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mid-December 2010

Vacqueyras is under the spotlight, with recent vintages 2007, 2008 and 2009 being entered. Look for the LVT 2009, 2008 symbols next to the domaines. Or use the Search engine. Two recently established domaines, the offbeat Roucas Toumba of Eric Bouletin and Domaine Les Ondines of Jérémy Onde, have been entered. Also, a traditional domaine, the Domaine Cabassole, and a long-established property where I did the harvest in the early 1970s, Domaine Le Clos de Caveau. There are also domaines not based in Vacqueyras who are making good wines: these include, from Gigondas, the Château du Trignon (newly acquired 10 hectare vineyard), Domaine La Bouïssière, Pierre Amadieu, and the organic Clos du Joncuas, while from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Domaine de la Charbonnière regularly makes successful Vacqueyras.

mid-November 2010

Please see Recent Tastings, and click on the Cornas in London sub tab for a report on a dinner involving 13 wines of Cornas stretching from 2006 back to 1983. A veritable glimpse back in time to some fine, mature wines. Visits to leading Côte-Rôtie Domaine Jamet and leading Saint-Joseph Domaine Gonon have been entered, including a look at their 2010 Syrah. A start-up Vin de Pays domaine run by the son of Marc Sorrel at Hermitage, has been added - Les Alexandrins.

There is often good value from the Côtes du Rhône reds made by Châteauneuf-du-Pape domaines. See a fine collection of 2009 Côtes du Rhônes from Domaine de la Janasse, Domaine du Grand Tinel, and a fascinating Côtes du Rhône white from Clos du Caillou, made from Clairette rose rather than the usual Clairette blanche. Also an STGT Villages red 2009 from La Bastide Saint-Dominique.

There has been action at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with a host of new names with usually small plots starting to make and bottle their own wine. These are Domaines Julien Masquin, La Celestière (8 hectares in the west of the appellation, a big investment), Mouriesse Vinum, La Consonnière, Saint-Pierre and Château Capucine. A lot of 2009 red Châteauneufs have been written up. The 2009 red and whites at Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château Rayas and Côtes du Rhône Château de Fonsalette have also been assessed. Recent visits to the organic Domaine Romaneaux-Déstézet of Hervé Souhaut at Saint-Joseph and Domaine Georges Vernay at Condrieu, makers of the supreme Coteau de Vernon, have also been included.

For 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape red tasting notes - look at domaines with an LVT 2009 r code beside them, or use the Search engine for 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, probably starting at 3.5 or 4 stars and up.

McLAREN VALE BUILDING NIGHTMARE: a 77 hectare suburban zone is due to be built on cereal land next to the McLaren Vale vineyards. The plan is for commercial centres, 1200 dwellings and 2500 residents in the ominously named "Phase 1." Growers are desolate at this prospect, so if you, unlike the Ministers, can take the long view - destruction of heritage, just as we had at Cornas a while back - please fire off an email to Mr Holloway, whose email address is minister.holloway@sa.gov.au More on this debacle features on the McLaren Vale sidebar. Please emphasize the country you are writing from, so the bureaucrats can realise that this is not just a little local fling. Thank you very much.

July 2010

Two serious domaines, worthy of full attention - note the contrast in scale: the 42 hectare Côtes du Rhône Château de Montfaucon beside the Rhône near Hannibal`s point of crossing at Roquemaure and the more than double that size Château de Beaucastel at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Montfaucon is improving all the while, while at Beaucastel the 2008s, 2007s and the 2006 red were checked in June 2010. The excellent Perrin & Fils range has also been reviewed, taking in the 2007s that are now all bottled, and some of the 2008s. See Perrin & Fils under Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

To follow:  after June 2010 visits.

mid-October 2010 News

Creased faces, a few yawns here and there, knocking over the odd glass of water when eating - yes it`s harvest and vinification time, the growers at full stretch. 2010`s crop is reduced, but people are happy with the quality. In the Southern Rhône, Gigondas is still harvesting under stable weather in the week of October 11, while Châteauneuf-du-Pape has largely finished, except for strong waiters like Château Rayas, whose bunches are magnificent on their south-west, sun-setting vineyard near the cellars. Vacqueyrashas finished as well. Fermentations have gone well, too.

From Gigondas, Dominique Ay of Domaine Raspail-Ay: "The crop hasn`t been big; the mountain people are better off than those lower down - they had less coulure since their flowering came in the warmer weather. It`s taken time for the crop to be ripe. My average degree is 14.2°. It will be a year of under 30 hl/ha, like 2009. Colours are good on the Grenache and on the Syrah."

