ENTERED RECENTLY: Reviews of 2011 RED HERMITAGE and 2011 WHITE HERMITAGE from tasting most of the wines. See LEADING WINES BY VINTAGE, scroll down to 2011 NORTHERN RHÔNE and shift the cursor to the right to LEADING WINES. As usual, PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ has not been tasted, since they refuse me entry. However, they have changed Importer in Great Britain -Liberty Wines managed only a small handful of years - and have now switched to Bibendum, so I will be attending their tasting in London.
DOMAINE VISITS: at HERMITAGE, DOMAINE JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE. The bottled 2009 RED, the bottled CATHELIN 2009 - the first made since 2003, the 2010 WHITE, and the separate site elements of both 2011 RED and WHITE HERMITAGE. Likewise, the excellent SAINT-JOSEPH from their own vineyards. Also, BERNARD FAURIE and MARC SORREL have been visited. They are important, since they add small domaine, high quality location colour to the landscape of HERMITAGE, dominated as it is by the big batallions.
At CORNAS, THIÉRRY ALLEMAND, including a look at his 2012s, all fresh and bursting. His neighbours at CORNAS, the highly promising GUILLAUME GILLES and the well-established FRANCK BALTHAZAR and the KING, DOMAINE CLAPE. ALLEZ CORNAS! Our Cheval Mascot CORNAS, by the way, has had lameness in one of his legs, and is Au Repos, resting, for the time being.
There have also been many 2011 tasting notes listed under individual domaines at SAINT-JOSEPH and CROZES-HERMITAGE. Use the SEARCH engine - I suggest using 3 stars or more.
Over 100 2011 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE REDS have been written up under the individual Domaines. Use the SEARCH engine - I suggest using 3 stars and up as the quality criterion for 2011.
DOMAINE JAMET, CÔTE-RÔTIE
Precise details remain obscure, but following the 2012 harvest, brothers JEAN-LUC and JEAN-PAUL JAMET are going their separate ways, the current domaine effectively splitting in two. Always reticent with their words, preferring deeds to marketing, the brothers appear to have decided that Jean-Luc will sell his share of the crop, presumably to the high profile merchants such as Guigal or Chapoutier, for instance, and that Jean-Paul will continue to vinify and bottle as before, from his share of the vineyard. The exact “who gets what” on the vineyard is not clear, even to other vignerons at Ampuis. More details will emerge.
FRANCK GOMEZ, LA TABLE DU COMTAT, SÉGURET
From my restaurant review of La Table a few years ago: Franck Gomez is truly what the French term a Vieux Routier. He ran this restaurant with its 8 rooms back in the early 1970s when I was researching my first Rhône book. It was undeniably the most swish and high profile venue in this part of the Vaucluse at the time. It had a Michelin star then, and I recall swanky Swiss and Belgian cars parked outside – not easy, given very little turning space. (My car was a small, neat white NSU 1200TT, capable of 160 km per hour or 100 mph, yes, the ton!! A right little raver, it was, with its engine in the back).
Franck died, aged 68, in October 2012, so his early success was indeed precocious – when he started La Table in 1970, he was just 26 years old. As a Maître Cuisinier de France, his table was sauced, as befits a Member of the Gouste Escoffier - more towards Vieille France than nouvelle that was creeping in around the early 1980s. Franck was also involved with Chambers of Commerce and the Avignon hotel school, but his last years were unhappy ones, with his daughter Valérie taking over in some dispute with her father, and standards slipping. But Franck had his époque, and it was indeed a Belle Époque.
GREEN & BLUE, GREENWICH, LONDON
A wine shop and bar, with the sale of organic wines, Vins Naturels, and books by luminaries such as ALICE FEIRING, this perished in late 2012. The conclusion seems to be that after seven years or so of trading, it remained too eclectic, too “narrow” in these difficult times. Followed by the trade and by some dedicated enthusiasts, there just weren’t enough people to buy the wines given the cost structures of the business. The owner KATE is a most charming person, and has stated that “we are doing what we can to keep something of Green & Blue alive, at least till we find somewhere to go. Click here for details of our Union of Wine offer and if this is something which may be of interest, please let us know as soon as possible.
