Posts Tagged ‘Grenache’

Rhone: syrah or shiraz

The red syrah grape dominates the north Rhone Valley, where Uncorked’s travellers often visit for a first occasion.

In Australia the same grape, known as shiraz, is the country’s most widely planted.

Well let’s not worry about that too much because Northern Rhone drinkers are enjoying syrah and styles completely apart from the domestic Australian drop. The reason is called terroir.

There is a clear definition of where to look for it.

Just drive south on the crowded A7 autoroute until reaching Ampuis, then turn your head right. There you’ll view the steep stone-terraced, single stake vines, growing in granite and clay across the river on the slopes of Cote Rotie (translated as hot hillside).

Large billboards displaying brands such as Guigal or Chapoutier or Vidal-Fleury are very stark advertisements.

The geography tells it all, yet the Rotie’s are on the elegant end for Rhone syrah.

There is much talk about Rotie reds containing viognier. They do, but that’s only the old vineyards where this white is interplanted with its red counterpart. Modern re-planted vineyards, say under 40 years, are now all staked with syrah vines.


Further down the A4, about 100 km at Tain l’Hermitage, this time on the near river side is the Hill of Hermitage, again terraced but planted to syrah with white marsanne, and a little, though rarely found, white roussanne.

Jaboulet Chevalier de Sterimberg Blanc

Jaboulet Aine Le Chevalier de Sterimberg Blanc 2011 (marsanne)

Sitting up on the Hermitage Hill (just 132 ha of green) is the Chapel of Chevalier de Sterimberg, a knight who led Holy Land crusades, now owned by Paul Jaboulet Aine (tasting Hermitage Blanc and La Petite Chapelle 2011).

Alongside are most extensive holdings of M Chapoutier, who once made just two wines by blending, but now since 1997 keeps each vineyard separate, white and red. It is a memorable Selections Parcellaires now renamed Fac & Spera collection (tasting Sizeranne 2012).

Across the river Delas Freres at Tournon who are situated in the larger Saint Joseph Appellation, draw grapes from  Domaine des Tourettes (tasting Hermitage 2012). The more northern-based Guigal have plantings also. The M Chapoutier range are diverse, exciting, mouth-smacking and very collectible.

Delas single vineyard Hermitage 2013 (syrah)

Delas single vineyard Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage 2013 (syrah)

At Sizeranne which is biodynamic, the syrah is meaty, yet drawn on tannin, though svelte on the finish. Aussie warm area shiraz is punchy, syrupy, sweeter-alcohol; these Hermitage wines are more linear, lighter body, 13% alcohol, taut and gently rich, though flavoured and subtle. Opposites to the domestic Oz palate shape and different.


Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne vineyard Hermitage 2012 (syrah)

Now for Cote-Rotie; the spiritual home of the Guigal family and the many wines produced, varying vine age, selectivity, rarity, price escalation and taste diversity.

The culmination being the three LaLaLa’s (Turque, Landonne, Mouline), which host Stephane Crozet says with a wry smile “sell out each year within the week”.

He served the white Cote-Rotie; (tasted ExVoto Blanc 2012), a swirling marsanne 95% roussanne 5% tied up with a defining long oak treatment, Cote-Rotie Brune and Blonde, two vineyards combined (tasted Cote Rotie 2010), the special Chateau Ampuis where the family oak factory is housed (tasted Chateau Ampuis 2011) then one of the revered single vineyards which can contain up to 12% viognier, depending on the season (tasted La Mouline 2012).

Guigal Cote-Rotie

Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune and Blonde vineyards 2011 (syrah)

Apart from Guigal’s dominance, for an absent owner, Chateauneuf-du-Pape maker Brunel de la Gardine makes excellent Rotie (tasted Cote Rotie 2013). And Jaboulet provided a neat Domaine des Picuelles (tasted Cote-Rotie 2012), all elegance. The Delas single vineyard Seigneur de Maugiron was excellent in silkiness, never confusing, just delicious in its line (tasted Cote-Rotie 2013).

And the only old and funky (looking like old Barossa also) was a Delas single vineyard, a rarer Cote-Rotie (tasting La Landonne 2006).

