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© John Farren

Meeting 411 -" Rambling down the Rhône"

Speaker: Doug Miles
Friday 16thth February 2018: Neville Hall, Waltham St Lawrence


       An evening presented by a branch member is always an interesting alternative to an outside speaker, especially when the presenter is as knowledgeable and has such an impressive cellar as the branch's vice-chairman Doug Miles. A number of years ago, Doug had presented a tasting of mature Bordeaux; on this occasion he raided his cellar for a selection of Rhône vintages dating back to 1998. After a sparkling Saint-Péray from Domaine Alain Voge in Cornas, made from 100% Marsanne, the tasting moved on to two whites from Condrieu, followed by a flight of reds that reflected the hierarchy of appellations from straightforward Côtes du Rhône to the superior ACs of Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
       Both Condrieus were good to excellent but very different, and opinions were divided: the Cuvée de Chéry 2010 from Rémi and Robert Niero was rich and unctuous, almost vegetal on the palate, whereas Christophe Pichon's 2007 was lighter and fruiter and appeared to many to be younger than the 2010 Niero. The first two reds were a Le Temps est Venu 2012 Côtes du Rhône from Michel Ogier in Ampuis and a Terre d'Argile 2007 Côtes du Rhône Villages from Domaine de la Janasse in Courthézon. The "basic" Côtes du Rhône was rich and spicy, and very drinkable; the Terre d'Argile was extremely impressive as a "villages" appellation: a blend of equal measures of Carignan alongside the more usual Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, this wine was rich and smoky and had more than just a hint of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, not surprising as the vineyards which yielded this wine are only just outside the appellation boundary.
       As the tasting continued up the ladder of appellations we moved on to two of the most famous wine families in the Rhône, with a Domaine de Thalabert 2005 Crozes Hermitage from Jaboulet and a Monier de la Sizeranne 1998 Hermitage from Chapoutier. The first of these, considered a benchmark for Crozes because of its very low yields and its potential for ageing, was excellent on both nose and palate, mature but still with good tannins; the Monier de la Sizeranne was unsurprisingly softer and a classic example of a mature Hermitage. After a slight detour to Lirac for a Nessun Dorma 2010 from Domaine Maby, which tempted some members to break into song or at least a hum, the tasting concluded in impressive style with a La Crau 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. This final wine showed black fruits on the nose and palate, with a hint of chocolate, and was considered by Robert Parker to be one of the greatest wines made at this famous estate.
       Doug illustrated his talk with a PowerPoint presentation that provided a wealth of information, not only on the wines and the estates and their terroir but also on grape varieties, key vintages, appellations as well as significant stories from the region such as the virtual demise of viognier in the 1960s, the increasing trend for growers to make their own wines, or the varying fortunes of families such as Jaboulet and Chapoutier, including the latter estate's use of braille on its labels. The whole presentation was entertaining and informative, particularly in the comparison of the various appellatins or of different vintages, but the over-imaginative comparisons by some wine critics were confined to Doug's slides, such as the description of the first of the two Condrieus as "poised in a balletic manner à la Degas". (Ian Roe)
       Mark provided us with a Provençale flavoured meal – lamb shank (small, but a lot of it!!) with olives and tomatoes. This was served with pomme purée (flavoured mashed potato) and green beans. The crème brûlée dessert was heavenly - if a bit calorific.

The Wines

   (1) Saint-Péray Les Bullles d'Alain 2012 Domaine Alain Voge
18.80 6+
(2) Condrieu Cuvée de Chéry 2010 Rémi & Robert Niero 33.28 7
(3) Codrieu 2007, Christohe Pichon 27.00 7+
(4) Le Temps est Venu 2012, App Côtes du Rhône Con. M&S Ogier d'Ampuis 27.00 7
(5) Domaine de la Janasse Terre d'Argile 2007, Côtes du Rhôone Village 14.23 8
(6) Domaine de Thalabert 2005, Crozes Hermitage, Paul Jaboulet Aîné 13.80 7+
(7) Monier de la Sizeranne 1998, Hermitage, Chapoutier 24.00 8+
(8) Nessun Dorma 2010, Lirac, Domaine Maby 13.85 7+
(9) Domaine de Vieux Telegraph Le Cran, 2007, H Brunier et Fils 50.00 8
The supper wine :    Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2015, Famille Perrin, Oranfge

* Some approximate prices based on purchasing at the Vineyard.