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Rhône and Rhône clones

by Tom Cannavan, 05/97

Wines were served in 4 groups: white blends, viogniers, red blends and syrah/shiraz. The last flight was exceptionally good. Overall, the new world showed as more up-front and, in some cases, stylised, whereas the french wines were on the whole a little more subdued and classical. The whites confused me slightly: ranging in price from £9 to £25 they were all pleasant drinking, but at these prices "pleasant" isn't enough - I'd be looking for a more serious experience, and I probably wouldn't be looking here. Some very impressive, individual wines on show amongst the reds.

Flight 1, white blends

Mitchelton (Victoria, Australia), Mitchelton III White 1995 - £8.49
(marsanne,with a little roussanne and mourvedre) Very pale golden colour. Melon scents buried beneath big, oaky and alcoholic nose. Rich on the palate, full bodied and again lots of new oak flavour. A wee bit too much like a slightly flabby chardonnay for my liking.

Marchand, Châteauneuf-du-Pape "Clos des Pontifes" Blanc 1995 - £14.99
(mostly roussanne). Darker golden colour. Restraint on the nose, less oak. Rounded in the mouth with a not unpleasant sour edge and a squirt of lemon acidity. Spice in the long-ish finish. A more complex wine.

Flight 2, viognier

La Jota (Howell Mountain, Napa), Viognier 1995 - £16.49
Pale straw gold. Very pungent aromatic nose - not soft or flowery. Richly honeyed wine, long and seems sweet with an alcoholic burn on the tongue as it finishes.

Rostaing, Condrieu "La Bonnette" 1995 - £24.99
Very similar colour. A little deeper. Hints of roses on the nose, but not as fragrant as the La Jota. Very pure on the palate but I found it rather overbearing. At £25 I'm not sure who would be buying this - does it keep? does it go with particular food? Is it really profound? Dunno....

Flight 3, red blends

Bonny Doon (Santa Cruz Mountains), Le Cigare Volante 1994 - £12.99
Deep, deep colour. Striking blackcurrant nose. Almost like a young bordeaux in a leafy way. Plenty of structure behind a warm, open licorice sensation on the palate. Nice long finish. Good QPR, and very good, though didn't show quite as well after tasting the next wine.

Charles Melton (Barossa, Australia), Nine Popes 1995 - £15.99
Tiny production "cult" wine. Darkly coloured and minty on the nose. Absolutely velvet smooth with loads of warm, spicy berries and crunchy sloes on the palate. Great concentration and length too and loads of class. Very well made and a terrific wine with lots of structure and an attractive style.

Château La Nerthe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape "Cuvee des Cadettes" 1992 - £19.99
Inky dark colour again and a slightly damp, pungent element to the nose. Big, mouth filling wine with plenty of fruit and and earthy, truffley aspect too. Some class, if not totally together at this stage.

Flight 4, syrah/shiraz

Orlando (Padthaway, Australia) "Lawsons" Shiraz 1991 - £14.99
A little bit of stinky burnt rubber on the nose. Gorgeous licorice richness to taste and a definite peppery spice too. Prickle of acidity is nicely in harmony with the crunchy fruit and other components. Really quite a deep and complex wine which is also full bodied, silky and easy to drink. Good value.

Sean Thackrey (Bolinas, California), Orion old vines 1994 - £29.99
Astonishing nose - high confectionery notes - like industrial strength tutti-frutti ice cream! Very intense and incense like fragrance carries through on the palate. A very ethereal, high, other-worldly wine has been conjured out of the grapes. Elegant too, with good length and real character, but almost overbalanced towards an extreme pungency. Highly unusual and just possibly wonderful???

Chapoutier, Côte Rotie "La Mordoree" 1989 - £55.00
Really stinky barnyard nose. Wet nappies too I'm afraid, though this subsided over half an hour. Mouth coating tannins and rich, earthy flavours. Black fruits and plenty of clove spice too. Extremely long finish - a full minute at least. I grew to like this a lot over an hour or so in the glass, though others remained unconvinced.

Paul Jaboulet Aine, Cornas "Domaine St Pierre" 1995 - £18.95
A new vineyard for Jaboulet and an exceptionally fine wine. Deeply hued, with a very fine nose of pure fruits. Great structure to this wine with elegance and complexity, mouth coating tannins and flavour and a very smooth and long finish. Stylish and Bordeaux like, and enough concentration to keep. Excellent.

To finish....
Lès Clos de Paulilles, Banyuls 1993 - £10.95
Very difficult to judge having tasted 4 such profound and individual wines in the previous flight. My opinion is that it was a little bit one dimensional, with rather obvious sweet cherry fruit and not enough complexity. It might gain some with age? I'll reserve final judgement.