Here comes the fun part of every regional focus—the tasting. As always, make sure to read through the Rhone Valley Overview, Northern Rhone, and Southern Rhone articles before jumping in here. It’ll help put all the tasting and technical notes into perspective.
Cheers and enjoy.
Christophe Pichon Condrieu 2015
About the Wine: This 100% Viognier aged in 30% new barrels and 50% one-year-old barrels.
Appearance: medium gold
Aroma: Pronounced aromas of bruised yellow apple, yeast, bread dough, lemon curd, white blossom, apricot, ripe yellow nectarine, ripe yellow peach, honey, honeydew melon, lemon zest and vanilla.
Palate: This is a dry white wine with medium (+) acidity, high alcohol, and an overall medium (+) body that is smooth in texture, noticeably glycerin (almost oily) with the well-integrated alcohol level. The flavors, like those nose are also pronounced. Tasting notes are in line with those characteristics mentioned above, but I did notice that the floral aromas are particularly enhanced on the palate, as are the more tertiary notes of honey, honeycomb, agave nectar, caramel, and hazelnut. I also found additional secondary characteristics from possible new oak barrels, specifically baking spices including cardamom and nutmeg. The finish is undeniably long.
Conclusion: This is an outstanding wine. There is clearly complexity from lees aging (as defined by the yeast, bread dough, and lemon curd notes), barrel usage (vanilla, and baking spices), and the wine is already starting to show some tertiary characteristics indicative of age (the “bruise” in the bruised apple, the honey, honeycomb, agave nectar, and caramel). All these flavors—primary, secondary, and tertiary—showcase intensity on both the nose and the palate and are well-integrated together and provide a depth to the overall palate. Furthermore, the slightly elevated alcohol level adds body and weight, yes, but a notable glycerin affect on the tongue that creates a smoothness—borderline oilyness—to the wine that is quite pleasant. For this balance, intensity, and complexity, and including the fact that this wine provides a long, lingering finish continuing to integrate fruit, florals, and spices, I cannot rate this wine any less than outstanding in quality.
I do believe that this wine can age further in bottle. There are still vibrant primary fruit flavors that will continue to develop and evolve with time. There’s also a high enough acidity level and alcohol level that, structurally, the wine can hold. The wine is already showing indications of age—a hint of things to come. With time, it will become more decadent, unctuous, voluptuous.
More Info: $45.99 wine.com
Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2017
About the Wine: 100 % Syrah, according to the winery this wine underwent alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel vats at high temperatures. Following, it spent three weeks post-fermentation maceration in large vats. The wine matured in oak barrels for 18 months prior to release.
Appearance: deep ruby
Aroma: pronounced aromas of black cherry, black pepper, blackberry, black plum, toast/smoke, vanilla, cassis, wet leaves, forest floor, leather, dried plum, dried black cherry, violets, and herbaceousness
Palate: This is a dry red wine with medium (+) acid, medium (+) fine-grained and “fairly” smooth tannins, medium alcohol, medium (+) body, and pronounced flavor intensity. The flavor profile is in keeping with the aromatic notes with increased intensity of that smoke, toast, leather, black pepper, and an added element of dried earth or dried leaves (perhaps amending that wet leaves/forest floor note above). The finish is long.
Conclusion: I’ve concluded that the 2017 Guigal Crozes Hermitage is of outstanding quality. There’s a great integration of primary, secondary, and tertiary characteristics, all of which present themselves acutely on both the nose and the palate. There’s a high enough level of acidity to keep the fresh primary fruits vivacious and alive from start to finish during the tasting as well as to cut through those tannins. The tannins are of fine-grained quality: they slowly dissipate from the palate, leaving just a slight hint of their presence at the very end. I say they’re “fairly smooth” because I do believe that with time they will become even more integrated, becoming actually smooth. The finish is long, and beautiful, continuing to showcase those primary fresh fruit flavors alongside a floral note of violets. For the balance and integration of all these characteristics, the intensity at which they present, and for that wonderfully long finish, I cannot mark this wine any lower than outstanding in quality.
Furthermore, though the wine is already starting to show some age, as indicated by the leather, dried fruits, dried earth, and dried leave notes, there is still a good amount of primary fruits of black cherry, blackberry, and black plum, as well as a freshness to those violets and herbaceousness that tells me, that will continue to evolve over time. Structurally, there is a high enough level of acidity to maintain those fruits, as well as tannin and alcohol to structurally lend the wine toward longevity.
More Info: $24.99 wine.com
Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2016
About the Wine: 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, this wine underwent “traditional winemaking methods: temperature controlled fermentation and long soaking on the skins.” The wine matured for 18 months in oak foudres.