From Châteauneuf-du-PapeBruno Le Roy, Château Fortia: "very well coloured and structured wines in 2010, not a big crop - less than 2009. We have very handsome Syrah this year - the Grenache, too, which is more coloured than the 2009. Fermentation went off well, with less degree than 2007, and more balanced wines. The freshness and acidity are good, too, for both reds and whites. The key in 2010 was that we didn`t have the excess of heat as we did in previous years. The nights were cool at under 20°C, which helped the colour levels. We started the red crop on 13 September. The early September rain was helpful - the first fall ran off quickly, maybe around 90 mm (3.6 in), but the second fall of around 60 mm (2.2 in) was absorbed, and unblocked the ripening. I think there was a bit more rain in the south than in the north of the appellation. But the rain was not wild, there was no hail, and it didn`t hurt the plants."

From Vacqueyras, Jean-Michel Vache of Le Clos des Cazaux: "we are 20% down on yield this year - the reason being the 80 days we went without rain. We also lost 20% in 2009. Some people have lost 40% this year. There was less crop than at Gigondas, because the flowering at Vacqueyras came during the cool weather, the Gigondas was later, and coincided with warmer temperatures and less wind."

Northern Rhône News

mid-October 2010

Corinne Jamet, wife of Jean-Paul at Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie: we will take three days this week of October 11 to finish the last 5 of our 13 hectares - 12 to 14 October. The crop is very healthy, but ripening has been slow on skins, stems and pips. In the first week of October the team was harvesting in T-shirts and shorts, with over 30° C in the vineyards. Sunday 10 October was 26-27°C, but this week will be 17-19°C, with a helpful North Wind. Quantity is very reasonable."

From Hermitage, Bernard Faurie reports: "I am happy. The 2010 crop hasn`t been big, but it was very healthy, and colour and degrees are good. The quantity is down on last year, maybe a loss of 30%. I think that is because the vines gave a good yield in last year`s drought, and so were tired this year. The slope vines have been more affected than the plain level ones. I picked my white Hermitage on 17 September, with degree of over 14°, and my Syrah on 22 September, before some rain, with a degree of nearly 14°, which will fall a little once vinified."

From Cornas, Pierre Clape of Domaine Clape: "2010 is a very pretty vintage. Degrees were between 14° and 14.5°, but the 60mm (2.2 in) rainstorm around 6-7 September helped to stabilise the degree at that, not higher. In truth, so dry has it been that 2 days after that rain you wouldn`t have known that anything had fallen, so thirsty were the vineyards. The wines are a bit more fresh than the 2009s, and are on less on over-ripeness than the 2009s. The structure is good, and in barrel they taste very much on the fruit. Our yield will be around 32-33 hl/ha, against 35 hl/ha in 2009; we have had some coulure, and on the young vines I have noticed both small bunches and small berries. We started 17 September, and finished the Cornas on 23 September, our vin de table on 25 September. Fermentations have gone smoothly, with the help of cool mornings and warm afternoons, up to 30-31°C this year. The wines are quite robust in tannins - for example our lower areas on Mazards and Pied la Vigne have the same tannin level as La Côte higher up with its old vines. I would say that 2010 is more fresh than 2009, a bit less concentrated. 2009 can lean towards 2003. 2010 is quite classic, a beau vintage."

3rd-4th week of September 2010 News

Late September

harvesting is well under way, and the crop is in good shape. Quantity is reduced according to Marcel Richaud in Cairanne, and according to Emmanuel Reynaud at Château Rayas at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Emmanuel will start his harvesting on Monday 27 September, and reports that, while there is not a lot of Grenache because of the dreaded coulure (flowers fail to convert into fruit), it is attractive. The sugars are ready, but not the polyphenols, while the whites are in good shape. At the Clos des Papes, Vincent Avril paused on Friday 24 September with rain forecast, and will resume on Monday 27 September, having completed around half his harvesting.

2nd week of September 2010 News

mid-October 2010: please go to Veterans Corner, The Wines, to read about suggestions of what to drink with a bottle of 1996 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château Rayas white, in response to an enquiry about that from a Norwegian subscriber. Under Recent Tastings, Les Vins Naturels, some organic wines from domaines such as Romaneaux-Destezet at Saint-Joseph and Dard & Ribo at Crozes-Hermitage have been tried, along with a 1998 Château de Fonsalette red.