Why is Cote Rotie an amazingly elegant wine? I guess you can resolve to attend a visit such as this to see for yourselves; compare wine by wine, Hermitage versus Cote Rotie; the elegant and concentrated syrah versus equally concentrated yet silky finish.

Still syrah, still shiraz but never Aussie. The latter is far more butch than the Frenchmen. See for yourself some time, step outside the world of sweet fruit to that of the savoury. Voila.

Uncorked and Cultivated’s wine tourists visited the Northern Rhone makers Guigal, Chapoutier, Jaboulet and Delas during June 2016.

Mont-Redon :Chateauneuf

There is an instant impulse to grab the big rocks as we drive into Chateau Mont-Redon or better still be photographed with these big gibbers. I did.

We are travelling into the southern Rhone to visit the land of mouth-embracing warm area reds in Chateauneuf du Pape (CNDP).

And our host is a jovial fellow, Pierre Fabre who travels the world to discuss the family business at Chateau Mont-Redon.

Now these gibbers; well this is the soil these guys are dealt. Walk up closer and I am relieved to say there is sand between the rocks where these old vines (no trellis) grow as bushes. There is no water supply save a deep root system to survive the blistering summer.

Big gibbers-old bush vines

Big gibbers-old bush vines

Some vineyards have these big pebbles, others are chalky known as calcare here for limestone. The mother rock comes from ancient sea deposits going down up to 200 m in parts, it depended on the sea depth, adding more clay; the pebbles were the river bed; once wider and of European Alps origin; now only the big rocks are left.

Old sea bed vines- Rhone Alps backdrop

Old sea bed vines- Rhone Alps backdrop

There are three large appellations in France: Saint Emilion with 5000 hectares, Chablis with 4000 ha, then  Chateauneuf du Pape with 3200 ha. It tracks one side of the Rhone River for 200 km and at a maximum only 20 km wide. Thirteen grapes are grown.

Mont-Redon started life in 1923 with 2 ha, and now has grown to 150 ha, including a 1997 purchase in Lirac nearby. This is the home of grenache, a special yet thin skinned grape which needs hanging late to ripen, and any late summer rain is disastrous though rare.

Chateauneuf is known mainly for blended red production from grenache, syrah and mourvedre though white is 5% of the surface. Mont-Redon make 15% of their production white, from blends of grenache blanc (main variety), clairette, roussanne, picpoul and the latter bourboulenc for acidity.

Significant exporters like this company receives a greater demand for white wine styles as countries like Australia and USA are big white wine consumers. They are a fullsome drink.

I just loved the Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (AUD ); lots of lovely bits to enjoy, sniff the aroma, it smells of the earth of the region, little flowers, spicy-black pepper grenache notes, all yummy and not a sip taken! Has lots of depth, velvet tannins that slip around the mouth, a great spice warmth; 95% is the grenache-syrah-mourvedre mix with 5% of old school varieties left in the older vineyard which are inter-planted.

Mont-Redon 2012

Mont-Redon 2012

Pierre could not resist being a good host so he opened some older bottles of the famous wine; 2007 and 2005 CNDP, both nice and rounded harvests to really enjoy.

Chateau Mont-Redon  Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 looks classic; more reds than purples, wine in harmony with itself; this bottle has not left the property, nose sweetened from an improvement in the bottle; nice brioche, honey-raisin, then an expanding palate of puckering spice, jam notes and the pleasant experience. Served unlabelled but easily identified.

Mont-Redon 2007

Mont-Redon 2007

Uncorked’s travel guests visit Chateau Mont-Redon winery and vineyard in the Southern Rhone on the France Wine and Food Tour, and get to have their pic taken amongst the gibbers.

