La Tour du Rhône: Day four

La Tour du Rhône: Day four

Friday 2nd October 2009
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

Thursday 1st October - More Hermitage, Crozes and Côte Rôtie.

Today the 2008s of Domaine du Colombier and Bernard Faurie particularly surprised me, they were much more complex, intense and riper than I was expecting.

After a tasting of 2008s with Marc Sorrel, who looks like he will put all of the "Greal" components into the one standard Hermitage cuvee , we head for Domaine du Colombier. Here a garrulous Florent Viale greeted us, we joked about the disproportionate amount of hairdressers operating in Tain, 12 on the last count, and then moved onto the serious business of tasting. Whilst 2009 was a "hands in pockets" vintage, he proclaimed, 2008 was a lot harder. He employed 30 pickers as opposed to the 18 he normally uses. "Conditions were not favourable in 2008 but the results are honourable," was his summary. The reds are good, the white Hermitage is outstanding and nudges the Chave version very closely for top wine so far this trip. I enjoy Faurie's red Hermitage blend every bit as much as Colombier's, if anything it has a shade more vitality aligned to the ripe fruit that both display. Crozes will be one of the patchier areas in 2008 I suspect, particular where vines are grown on moist clay soils. Pochon has made some lovely whites and improved the potential of his standard wine by adding the old vines Curson into the blend.

In Côte Rôtie it looks as if Clusel Roch will keep the 2008 Les Grandes Places as a separate wine, though the final decision has not been made. I think its good enough to stand alone but if they do blend it in, the straight Côte Rôtie could make for a good buy. The 2008s of Bernard Burgaud seems to be up there with those of his rivals, he put it down to "hard work, good weather in September and a bit of luck." Fresh and elegant but with enough body and fruit maturity, an excellent effort. Whilst at Rostaing the distance between Côte Blonde and the rest of the wines is clearer than ever before. The La Landonne was its usual surly, backward self, but there is good power and complexity there.

As for 2009 its obviously early days, but the growers I saw today seem as happy with the quality of their 2009s as those in the southern Rhône. The only difference is that the size of the crop in the North is thankfully quite good, whereas in the South it will be a small vintage.

Tomorrow St Joseph, Condrieu and Lyon St Exupery!