2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds are being gradually entered on a domaine by domaine basis, starting with the more affordable Tradition category (the Prestige wines can wait their turn). LVT 2009 r (Last Vintage Tasted 2009 red) is the clue, or use the Search engine under vintage 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, please.

Also updated recently have been the red wines of the Cave de Tain at Hermitage, where the Top Grade reds, notably the striking Epsilon, are bounding forward, and the pricelessly traditional Domaine La Garrigue at Vacqueyras, whose 90-100 year Grenache red Canterelle is a winner. Remember that the Garrigue wines are available at the Hotel Les Florets in the foothills of the Dentelles Mountains at Gigondas, a venue that is run by the Bernard family as well.

mid-lateSeptember 2010: beside each domaine  please check out the very successful merchant range from Louis Barruol at Château Saint Cosme at Gigondas - these wines trade with the name Saint Cosme on the label, are mainly Northern Rhône, and are very good. There is a delightful 2009 w.o.w. red as well, a wine to get on and enjoy now. One-off wines to look up include the 2009 white Laudun from Domaine Pelaquié - always great value, great drinking - the white Vin de Table from Matthieu Dumarcher whom I regard as very talented under Côtes du Rhône, and a vin de pays red of great character from Château des Tours at Vacqueyras.  

Having tasted their 2009 Côtes du Rhône Villages reds, the Château Courac at LaudunDomaine La Cabotte at Massif d`Uchaux and the Domaine Montmartel at Visan have been added. The first two have been exporters and providers of good quality wines for some time, while the last-named`s wines are pretty authentic.

late July 2010

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe at Châteauneuf-du-Pape - including a first look at the 2009 red, and the 2008 bottled wine across the range, that includes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine La Roquète. Also the 2009 and 2008 at the Bruniers` Domaine Les Pallières at Gigondas, where the Les Racinescuvée is starting to make a name for itself.

A look at the 5 main grape varieties involved in the red Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château de Beaucastel 2009 has also been included after a mid-summer visit.


Rasteau now has full appellation cru status on its own for its red wine, joining its Vin Doux Naturel fortified wine as well as the likes of Vacqueyras, Vinsobres, Beaumes-de-Venise and Lirac in the highest echelon of the Southern Rhône hierarchy. Boy, this has been a long, on-off saga. What happens is an inspection of the vineyards by geologists and agronomes, once the body of the growers including of course the Co-operative has invited them so to do [note, adroit use of official language easily slipped into when reporting such weighty bureaucratic matters].

All the while, there is a hovering Sword of Damocles over some vineyards that are deemed unworthy [there I go again] of providing the quality of wine suited to full appellation cru status. In the final case of Rasteau, about 100 hectares have been omitted from roughly 1,300 hectares - just under 8%. Their wine will now be a simple Côtes du Rhône. These are mostly lower lying zones, such as the Saint-Martin and Blovac Sud sites; their soils are dark clay, alluvial, but some locals consider their wine superior to the Plan de Dieu Villages next door: "you get drought on the Plan de Dieu, and the vineyard really suffers," one Rasteau practitioner told me.

The Rasteau Cave Co-operative Ortas accounts for about 65% of the appellation`s wine, the rest made up by about 26 private domaines, a few of whom (younger domaines rather than Cairanne aristocracy) also have vineyards in Cairanne immediately to the west. Rasteau white and rosé will now be labelled Côtes du Rhône. Cairanne`s process towards appellation cru will be attempted "at an accelerated pace," Daniel Alary of Domaine Alary told me - "perhaps four years. Our commission starts this summer, 2010."

Rasteau should have been made into its own cru long ago. It has always been a front runner in the Villages stakes, with its name perhaps held back by the obscurity of its Vin Doux Naturel, which happens to be traversing rather a fine phase at present, well made with care and attention by young and motivated growers.

"This is a long-term project," André Romero of Domaine La Soumade told me; "it is not a short-term event, especially as we put in our first request 15 years ago. Prices will start off similar." André fancies Spain for the World Cup, I fancy Brasil, by the way. Ordem e Progresso para todo o mundo, I declare. Already Romero has got one over me: back to the drawing board (or Copacabana beach, where I was once known as "Bobber Shalton" (the fair hair, you see). Disorder, more like.


late July 2010

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe at Châteauneuf-du-Pape - including a first look at the 2009 red, and the 2008 bottled wine across the range, that includes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine La Roquète. Also the 2009 and 2008 at the Bruniers` Domaine Les Pallières at Gigondas, where the Les Racinescuvée is starting to make a name for itself.