Appearance: deep ruby
Aroma: medium intensity of black cherry, blackberry, bramble, toast/smoke, red cherry, chocolate or mocha, black and red plum
Palate: This is a dry red wine with medium acidity, medium (+) tannins that are chalky, stalky, sticky, and grippy in nature. There is a high level of alcohol and an overall medium (+) body. The flavor intensity is, again medium, and I have nothing to add to the elements listed in the aromas. The finish, too, is medium
Conclusion: This Cote du Rhone Rouge is of acceptable quality. The wine lacked any real intensity of fruit aromas on the nose, and the palate seemed to be overwhelmed by those sticky, grippy, chalky, stalky tannins that masked the subtle primary fruits. I can’t deny that there’s some level of complexity, as there is clearly oak usage here. However, I am arguing that this wine is out of balance. The medium level of acidity is not enough to elevate those primary fruits and, as mentioned, they get lost in the overwhelming tannic structure. And because there’s not a strong enough integration of fresh fruits, the finish drops off quite quickly at a medium length. Though the wine is not poor, due to the obvious integration of oak, for the lack of intensity and length, and I’m arguing balance, I cannot rate the wine any higher than acceptable.
Furthermore, because of that lack of intensity and length, I am also concluding that this wine is not suitable for further bottle age. The fruits are already fading and will only fade further with time.
More Info: Price: $14.99 wine.com
Domaine Tour Saint-Michel Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée du Lion”
About the Wine: 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre. All grapes were hand picked and sorted, both in the field and again in the cellar. The grapes for this cuvée are typically destemmed, depending on the vintage, and undergo a long cold soak for gentle extraction of color and tannin. 80% of the final blend was aged in concrete tank; 20% of the blend was aged in used oak barrels.
Appearance: medium ruby
Aroma: Pronounced aromas of red cherry, black cherry, chocolate, charred wood, blackberry, black pepper, toast/smoke, leather, wet leaves/fores floor, vanilla, black plum, dried plum, dried fig, bramble, coffee, red wild strawberry, cranberry, raspberry.
Palate: This is a dry red wine with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) level of fine-grained, smooth tannins, medium alcohol, and an overall medium (+) body. The flavor intensity is pronounced, confirming all the notes above, with those red fruit flavors—notably the wild strawberry, cranberry, and raspberry, sneaking onto the palate a little more precisely than the nose suggests. The finish is long
Conclusion: This “Cuvée du Lion” CdP blend is of outstanding quality. I believe this wine is at its peak, but it still showcases hints of primary fruit flavors amongst all the tertiary notes that indicate its age. That age, along with the well-integrated oak usage, tells me there is complexity to this wine and that judicious care was taken during the winemaking process so that those notes of oak do not overwhelm the fruits—at any point during their development. The level of acidity creates a lightness to the wine as well as showcases the life left in those primary aromas and flavors. The tannins are so well-integrated, the very definition of fine-grained and smooth—they dissipate seamlessly and fully during the course of the tasting and one is actually left with a clean palate at the end. That being said, the finish is long, unctuously lingering with a bouquet of primary, secondary, and tertiary notes. I cannot fault this wine—it ticks all the boxes: balance, length, intensity, complexity. And for that, I cannot rate this wine any lower than outstanding in quality.
That being said, I do not believe that this wine is suitable for further aging in bottle. The primary fruits, are just barely present, with the tertiary notes taking the driver’s seat for the most part of the tasting. As such, I believe that any further time in bottle will cause those fresher fruits to fade even further, maybe completely, and the wine will be imbalanced. If you have this wine in your cellar, enjoy it now.
I chose these three red wines because I was interested in tasting them side by side, to note the difference in flavor profiles of the different AOCs and cru. Whether or not I’d be able to pull out these wines in a blind tasting at this point in time, I’m not so sure. The following are just a few personal notes I made in comparing the three wines.
- Compared to the other two, the Cote du Rhone Rouge fell flat, tannic without a purpose. The fruits are present, but are so subtle and very much lack intensity.
- The Crozes-Hermitage is so perfumed in its integration of florals amongst the fruits. And that cool climate black peppery note was most pronounced here than elsewhere. (Black pepper notes come from the same aromatic compound as many floral notes, if I’m not mistaken, so this makes sense in my mind.)
- Compared to the Cote du Rhone, the Crozes Hermitage had a simultaneous fresh fruit and rustic qualities that walked hand-in-hand through the course of the tasting.
- The tannins of the Crozes Hermitage, though assertive, add a pleasurable texture as well as structure and they do, albeit slowly, melt away.
- The Chateauneuf-du-Pape was by far the most integrated of all, even though the primary fruits are, indeed, waning. There’s still life, there’s still a hint of vivacity that keeps the palate intrigued.
- As a last note, after writing this post, I went back and reviewed what is “typically” assessed from wines of these regions and was proud that I actually perceived a lot of those characteristics. Maybe that’s a sign I’m a good taster, or maybe it’s a sign that I got good wines indicative of their terroir and winemaking methods. Either way makes me happy.
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