La Tour du Rhône: Day two

La Tour du Rhône: Day two

Wednesday 30th September 2009
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

This morning we headed into the wild hills of the north sector of the Cotes du Rhone to Mondragon, hunting an elusive Chateaunneuf called Bois Pointu made by Charles Blagden and Eric Michel of Cros de la Mure. 

Last year was an excellent debut vintage - beginners luck? how would they cope with the more challenging conditions of 2008? Exceptionally well is the answer. Being biodynamic did not make life easy because of early season disease, however the benefits are that later in the season the grapes ripen much more quickly. A sensual fragrant and really quite intense wine, very long flavours, in a light to medium bodied style. Seductive Grenache rather like its close neighnour Rayas. Absolutely loved this. Stardorm awaits this small Chateauneuf producer.

Back south towards Vacqueyras and Gigondas, where the 09 harvest is still continuing particularly in Gigondas' high, late-ripening Dentelles to Montmirail hills. The new vintage sounds like a small one, 20hl/ha have been reported in parts. Clos des Cazaux and Cayron offered us good, fragrant 2008s, juicy and rewarding wines that will drink relatively early. The tranquility of Gigondas village centre is briefly interrupted by a grower on his tractor belting noisly past as he returns home from the vines, its midday and nothing gets between a frenchman and his lunch! That's our cue to leave.

Beaucastel is next, stunning whites particularly the regular Chateauneuf and the Roussanne Vieilles Vignes, they show a freshness and finesse you would not normally associate with the southern Rhone "meridional." Not much red has been made, yields of 10hl/ha versus the usual 25hl/ha. Beaucastel red took me by surprise totally - rich very nearly jammy and structured which is at total odds to the rest of the 2008s, a wine of broad shoulders that should impress tasters. Further South in Bedarrides Vieux Telegraphe finished the 2009 Chateauneuf harvest yesterday and they too verify it is very small, half a crop in parts. In 2008 they have made 30 percent less than usual due to a mixture of difficult flowering, a concentrating north wind in September and a severe selection in the vineyards and winery. The result is a classic mix of Vieux Telegraphe composure and complexity, its not flashy but it never is. It grows on you , very moreish, all red, sloe and bullace fruits no raisin or animal here. An accomplished effort, should be a good mid termer. Finally to Versino, no Felix here in 2008, all of the old vine juice went into the straight Chateauneuf and this has made it, for me, joint wine of the day with Bois Pointu. Complex, smooth, spicy and ripe, not big but far from weak, it should be good value too. Jean Paul thinks the wine is soft like 1996 but richer, similar in structure to 2004. End of the day. Up north here we come.