We are also on the hunt for other retail only space, so if you know of anywhere, even if it is on a very short lease, PLEASE get in touch at email@example.com now. You will have our eternal, undying gratitude.” I wish them well.
GÉRARD MEFFRE, CHÂTEAU LA COURANÇONNE, VIOLÈS, SÉGURET
Gérard was only in his early sixties, taken in the late summer by the dread cancer, which had lingered. He was a community-minded man, with time taken to serve the Séguret appellation as President of that Syndicat, as well as encouraging younger growers and giving advice to them. He was a wise man, unflappable and possessing a wry sense of humour. When I had my 50th birthday party, he and his wife Denise gave me a Jereboam of their Séguret with the message (I translate): Congratulations for this important anniversary. We are convinced that this Séguret will accompany well this memorable evening and will bring you pleasure and longevity. In the pleasure of seeing you again.” I always enjoyed Gérard's wines, made with no fancy oak use, in particular the SÉGURET La Fiole du Chevalier d’Elbene, led by Roussanne and Viognier planted by Gérard in the mid-1990s.
RESTAURANT ALONSO, SORGUES
As I write, Gérard and Josette Alonso are probably sipping a Manzanilla and enjoying the winter sun of Spain, where they have retired after selling their restaurant in Sorgues. Theirs was a bright late star in the Vauclusien firmament, since they had already achieved success, and worked hard and long, at the Table de Chaintré in the Mâconnais – the same formula as Sorgues, a changing daily menu – based on what the market had to offer - one of regional dishes, an emphasis on fish, and a jolly, long wine list. Gérard cooked, Josette served, and that was that, all done with exemplary smiles and service, no other helpers visible.
The good news is that the new owners are also serieux, and accomplished. It is now called LA TABLE DE SORGUES, run by Sandrine and Jean-Paul Lecroq. They have arrived from 17 years at the Château de la Caze at Sainte-Énimie near the Gorges de Tarn in the wild country of the Lozère, South-West France. Review to be posted under Eat and Stay, tel number is +44(0)90 39 11 02, and the restaurant is open lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday.
FRANÇOISE REYNAUD, CHÂTEAU RAYAS, CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE
“Tante Françoise” was the suitably eccentric sister of the late JACQUES REYNAUD of Château Rayas, and Emmanuel’s aunt. She was cultured, quirky and kind, a playful smile never far away. Her family always held a summer classical music concert at the Château, with no fanfare and broad publicity – a thoroughly refined, tasteful, old-fashioned event.
When harvesting, Françoise would plonk old hats on her head – I once saw her wearing two at the same time, as she huffed and puffed and exhorted the harvesters. In her kitchen hung a calendar that I have sent the family for over 20 years – views of Great Britain, a country that she knew she would never visit. That gave her much pleasure, and was envied by the Château des Tours, Emmanuel, family. The tradition has now passed to them.
BERNARD SOUCHIÈRE, CAVE DE GIGONDAS
The arty, non-conformist President of the Cave de Gigondas, Bernard Souchière was a GOOD LAD. His full name was Émile-Bernard, and he was a mixture of poet, prophet and entrepreneur. Ideas made him alive. He succumbed to another dread cancer on 1 August, 2012, aged a young 69 years. He became President of the Cave in 2001, and was the driving force who set up its interesting restaurant in the Village, the Caveau des Gourmets, on the Place opposite the Perrins’ L’Oustalet.
In 1969 he established the Atelier des Grames, a publisher, with his partner Anik, and was also an art editor, and the motivator for the sculptures set up around the Hospices de Gigondas above the village. What I call a truly well-educated Frenchman, he was able to discuss philosophy or put current events into a historical, reflective context – not what one finds habitually when standing outside a typical Cave Co-operative. Bernard was also right behind our project for the GIGONDAS Its Wines, its land, Its People book, and submitted old wines and thoughts as I worked away on that. Bernard is a big loss for the Cave, but also for the whole village of Gigondas.