes, the grouping of Les Vignerons Créateurs is doing well, with the family-owned Château l`Ermitage also making supple, modern wines of some quality.
Elsewhere in the Villages area, note the following new entries. At Séguret, the tiny domaine run by Pablo Hocht, genial and culured cellarman at Château de Saint Cosme in Gigondas, has been entered - his first vintage of Domaine du Crève Coeur was 2010. The wines of Saint Cosme at Gigondas have also been tasted, including the merchant range, and that estate remains a top performer. On the Plan de Dieu, the Domaine Martin has long been a good source, including for Rasteau. At Valréas, the Domaine du Séminaire is a valid address, while a couple of British entrants are worth noting. The importer Boutinot now has a vineyard at Cairanne, while the retailer Mark`s & Spencer has produced an excellent, great value Saint-Maurice in 2009. Sound suppliers of Côtes-du-Rhône range from the small Domaine de l`Aure to the large scale Compagnie Rhodanienne, where quality is on the up.
On a literary level, I have received a copy of Gerald Asher`s anthology of his Gourmet magazine articles, most charmingly titled A Vineyard in My Glass. My quote on the back cover will express my views on this volume: "Wine can occasionally be silken textured, as can its prose, especially in Gerald Asher`s hands. He is the Maestro, the Doyen, and my inspiration since the 1970s." I highly recommend this uplifting book to all readers. It is published by University of California Press, and its ISBN is 978-0-520-27033-6.
Lastly, the riots in London have been a most depressing manifestation of all sorts. A restaurant that we in the wine enthusiast trade use for tasting lunches and dinners, the Ledbury, was caught up in the maelstrom. It has risen to 2 star Michelin status through much hard work, allied to reasonable pricing, notably at lunch time. It is in Notting Hill, west of London. The eyewitness account on this published link may bring home some of what was going on to you, in all its bleakness. It is written by Louise, a Californian book reading blogger. The postscript is that the Ledbury had no door the next day, but was open for lunch. http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2011/08/london-riots-comes-to-the-ledbury/
Northern Rhône action recently: a full review of the 2009 Saint-Joseph reds, a highly accomplished vintage. See 2009 Northern Rhône, sub tag The Leading Wines. Visits to Thiérry Allemand at Cornas, the new, promising domaine of Pierre-Jean Villa, based at Saint-Joseph, but with vineyards also at Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie- Pierre-Jean left Les Vins de Vienne in late 2009.
In the Southern Rhône, see 2010 Southern Rhône, sub tag The Leading Wines, for a review of 2010 Tavel rosé - given the freshness of the vintage, this has been a successful year. Côtes du Rhône domaines entered include, notably, Domaine La Manarine, whose Gilles Gasq also works at Domaine de Monpertuis at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Good quality wines here. The quirky Clos des Grillons run by Nicolas Renaud in the Gard (west bank) is full of interest - small lots of wines with an abundance of character - they are Vins Naturels in style, on low SO2 rations. A visit to the much-admired Matthieu Dumarcher in black truffle country has been logged, along with the Domaine de l`Olivier in the Gard (very correct wines), while the Domaine Barbanot near Vaison-la-Romaine has been newly entered.
From the Rhône Villages, the Domaine du Val des Rois at Valréas has been put up, tinged with the sadness of the passing of its doughty, intelligent owner Romain Bouchard, aged 88, in July 2011. Romain`s son Emmanuel has been running the estate for several years now. His father was committed to many causes to help the disadvantaged, and was indeed a man of substance. The ex-Tricastin appellation of Grignan-les-Adhemar, a truly ridiculous amalgam of two villages, features the Domaine de Montine, whose Vinsobres is a good performer. At Rasteau, a few Vins Doux Naturels, VDNs, have been tasted: I signal the Domaine des Escaravailles, and the Domaine des Banquettes, the latter always a good performer.