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© John Farren

Meeting 358 -"Delas Wines from the Rhône Valley"

Friday 16th November 2013     Neville Hall, Waltham St Lawrence 

Speaker:   Duncan Ross of Berkmann Wine Cellars .

        The Berkshire Branch was very pleased to welcome back Duncan Ross from Berkmann Cellars to one of our tastings. This time Duncan brought with him Etienne Défossé from Champagne Deutz, Delas Frères - Vins de la Valleé du Rhône, to actually do the work of presenting!
       Deutz was founded in 1838 and was one of the first wineries to understand how to manage the secondary fermentation in the bottle and now produces 2 million bottles a year - a mere drop in the ocean of champagne! Situated in Ay, which means "near Epernay" in old French, they own 42 Ha of vines and buy in the rest of the 200 Ha of grapes they need to feed their winery. The aperitif wine for the evening was Deutz Brut Classic NV Champagne. For this wine Deutz take only grapes from Premier Cru and Grand Cru vines, using the first pressing (selling the 2nd and later pressings) and leaving the champagne in the bottle for 3 years compared with the minimum period under AC rules which is 15 months. The cepage is 1/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Petit Meunier and 1/3 Pinot Noir and the base is 2008 with up to 30% of more recent wine. The style is very fresh but with no greenness and the result is a lovely biscuit nose, lots of fine bubbles and a mouth filling experience which lasts. Excellent!
       Deutz have owned Delas Fréres since 1979 but the two wineries are run separately and make use of central sales, marketing and administration. Delas make 20 Rhône wines and they are both an Owner and Negotiant. Their objective is to make wines for food, not "competition" wines. The Rhône Valley has 300 days of sun and a strong wind - the Mistral which is attracted to the south by the Mediterranean sea making for hot days and cold nights. This diurnal variation is good for grape concentration and colour giving wines which have body but which are never heady.
       We started with two white wines: a typical Viognier with real freshness and bite followed by their Hermitage Blanc. Made from 50% Roussanne and 50% Marsanne, this wine was much more complex and had more than a hint of white Burgundy about it - it also needed a clean palate to appreciate properly!
       We then tried their Côte du Ventoux (80% Syrah, 20% Grenache), Côte du Tricastin (20% Syrah, 70% Grenache and 10% Cinsault) (that Apellation is now neatly to be called Grignan Les Adhémar because of a nearby power station using the original name!) and the Côtes-du-Rhône St-Esprit (80% Syrah and 20% Grenache). The last 2 scored very well and were well priced - excellent value for quality wines.
       Finally on to the Hermitage wines: Syrah is a grape that Etienne believes opens slowly - taste and come back to it to get the best results and every time it is tasted it gives something new! There are 1000 Ha of Crozes Hermitage and Delas owns 25 Ha. Crozes-Hermitage (means "around Hermitage") can age 5 years whereas Hermitage can age 10 years.
       The Hermitage vineyard was first planted on the hill by the Romans in the 1st Century AD. These wines are able to age because of the acidity in the soil. Of the 134 Ha of Syrah planted on the hill producing 100,000 bottles for the world, Delas, one of 100 growers, owns 10 Ha. Le Bessas is their best parcel which, in a good year, gives only 3000 bottles.
       Their Crozes-Hermitage les Launes and their Hermitage, Marquise de la Tourette were both outstanding scoring 8.5 and 9 respectively. The first was light and bright in the mouth with lots of black fruit, leather, some marmalade and a little pepper. The Hermitage was smooth as silk, again black fruits, autumn and pepper. This will keep but the fruit will decrease a little over time. Finally we finished with a Muscat de Baumes de Venise made from Muscat and Petit Grain grapes harvested at optimum maturity and with the fermentation stopped at 100 g/l of sugar. This had some vivacity but left no sugary taste in the mouth.
       Charlotte provided some delicious food to accompany this tasting including Crépes Franc Comptoise (Ham & Mushroom pancakes) from a Raymond Blanc recipe served with a tian of courgettes and tomatoes followed by Plum Tarte Fine and Crème Fraîche. Superb!
       This was an excellent tasting confirmed by the orders which followed. In addition your author had the chance to visit Delas Fréres in Tournon-sur-Rhône the following week and we can definitely say that their Côte-Rôtie and their Condrieu are also both outstanding.

(Chris Graham)