Tasting of very old wines in two days with winemakers of « Rhône Vignobles »
The group « Rhône Vignobles » was founded by a good fifteen winegrowers to do together operations to promote their wines. Regularly, they organize an « old vintage » event over two days. On the first day, the winemakers are alone and drink old wines of all regions in a tasting session and then following at a dinner. On the second day, they invite their big customers, including restaurateurs and wine merchants, for a tasting of old vintages of their properties and a gourmet lunch in one of their estates.
For the third time I will join them in all the events, only non-winegrower admitted with a truculent wine merchant of Lyon, Georges da Costa. We are there both from the first day because we animate the tasting of the old wines. I had planned to bring 17 wines but during the transport by plane one of my bottles broke, a Mascara P. Sorensen 13 ° white or gray Algeria 1947. What a pity! By opening my suitcase a heady perfume invaded all the space and strongly impregnated the stuff that I had brought. This sweet perfume gave me regrets because it would have shone during this evening.
The appointment is given at the Bastide de Capelongue in Bonnieux, Relais & Châteaux hotel run by Edouard Loubet who will cook the meals of the two days. On arrival I worry about opening my wines while waiting for the winemakers and Georges to bring theirs. The dining room is very long, vaulted, flanked by two chimneys at both ends of the length. As it is very cold the additional heaters overheat the room so I prefer to open my wines in my room.
The winemakers arrive when I have opened seven of my wines and we will regroup all the bottles to assign them either to the tasting or to the dinner, and then to classify them in order of service. That is my duty. There are a total of 56 wines. With Georges we open all the bottles. Some odors are hospitable and some wines must be decanted because the corks fall. It must be said that these openings are made at a very fast pace that prevents to have all the care that would suit. To encourage the « workers » who extirpate the corks, I am handed a glass of Champagne Louis Roederer Brut simple but which is well suited to give heart to the work.
Tasting starts at 6pm. We are more than 25. Georges who will make an absolutely remarkable wine service will only serve 17 glasses for each wine, members of the same family of winegrowers drinking in a single glass. We will have 25 wines, the others reserved for dinner. I will indicate by an asterisk the wines that I brought almost exclusively assigned to the tasting.
The air is hot, heavily loaded with smells of chimney that sometimes bite the eyes. All attached to the smooth running of the tasting I did not take notes so my comments will be succinct and maybe once or twice my memory will have failed.
The * Kebir Rosé Frédéric Lung probable year 1945 is of a very sustained color. The wine is heavy, beautiful and intense. It is highly gastronomic. It is a very pleasant surprise. It has nut aromas in the finale. It is a beautiful freshness that his age would never let imagine.
The * Montrachet Grand Cru Domaine Roland Thévenin 1945 is also a nice surprise because it looks much better than what I thought. It lacks some of the fat and the width that one expects of a montrachet but it is precise and of a beautiful complexity, even being a little evolved.
The Hermitage, Mure of Larnage white M Chapoutier 1974 is a pleasant wine with a beautiful lively fruit. It is expressive, beautifully fresh. A winegrower says that it would have spent three to ten years in barrels, which may explain a tip of salinity and spices.
The * Hermitage Chante-Alouette white M Chapoutier 1955 is a wide, pleasant and gastronomic wine. It fills the mouth with beautiful complexities. It is of great balance and freshness, with a good length.
* L’Étoile Domaine Veuve Jean Bassard 1976 has all the charm of beautiful yellow wines of Jura. It is lively, broad, strong, impregnating. It is also gastronomic, with a large volume in mouth.
I had wished with the four whites preceded by an asterisk to show wines from four distinct regions in order to make a journey into the world of the old whites. I had not imagined that the result would be as brilliant as there were no unpleasant surprises on these 5 white wines, different but beautiful.
We pass to the reds with a * Côtes du Jura Domaine Jean Bourdy 1945. This wine will surprise everyone. For he has an unbelievable youth and a red fruit intact. He is strict, straight, but knows how to add a touch of pleasure thanks to his fruit.
The Château Clinet Pomerol 1970 is slightly corked and does not attract much interest.
It is the same with the Moulin à Vent Coron Père & Fils 1964, alas corked. We seek to find him qualities because we have the memory of beautiful old Beaujolais drunk during a recent tasting in common.
The Fleurie Clos de la Roilette Maurice Crozet 1946 had to be decanted because the bottle contained extremely important lees. Paradoxically, despite this unflattering presentation, the wine is pleasant and alive. It has complex evocations of coffee and salt. It has a beautiful red fruit and a nice freshness.
The Grands Échézeaux Ed. Loiseau 1953 is a nasty surprise. The bottle is defective, impossible to drink and when we pour it, we see that there is a second cork at the bottom of the bottle, but that did not give a corky taste. A winegrower suggests that it was at the time of the bottling that a second cork was pushed.
The * Gevrey Chambertin Duthu father & son 1949 has a pretty bottle of ancient wine. The wine I like very much, very beautiful example of Burgundy. It moves me because it is typically Burgundy with a bitterness and a superb rasp. It is an immense typified wine of balance and precision.
The Bonnes Mares Jacques Sourdillat 1962 is a wine quite confusing, not releasing much emotion.
The * Côte de Beaune Domaine Champy 1945 is a wine that has always pleased me and a great year. Whether a simple Villages wine is so rich is a fine reward. It is pleasant without being complex.
The * Pommard Marius Meulien 1923 is a bottle that I cherish. As with the Côtes du Jura 1945, everyone is astonished to see in this wine such richness and vivacity. One participant said that blindly he would situate this wine in the seventies. This is one of the most beautiful surprises and it is a wine I bought on a heart stroke when I glimpsed this beautiful bottle .
