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A recent tasting of wines from Berry Bros & Rudd revealed some good examples of single varietals from the Rhone valley which can be useful in helping us to recognize grape types. However, in my experience, once you think you have nailed it, a producer comes along to upset you with a completely different set of flavours. Tasters can never be complacent and certainly not cocky. But we can try…
€24.50 btle by the case
Located in Mauves in the Ardèche region of the Rhone Alps, the vineyard has granite soil, which gives the wine a very slightly flinty flavour which is warmed up by mature grape plants delivering lots of full fruit. Elegant and not overblown, there is a little weight there. Interesting aromas of pear come with a hint of oak from the use of new oak barrels for a year. Maker Jerome Coursodon avoids sulphur as much as possible and the wines are not filtered, yet it is crystal clear. I drank it with a selection of smoked fish. Perfect.
€46 btle by the case
This one is not a single varietal, but has an interesting proportion in the blend. From a southern plot of Chateauneuf du Pape, Domaine Saint Prefert is a relatively new kid on the block, owned for the last eleven years by Isabel Ferrando. A former banker who was born in Carpentras just 10k from the vineyard, since her first purchase of 15 hectares she has extended it to its current 24, producing reds and whites which have received extraordinary recognition in a short time. The domaine is expected to receive its official organic certification this year. While reds are her forte, this example of 80% Clairette and 20% Roussanne delivers an interesting blend of apple, citrus and warm honey for a medium to heavy-bodied wine that has a fresh finish. This also suited the smoked fish, but could take far heavier foods such as turkey, guinea fowl, partridge and quail, veal, well sauced fresh fish.
2009 Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine Laurent Combier (100% Syrah)
€23 btle by the case
100% Syrah in some hands can often be a little overpowering, but grown in a colder climate than many new world examples, this is an elegant one. The Combier family’s first business was in organically growing apricots and peaches. Realising that at Pont de l’Isère their land was close to a successful winemaker, they planted vines to immediate success. This wine has a clear deep ruby colour and the taste follows with deep raspberry flavours with a nip of black pepper as expected. Medium-to-full bodied, the tannins are soft and supple but there is good grip, making it a good match with foods that are clean and light – a simple, lightly cooked steak, rack of lamb, young goat, pork.
2009 St Joseph, Domaine Jean-Michel Gerin (100% Syrah)
€19.50 btle by the case
Jean Michel Gerin’s third vintage shows promise. A good example of a quite oaky Syrah, there is plenty of liquorice, red cherry and typical black pepper finish. A lively one.