A look at the 5 main grape varieties involved in the red Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château de Beaucastel 2009 has also been included after a mid-summer visit.

June 2010

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.

STGT: note the Ermitage Le Pavillon red 2001 from M.Chapoutier. Also a brace 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.

May 2010

Look up Veterans Corner for a brace of mature white Rhônes - the subject of my eternal pet hobby, to get the world to appreciate them more. Also check the STGT Cornas 2005 La Geynale from now retired Robert Michel. Further STGT from the biodynamic Saint-Joseph Domaine Monier-Perréol, also.

The first across-the-appellation review has been done on Gigondas 2008, and also Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2008, both red and white. It is a cherry picking vintage, not buy anything that moves, so please read the grower comments as well to get an idea of the sort of challenges faced in its making, and, importantly, its assembly before bottling. Click on the L-H tab 2008 Southern Rhône

2008 Northern Rhône features a review of the leading wines at Cornas. where it pays to be selective, and a charming vintage at Condrieu, from the roughly 35 wines tasted so far.

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.

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 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

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.

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.

early March 2010

a report on Les Vins Naturels has been added under Recent Tastings. It focuses on the domaines of Dard & Ribo at Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine Gramenon in the southern Côtes du Rhône, and Jean-Michel Stéphan at Côte-Rôtie.These are low intervention growers, who work purely organically, down to little or no use of sulphur dioxide during fermentation and raising.

A few Southern Rhône domaines recently added: in the Côtes du Rhône, two prime organic estates, mother and son: Domaine Gramenon, and the new domaine of Michèle Aubéry-Laurent`s son, Maxime, under the title Maxime-François Laurent. At Rasteau, the Domaine de Beaurenard - the Rasteau offshoot of the Coulons` accomplished Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate, and at Ventoux, a promising, well above average quality property, the Domaine Champ Long, who are cousins of the Bernard family who run the Domaine La Garrigue at Vacqueyras and the delightful Hotel Les Florets at Gigondas.  

During February a lot of 2007 and 2008 tasting notes on Gigondas have been added - the 2007s now mostly in bottle, and the 2008s out of the vat. Domaines now present at Gigondas are Notre Dame des Pallières, where quality is rising, the Mas des Flauzières, where quality is also on the rise after excessive extraction in the early 2000s, the also improved Domaine de la Mavette - more body in the wines than 10 years ago - and the small start-up the Mas des Restanques, whose owners are ex-Co-operateurs. Good marks for the class of Gigondas!

At Châteauneuf-du-Pape, two recent newcomers have also been put up: Albin Jacumin and Domaine La Destinée. Albin is part of the soap opera saga - think the 1980s TV programme Dallas, perhaps - surrounding the Château de Cabrières, where lawsuits are flying over inheritance after the divorce of the Arnaud parents. His old 10 hectare Domaine was called La Bégude des Papes. He will become a grower of importance by 2011, with over 20 hectares in total due to come his way - providing the lawyers do not slow the whole thing down. More simply, but interestingly, Domaine La Destinée`s owner Jean-Pierre Folliet came to wine via being a Professor of Tasting, and has a wine shop as well. His wine is good and traditional.

Around the Côtes du Rhône Villages, there are some new names. Set on the Plan de Dieu, the Château La Courançonne has always been good supplier of white and red Séguret, with the Villages wine of Plan de Dieu now stated on the label. Under Côtes du Rhône, in the lower part of the Drôme département, a new domaine, the Clos des Cîmes, first vintage 2007, has been entered - two young people, both oenologues, but one with viticulture in her family, an ex-Co-operatrice. Also under Côtes du Rhône, very near Avignon, the Domaine Saint-Pierre d`Escaravaillac, owned by the Requin family since 1889, has been posted.

Across the river, at Laudun, the Château de Marjolet is a recent name for Laudun red, while the Château de Montfaucon is a very good source of Côtes du Rhône, especially the more full-bodied wine. Also in the Gard, in the accomplished village of Domazan, the Domaine des Romarins has been added, with authentic, robust wines as their trademark. Another start-up in the right bank Gard département is La Gramière, makers of Vin de Table from Côtes du Rhône vineyards, with a US involvement. In the southern Ardèche, the high quality Vin de Pays estate Domaine du Grangeon has been added, with good value wines.