The * Côtes du Lubéron, Lubéron cellar probable 1990 is a little wink I wanted to make our host of tomorrow, the winemaker of the estate of the Citadelle in Ménerbes, in the heart of the appellation. At the opening this wine was dusty, with a stuck nose. Now, even if this wine does not shine by its complexity, I find it very acceptable.
The * Chateauneuf du Pape domaine de la Petite Gardiole 1965 is corked, dead.
The * Châteauneuf du Pape David & Foillard 1947 is a bit corky but in the mouth, one is in the realm of the possible. And the year 1947 reveals it quite well.
The * Châteauneuf du Pape Domaine Paul Jean 1971 is very corked.
The * Châteauneuf du Pape Les Olivets Domaine Roger Sabon 1971 is a sympathetic wine that compensates the previous bad series. It is of a beautiful freshness, with evocations of Rhone north, rich and smoky wine.
La * Côte Rôtie Brune and Blonde M Chapoutier 1949 is a solid and rich wine. It is very pleasant to drink. It is fine, elegant, it is a great wine. He « pinotes » like a burgundy. It’s a very nice bottle.
The Chianti Pillo 1958 in a pretty bottle resembling a small dame-jeanne of about three liters with pourer is alas dead.
I was less attentive to the three Spanish wines except the oldest : the Viña Real Rioja 1981, the Cune Rioja clarete 1928 which I found superb and elegant, also a great wine and the Gran Coronas Reserva Torres 1962
also very pleasant.
Finishing by the * Royal Kebir Frédéric Lung Algeria 1947 after starting with a rosé of the same property is a coquetry on my part to show that the world of ancient wines must be explored all over the world. This wine is superb, rich, with pretty evocations of coffee, a little like the Spanish Vega Sicilia Unico whose it is the signature.
On reading the above, we see that the level of problematic wines is significant, but it did not bother anyone. We had 25 wines. The fifteen best are enough to make this event a great moment from which emerge the Côte du Jura red 1945, the Pommard 1923, the Côtes de Beaune 1945, the Royal Kebir 1947, the Gevrey-Chambertin 1949 and the curious rosé Algerian of the 1940s.
During the tasting, Edouard Loubet, interested in what we did and in our comments, brought us plates of delicatessen, delicious little tarts in the shape of pizza with tasty black truffle, and pissaladières.
It’s time to take a break and let the meal table be prepared. Georges opens a Champagne Dom Pérignon magnum 1959. This champagne is a ray of sun, subtle and easy to live. A very large champagne, noble and beautiful length. We continue with a Champagne Mumm Cuvée René Lalou 1985 in a glorious state. He is at the top of his art.
At dinner we are more than thirty and there are not far from thirty wines still to drink. As we are all around the same table, we will not drink the same wines and we do not pay as much attention to the different wines that we are served. Beautiful ducks accompanied wines from all horizons such as a pretty magnum of Château Talbot 1950, some Spanish wines and many wines that I have not noted. I would have liked to taste the Bandol domaine d’Ott blanc 1985 with the pretty light color, Clos Joliette 1979 and the Mouton Baron 1961 but these bottles did not come to my place.
I had also brought a * Vieux Marc of Clos des Lambrays 40 years of age 41.8 ° before 1970. It is a very beautiful marc, virile, uncompromising, very beautiful quality. The restaurant offers us to taste a Green Chartreuse V.E.P. I have made the mistake of succumbing to the charm of this liquor. These two spirits and a rather cold room due to the freezing surrounding the hotel had a rather bad effect on my sleep. Also when I introduce myself the next morning to have breakfast, I learn that all the winemakers have already left.
By a great sunny cold, I go to the Domaine de la Citadelle in Ménerbes which is owned by Yves Rousset-Rouard and operated by his son Alexis. There are already a large number of winegrowers’ customers who can taste old wines from their properties. The vintages go from 2008 to 1977. This tasting is interesting because one can approach the wines that are really ready to drink. A Châteauneuf-du-Pape white Jeroboam La Janasse 2006 is absolutely excellent and deep. A Côte Rôtie of Domaine Gérin 1985 is superb. A Châteauneuf-du-Pape white Domaine Beaurenard 1986 is also very tasty and flourishing. The wines of Courbis, Cuilleron, Villard, Voge, Gérin, and so many others are superb.
In general, all the wines presented are of great interest and their age flourishes. It is hoped that this will inspire the wine merchants and restaurateurs present to sell wines really ready to drink. I made a quick visit of the museum of corkscrew which has an impressive collection of historical corkscrews and Yves Rousset-Rouard took me on a hill of his property where he is creating a botanical garden of herbs, medicinal plants and which will soon be made available to the public for educational and recreational purposes. It is also a way of highlighting his Domaine.
Lunch is held in the cellar where two endless tables allow about two hundred people to sit. All winegrowers let taste their wines in large size bottles. Jeroboams and magnums abound. One passes from one wine to the other so much the winegrowers are happy to make taste their wines.
The menu designed by Edouard Loubet is remarkably executed for this immense crowd. There are small birds accompanied by tartines of offal creams and garlic, then a very generous deer filet, a fresh goat cheese and a chocolate dessert accompanied by Rasteau and mutated wines of the participants including one of the domain Delubac made from grapes of grapes abandoned fifteen years in an oak barrel. A little wonder.
What I like in Rhône Vignobles is the kindness, the generosity, the joy of living and the sense of welcome of all the winemakers. With such human qualities, one can only make good wine. Long life for Rhône Vineyards and bravo for the interest marked for the old wines, which I try, thanks to their friendship, to maintain and develop.
(the pictures can be seen on the same subject in the French article)