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Mid-February 2011

joining Côte-Rôtie in a full 2009 Northern Rhône review is Cornas 2009 - click THE LEADING WINES tab under 2009 Northern Rhône in the Left-Hand column. More Crozes-Hermitage 2009 reds have been reviewed under their specific domaine names - see the LVT 2009 r category. This includes visits to father and son Domaines of Alain and Max Graillot, the latter also known as Domaine des Lises.

A trio of wines from Château Val Joanis in the Lubéron have also been entered. As is often the case, my preference is for the simple wines that are less tarted up with new oak etc.

Upwards Prices

February 2011

the 2009 Rhône primeur campaign is under way in Britain, with prices creeping upwards. The 2009 Burgundy campaign is in full swing as well, so drinkers are being asked to spend, spend, spend. I am buying some Bourgogne rouge 2009 from eminent stables such as Barthod and Jean Grivot, and for £140-150 a case of 12 (pre-duty, in bond), I regard them as good value, with sure-fire enjoyable drinking.

Prices from The Wine Society Rhône offer make interesting reading: I would regard the vin de pays La Rosine from Stéphane Ogier, already highlighted from OW Loeb, at £60 for 6 (in bond) as fair, as are the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine La Boutinière at £63 for 6, or the Coudoulet Côtes du Rhône from Beaucastel at £55 for 6. The Saint-Joseph 2009s start at £60-75 for 6, which is just about OK, but the vin de pays Sotanum from the young vineyard of Seyssuel, however promising it is, exceeds reality at £143 for 6 bottles in bond.

It is one thing to sustain a region`s existence as a source of enjoyable wines that sometimes aspire to excellence, but value has to be held as well, or at the very least, perceived value. Otherwise it is a fleeting asset. The Rhône has known such bubbles and dips before - the first being in the early 1970s, so it needs to be careful. With restaurant mark-ups of often 3 times, people will not buy Côtes du Rhône at £30, nor will restaurant owners list such wines, and suddenly the region starts to become invisible in the company of any amount of New World wines, or Southern European wines.

I am sure these trends will be discussed at the bi-annual Rhône Découvertes event in the Valley in the first week of March. This year, the format has reverted to being mobile rather than based solely in Avignon, and there will be the added surprise of a gathering of all the clans of Châteauneuf-du-Pape for their tasting day, rather than the dreary usual reality of several competing Syndicats who are essentially sworn opponents. It is all to do with politics and egos, rather than who makes the better wine, en plus. Découvertes remains a very useful touchstone for the trade and for the press.

Wide Variety

February 2011

the full, in-depth, super-duper 4,000 word report on 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds is documented under the 2009 Southern Rhône tab. It is a complete explanation of the vintage starting in the spring and draws on many questions and investigations by yours truly. By the way, once you have clicked on that 2009 Southern Rhône tab, please go down one line and click on the Leading Winestitle underneath it; there is no need to re-log in.

Leading Northern Rhône 2009s have been entered from Cornas, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph - wines around the ***(*) or higher category. Look out for the LVT 2009 tab against the domaine name.

I also urge you to catch up with the Vidal-Fleury range of wines, listed under their home appellation of Côte-Rôtie. Owned for decades by Etienne and Marcel Guigal, this largely merchant business is now receiving due investment and attention now that is established in a brand new cellar in the south of the Côte-Rôtie appellation. I have been impressed by both southern and northern Rhônes from them.

As I have been working on a large contribution to a book on Gigondas organised by the Syndicat of Growers, there are some fascinating tasting notes appearing. I am covering the vintages from 1959 to the present day, year by year. Many old bottles have been tracked down, and they frequently surprise through their stability and freshness after thirty-plus years, particularly in the lesser, higher acidity vintages. Readers can use the Search option for vintage notes, or focus on a few domaines whose wines have been found for this exercise - for example, Domaines Moulin de la Gardette, Pesquier, Raspail-Ay, Saint Gayan and Teyssonières

See Veterans Corner for a comparison of two wines from the sainted vintage of 1985, the Gigondas Domaine Raspail-Ay and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. A new domaine at Saint-Joseph, Domaine Christophe Blanc, has been entered, offering a sound 2009 from that excellent vintage, while an overdue listing for the accomplished Domaine Les Aphillantes at Plan de Dieu has been made.

Under Laudun, the Dauvergne-Ranvier merchant business features their very respectable, modern 2009s from Côte-Rôtie and Saint-Joseph. The Côtes du Rhône Domaine de l`Olivier has been posted, as have two suppliers at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the young team at Domaine de la Biscarelle in the north of the appellation, and the established merchant based in the southern area, Les Grandes Serres, which has produced a good, limited quantity 2009 red Châteauneuf.