All on its own, for the eclectic, the well-off, the curious: the 2005 Château-Grillet was solemnly tasted over 2 days, to assess  and enjoy and appraise this little piece of history, whose style is changing.

late-January 2010

2008 vintage entries: keep using the Search vintage 2008, or look out for the LVT 2008 (Last Vintage Tasted) acronym alongside domaines. Some of the preferred ones have been entered recently. Few wines achieve 4 to 5 star ratings in 2008, but there are plenty around the 3 star mark, which can be good value from regions such as the Côtes du Rhône and Gigondas.

A couple of right bank Côtes du Rhône domaines have been entered, both at the village of St Marcel de l`Ardèche, and both run by talented women - the Mas de Libian of Hélène and Catherine Thibon, and the Domaine Coulange of Christelle Coulange, the latter taking the brave and realistic decision to sell off all her 2008 in bulk. 

At Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a few high-class estates have been brought up to date: Domaine de Beaurenard, Domaine de Cristia, Château Rayas, while the Gigondas-owned Château St Jean of Christian Meffre has been added. Over 30 white 2008 Châteauneuf-du-Papes have also been entered - look out for LVT 2008 wh under the domaines.

At Cairanne, a quartet of domaines, two very established, the others new to quite new: the racy fruit and fun of Marcel Richaud, the Belgian-owned debutant Domaine de la Tête Noire - both offer w.o.w. wines - and the Domaine Armand, with sound Rasteau as well as Cairanne. Also the Domaine Catherine Le Goueil, now making just one wine, called simply Cairanne - a robust wine.

At Sablet, the Jean-Marc Autran Domaine de Piaugier, an innovator 20-plus years ago with oak use and a cleaned-up vinification - Sablet (inc good white) and Gigondas on offer from a wide range of cuvées. Also at Sablet, the Domaine de Boissan of Christian Bonfils, a go-go contemporary of Autran: good Sablet, also good, elegant Gigondas, with some very old vintages reviewed.

At Gigondas, the recently started Domaine des Florets of Jérome Boudier, up past the great hostelry of Les Florets - so in the lee of the Dentelles - has been entered, along with the definitely promising Domaine du Grand Bourjassot - very sound wines from Gigondas and Sablet, with at Vinsobres, the steady Domaine Autrand.

In the Côtes du Rhône, the younger brother of Château Rayas, the high quality, exotic Château de Fonsalette has had its 2008s and 2007s reviewed.  Added also  have been two modest domaines - Domaine du Bois des Mèges at Violès, and the keen start-up of Domaine Gris des Bauries at Taulignan, in the southern Drôme. Likewise at the Côtes du Rhône, the easy drinking wines of Domaine de la Berthèthe near the Plan de Dieu. In the Villages, the reliable Co-operative the Quatre Chemins de Laudun has been added - good, fruity wines.

On its own, the appellation of Brézème south of Valence, has been included, the home of good Syrah: this I placed in my book The Wines of the Northern Rhône as it is out on a limb, near the mouth of the River Drôme as it nears the mighty Rhône, having passed through what is some spectacular country east of Crest ("Crey"). Jean-Marie Lombard is the main grower, although Eric Texier, the merchant, is also active and productive there.

Just brought up to date at Hermitage, the STGT grower and near-veteran, Bernard Faurie; he also makes Saint-Joseph, and his 2008s and 2009s have been inspected. The complete line-up of wines from Delas - their 2007s in bottle, and some of their leadings 2008s have been fully reviewed: this remains a house with a very high quality given the number of wines they produce. At Crozes-Hermitage, the offbeat duo of René-Jean Dard and François Ribo (Dard & Ribo) have been visited, with their w.o.w. and STGT wines including Crozes, Saint-Joseph and Hermitage. Plenty of 2009 cask samples were also tasted chez eux. The 2008s and 2007s of Yann Chave, much more mainstream, have also been reported on, as have the 2009s, 2008s and 2007s of Luc Tardy at Domaine du Murinais - also a modern, clean as a whistle fruit operator. At Cornas, the full range of wines from Jean-Luc Colombo - his Cornas 10 hectares, Saint Péray 2 hectares and the négociant wines from north and south - have been tasted and entered, including some interesting whites. At Saint-Joseph, the modest local domaine near Chavanay, Domaine Richard, has been revised, while at Côte-Rôtie, some impressive 2006s, 2007s and 2008s have been tasted at the Guigal-owned Domaine de Bonserine.