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Racing Bets

April 2010

Cornas ran above his station, but was effectively very Cornasien in that he finished an extremely honourable 5th in the Irish Champion Chase, beaten under 10 lengths. When the tempo stoked up at the fourth last fence, he just got a bit puffed.  Cornas - always near the top table, but never quite in the host`s chair - such has been the Ardèche wine village`s destiny over time. He now goes on his summer holidays in the west country of England, much more eco-warrior than going abroad, until he re-appears in September. Bonnes vacances, CORNAS.

Previously: Cornas gets above his station by running in the Romanée Conti Stakes, er no the Irish Champion Chase, at Punchestown, the 18.05 race on Tuesday April 20. This is for the cream of 2 mile steeplechasers, worth €87,000 to the winner. His odds are 50/1. Our country boy with 10 swells, rather, a head to head between Auguste Clape and Aubert de Villaine. He goes in good form, will try to be placed, while one of his owners is in Champagne visiting small growers rather than grande marque houses, a TRAIN ticket tucked in his pocket, the sensible fellow. ALLEZ CORNAS, allez VineTrail!!

Wine Accumulation

April 2010

wise wine merchants are starting to accumulate a few 2008s, while finding the 2009s challenging in their youth. Meanwhile, there is plenty of debate about 2007 at Châteauneuf-du-Pape: some USA wine forums are buzzing about the Decanter Magazine tasting of 201 wines late last year, where a Day 2 panel of 9 had mixed views on the style of some of the wines, finding them overdone, especially some of the very expensive Prestige wines. In particular, the modest showing of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphecaught the attention of people, who contrasted my strong view on its quality with the Decanter result.

To fill in some of the gaps here, tasting over 100 Châteauneuf-du-Papes in half a day would be beyond anyone I know - many of them weighing in at 15 to 16 degrees. Thus 3 people each tasted 35 wines. If the trio in question liked the wine, it moved to a final taste-off by all 9 tasters. All the wines were tasted blind, I should add, in contrast to most forum commentators and the Great American critics. I did not taste the VT 2007 on this occasion, and remain with my view that it is extremely good - I have even bought some myself.

Beautiful Quality

April 2010

a full review of 2007 Gigondas reds has been posted under 2007 Southern Rhône Leading Wines. Click on 2007 Southern Rhône, then on the tab underneath Leading Wines. Many of these Gigondas have been tasted twice, in cask and latterly in bottle, which is of course a much more reliable indicator. I am utterly suspicious of Grand Pronouncements on the wines of a vintage before bottling - cask samples can give an idea, but before the wine has been finally assembled, they can be misleading. Generally the trend I found between late 2008 and late 2009 was favourable - a majority of the wines had made progress. 2008 Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Papewill follow - a vintage which will gain over time, but one that is likely to receive less oaking.

Unfortunately due to illness I have not done my usual early New Year visits to the Valley, and these will resume in late spring/early summer.

At Vacqueyras, the Domaine La Fourmone has been entered: Roger Combe made a firm impression on me when I first met him in the early 1970s - here was a man who spoke (and wrote) fluent Provençal, so, like papa Frédéric Alary at Cairanne - the boys now run Oratoire St Martin and Domaine Alary, he was both a man of letters and of the soil. His daughters Marie-Thérèse and Aline were his successors on the domaine, which in 1973-74 was most unusual in an almost 100% male-dominated activity. Marie-Thérèse is now also an accomplished painter. Fourmone produces both Vacqueyras and Gigondas, and has a small merchant business that takes in some Northern Rhônes as well.

At Beaumes-de-Venise, a small, quite recent start-up, the Domaine Chiniard. A pretty good example of newcomers to wine, who work the vineyards naturally, and make their wine without artifice. In the local vein, the wines are robust, but honest, not Superhighway, and the 2007 is STGT. For Eurostar travellers who find they have a thirst on near the Gare du Nord in Paris, it is on sale at the Caves Bardou, the nearest wine shop, at 124 rue Faubourg St Denis off the gloriously named Boulevard de Magenta (salut, je m`appelle Magenta, what an intro), for €14.50. 

At Gigondas new domaines posted include the very well-established Domaine Les Goubert, where Jean-Pierre Cartier prodcues an array of different cuvées across Gigondas, Sablet and Beaumes-de-Venise. His Cuvée Florence caused consternation when introduced in 1985, since it was raised for 9 months in new Vosges oak casks. Tasting of this goes back many years, so the oak effect over time can be gauged. Also the small scale Domaine La Bouscatière, with STGT tendencies, and the promising STGT, whole bunch Domaine Les Chênes Blancs, the reliable Cave de Gigondas and Bertrand Stehelin.

A trio of very sound domaines, as well: at Rasteau, Domaine des Coteaux des Travers, and its robust wines. At Beaumes-de-Venise, the Domaine Saint Amant, pioneers in high altitude Viognier in the Rhône, their red wines making recent progress, with the astute Camille Wallut at the helm. And at the much blighted Tricastin, having dropped the cumbersome Coteaux du and after nuclear mishaps having also applied unsuccessfully to change the name to Côtes du Rhône, the leading property Domaine de Grangeneuve.

A note of interest for lovers of Hermitage: a vertical of Domaine du Colombier 2002,2003, 2004 and 2005 from late last year: the striking point was that, despite the vineyards not being on the most nbole west end of the hill, each one faithfully reflected its vintage. Colombier is listed under the Crozes-Hermitage appellation.