Stoney terroir: Usseglio in Chateauneuf

The day was cool although it was spring-meaning greenness everywhere and wide-leaved grapevines were growing rapidly. I was eager and excited to visit the historic Chateauneuf-du-Pape again, especially as a greater respect had been developed for the vine variety grenache, and here in this village appellation is one of the most notable producing regions on earth. Better still, with a healthy interest in Italian wine production also, we were to visit a Milanese family who have migrated to this part of France a long time ago, and has now woven themselves into its vineyards and wine styles-the Usseglios. The best means to understand a domaine producer is to try the entry level wines first-as the attention to detail will give many hints about what to expect. Here the first impressions were all good and there will be many wines to be enjoyed. Usseglio Cotes du Rhone 2010; 13.5%; AUD 25 is going to be one fabulous wine just by smelling it; a cracking nose of ripe berries greets the nostrils; it has lush fruits and just great intensity; drink now and drink many. I further discovered it is a grenache (80%), mourvedre (20%) blend from 65, 40 and 30 yo grenache, and 30 yo mourvedre. A humble wine made from resilient vines. This wine does not need oak aromas and that is kept away from the prying by using 2, 3 and 5 yo large barrels and some lined cement tanks. Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2009; 15%; AUD 60 is masterful; bursting with berryfruit, tons of it; luscious, layered, filling, asking for more in the mouth, drying yes, but softly so-no aggression despite its alcohol! Then there is the 2010 of the same wine; less brutal, little earthiness showing through, very trite, firming and never to be the bruising wine of 2009.

Great Chateauneuf-du-Pape

This property’s blend of Chateauneuf  is grenache (80%), syrah (5%), mourvedre (5%) and cinsaut (5%) as the vineyards are planted.  There is no new oak used (which blesses it), 50% is in cuves (tanks), 30% in foudres (larger oak, 3-5000 litres) and 20% in barrels; oak is 1-3 years old. Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee de mon Aieul 2009; 15.5%; AUD 99 is a special blend of older vine grenache from three vineyards; Les Serres (95 yo); La Crau (78 yo) and La Guigasse (70 yo); it means ancestors’ cuvees, extremely minty from concentration; fleshy, lots of black fruits, something I could drink all day. Also tasted was 2010-15.5%; a monster too, simply the coolest grenache I tasted all year.

A special blend-Cuvee de mon Aieul (ancestors’ drink)

Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Papes Reserve des 2 Freres 2009; 15%; AUD 150 is a dalliance with more modern winemaking, New World style, so there is a little more new oak around; though its bigger fruit, sweet fruited palate is as one could find in Australia’s Barossa valley where juicy grenache hangs out; and in this there is a small amount of syrah; differs from the standard blends but eminently a flag bearer in a New York cafe for brothers’ wine.

An Old Lady returns-Seppeltsfield

For years I have driven past the Seppeltsfield property and always had the same personal thoughts-what an under-utilised site.

Well that has changed. The big ticket item from this Barossa gem has been the 100 year-old vintage dated fortified tawny wines.

Since inception they were under the care of the Seppelt family until being laid at the feet of corporate ownership whereby the necessary investment in its future could not be met. The last owner being Fosters Wine Estates

A few years ago ownership changed hands to interests associated with the Clare brand Kilikanoon.

Management of this property needs buckets of money, and many in the past have looked hard to find any part of a bucket extra called profit.

About two years ago McLaren Vale grape entrepreneur Warren Randall appeared from over the Adelaide Hills to take a majority stake and has been the driver in setting Seppeltsfield’s new direction.

My first taste of a wine from this property with ancient grapevines is the Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2010 (AUD 29); 14%, a wine with more colour than the usual Barossa-based grenache. It reeks of chunk. Big boy there.

Seppeltsfield Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2010-from historical bushvines

The Seppeltsfield activity is very similar to the region-wide investments of the past two decades which have occurred in northern Sicily (Etna Rosso DOC) around the volcano.

Here new investors have purchased 100+ year-old gravity-fed wineries (palmentos) and refitted them with modern equipment.

On Etna the vineyards surrounding these properties are 60-90 years-old to go with the package. Of interest though Seppeltsfield have re-commissioned their original gravity flow red production facility whereas the Italians chose to go new.

So I like the red blend, it’s got density from the shiraz (and touriga, a fortified variety known for colour), and it does not let out much generosity. The tannins are soft but it stays composed-its keeping the best flavours close to its chest at present.

Seppeltsfiled’s other red blends are equally engrossing. Maybe there are two buckets of money to be made from these excellent reds. Look out for them and buy one.

Last year’s Barossa Valley Wine Show Trophy

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