TN A Northern Rhone dinner

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Chris Smith, Nov 3, 2018.

  1. Marking one of Ramon Cabrera's occasional appearances in London. Well done to Ian for setting up, the restaurant for a gorgeous meal featuring I think the best wellington I have had (venison in this case). Thanks to all attendees for some lovely wines and especially Richard for sharing his N Rhone knowledge. An educational, as well as hedonistic, night for me.

    I'm not sure these notes reflect the consensus or indeed any sort of majority view, so hopefully others will join in...

    Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2006: Obviously not really my thing but this felt quite tight and slightly dull. 4/7

    Condrieu, Coteau de Vernon, Vernay 2010: Rich, buttercream nose, hints of stone fruit. Masses of flavour, an amazing streak of lemon curd running through it (but dry of course). Touch of alcohol on the nose and finish - probably better a degree or two colder. But a remarkable wine. 6/7

    Cote-Rotie, La Landonne, Gerin 2004: Strong nose - cherry liqueur, some Belgian beer, quite new world. Big, young and quite alcoholic. Bit smoky. Decent, but a long way behind the best in this flight. Definitely the best Shiraz of the night. 5-/7

    Cote-Rotie, Jamet 1998: Very open nose, dark, deep, complex - very northern Rhone - black olives, bacon, violets, that sort of stuff. La Chapelle-y actually. Smooth, riper fruit than the Sorrels. In a super place. 6+/7

    Hermitage, Sorrel 1998: Bretty nose. Much looser than the Jamet, touch rustic even. Bit thin too. Nice, but nothing special. 5/7

    Hermitage, Greal, Sorrel 1998: Tiny bit of brett (very acceptable). Much more complex and interesting than the straight Hermitage, really several notches up. Luxurious, but still more reserved than the Jamet. More fragrant. Needs more time but oozes class. 6+/7 and turned out to be the group's clear favourite.

    Hermitage, La Chapelle, Jaboulet-Aine 1966: Still quite dark. Strong, open, coffee/spice nose, easy delivery, fully resolved but nowhere near over the top. Touch of iron filings. Opens further, density of flavour gets more intense. This is a great mature La Chapelle in the style of the 1988. 7-/7 and the group's second favourite (just - the peleton behind the Greal was closely bunched).

    Hermitage, Chapoutier, 1967 London bottled by BBR: Much lighter colour and light nose too but delicate and charming. Would struggle to identify this (whereas the La Chap is very much of its place) but it's a delicious, mature, light bodied wine. 6/7. Group's third favourite.

    Hermitage, Chapoutier, 1972 London bottled by BBR: Bit more perfume on the nose, but the body is more tired, going a bit Sauterney, toffeed and slightly artificial. Still enjoyable, though. 5/7

    Cornas, Reynard, Allemand 1994: I'm into slightly unexplored territory in top Cornas (and definitely with the Verset) so very interested in these. All three have a common style - quite a wild nose, zingy structure and some pretty noticeable tannin. The 94 Reynard has a slight iodine/chlorine note, wildness just about under control, lots of interest but loose (Chave-y in this sense). Easily the best in this flight with tamed wildness but still has a vaguely swimming pool character and some heat. 6/7

    Cornas, Chaillots, Allemand 1999: Similar, odd, chlorine-y nose, something plant-foody about it. And with some inner tube. Am I selling it? Lots of complexity but gangly. Awkward. Big, big tannin. Group thinks young but this would be a serious ugly duckling to swan transformation if it came together. 4-/7 ?

    Cornas, Noel Verset 1995: Different nose but clearly linked to the Allemands, sort of iodine plus coca cola, going towards beery. What one gets here is an immediate hotwire into the vineyard - there's an agricultural honesty about it, dirt under the fingernails. Complex, interesting, but quite up and down through the palate, a bit close to "natural". From this I can see why people might get excited about Verset, but I'm not rushing out with my however many hundreds of pounds it costs to buy one nowadays. 5+/7

    Cornas, Noel Verset 2000: All sorts of things wrong with this and not served. Those with more experience than me reported serious variability with Verset which keeps my cash even more firmly in my pocket.

    Trillon 1975: Medium dark. Barley sugar nose, bit of rot. But palate quite fresh and light. Not all that sweet now. Nice, but not complex. 5/7
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
  2. How were these wines served, Chris? That is, were they decanted, and if so, when?
  3. Claude - they were double-decanted at the restaurant and then served.
  4. A very impressive line-up!! Puts my Clusel Roch 2005 for tonight to shame!!!
  5. This was a superb dinner organized by Mr. Amstad of this parish, with the food matched really well to the wines, and served downstairs at Noizé in what was almost like a private room. The wine service from Mathieu Germond was excellent and the food was very good too, especially the Venison Wellington. We were the perfect number for pour-sizes and the company and conversation were excellent. It was great to be able to sit next to Nicos and to share in his passion for these wines.

    Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006
    Quite soft and gentle for Comtes and without the sense of class that it usually has. Certainly very enjoyable, but lacking that extra dimension, particularly on the finish where it was a bit linear and four square. Perhaps it was just a little too young. ***

    Condrieu Coteau de Vernon Domaine Vernay 2010
    This was an outstanding Condrieu with a very distinctive character. There was a strong sense of poached apricot skins on the palate and a nice pillowy texture that maintained tension and focus. This is quite a large-scaled wine, but also light on its feet. A real sense of terroir here, and one of the very best expressions of the viognier grape. Very fine. ****

    Côte-Rôtie La Landonne Gérin 2004
    This was an attractive Côte-Rôtie with a nose of powdery, pastille plums, hints of smoke, and a sense of confit plum and mulberry fruit on the palate. The wine is fragrant on the mid-palate without the weight you sometimes get from a Côte Brune vineyard like La Landonne. The acidity is good, and at the finish you sense the wine being shaped by its elevage in wood (almost certainly some new wood in the mix). Quite polished, and a wine of the cellar as well as the soil. Drinking very well now. ****

    Côte-Rôtie Jamet 1998
    This is so typically Jamet – Jamet wines are so characterful and sui generis that you can almost always tell them from others by the nose. This has a big, bold, smoky nose, with plenty of bacon-fat, black olive, and violets. It is quite a large-scaled wine but completely without a sense of heaviness – the fruit is brambly and deep with superb persistence. There is an earthiness too – the soil tones underpin this wine from start to finish. This is a serious wine at the beginning of its drinking window. *****

    Hermitage Sorrel 1998
    This is similar to the Le Gréal, but in a minor key. This has lovely ripe, smoky granitic red fruit that is now tasting resolved. A leathery note accompanies the red fruits. There’s a strong sense of terroir here. Good length, but the tannins are a little less fine than on the Gréal. Holds up well with time in the glass. ****

    Hermitage Le Gréal Sorrel 1998
    This is the right wine, in the right place, at the right time. It is immediately exciting on the nose with beautifully cool red fruit, Asian spice, cracked pepper, plum, and that elusive bacon-fat note. It really is super-fragrant. On the palate, it is long, lifted, tense, and poised and it remains cool-fruited and exhilaratingly precise and chiseled from start to finish. This is the perfect weight, and maybe perfect Hermitage tout court. If I gave out points, this would be a clear 100. As good as any Hermitage I’ve ever drunk. More like Chave than anything else. From 90 year-old vines on le Méal combined with a small dollop of Greffieux. Some old-vine roussanne and marsanne are co-fermented with the syrah. My first six-star wine since the Noël Verset Cornas 1998 drunk at the Noël Verset Memorial Dinner three years ago. Drink now and over the next twenty years. Grand Vin. ******

    Hermitage La Chapelle Paul Jaboulet Aîné 1966
    What a privilege to be able to drink this lovely old La Chapelle. Very much in the house style and also like a more evolved version of the delicious 1988. The nose has a deep register of black olive, espresso coffee, plums and baking spices. It is long and decadent on the palate with smoky, tertiary, syrah flavours. It still has energy, although there is some attenuation at the finish. Holds up well in the glass. Good acidity too. **** now and probably ***** at its peak. The wine was in super condition for fifty-two years of age.

    Hermitage Berry Brothers bottling (Chapoutier) 1967
    Another outstanding wine in this flight the 1967 Hermitage made by Max Chapoutier (Michel’s father) is an absolute delight with a nose of subtle red fruits and baking spice. The wine is fine and silky on the palate, now tertiary in nature of course, but still with scintillating energy. There’s a sneaky persistence here – more than you’d expect. For this wine the élevage could have been up to four years in old foudres, some of which were acacia at this time. You’d never know that from the freshness of the wine. It finishes with a chocolatey note. Superb (and better than the La Chapelle of the same vintage enjoyed a few years ago, which was more fragile). Clear *****

    Hermitage Berry Brothers bottling (Chapoutier) 1972
    A comparison with the 1967 is inevitable and this is very similar in nature but just a little bit more attenuated. There are notions of subtle red friuits on the palate and some minerality as well. Old-fashioned in style and far from a blockbuster - this is all about elegance. Very enjoyable – finishes with a kirsch note. 1972 was a surprisingly good vintage for Hermitage. The La Chapelle 1972 was excellent in the late nineties. ****

    Cornas Reynard Thierry Allemand 1994
    This has a fine, lifted nose with notes of pine and resin alongside black berry and dark plum fruit. There’s a smokiness here too, and also a ‘natural’ note of foxy red fruit. The wine is lifted, long, and at full maturity, but there’s no hurry to drink this. There is always a lot of acidity and a touch of lean-ness in Allemand wines, and controversially I would argue that his use of very low doses of sulphur gives the wines a touch too much edginess and that slight sense of fragility that you get with ‘natural’ wines. I still think that Allemand is making the best wine in Cornas at the moment though. ****

    Cornas Chaillot Thierry Allemand 1999
    This shows the extra ripeness of the 1999 vintage compared to 1994 which is more in the 2000, 2001, 2004 vein for Cornas. The nose is ripe and dark and not yet completely evolved. The fruit is intense and shows notes of black olive, dark plums. There is an attractive texture to the wine with that extra dimension of the 1999 wines. Large-scaled for Allemand and still quite young. This wine has plenty of time in hand, the 1999 Reynard even more so. ****(*)

    Cornas Noël Verset 1995
    Sadly the 2000, which I’ve not yet had the pleasure to drink, was flawed. This bottle of the 1995 was not the best example of this vintage from Verset – I’ve had ones with more fruit and that rondeur that Verset often delivers. 1995 was a vintage with dry tannins (as in Burgundy and Bordeaux) and sometimes with bottle variation, and when bottled later rather sooner (this was an L2 bottling), the extra dryness is noticeable. This is still a very enjoyable wine, with a smoky, ferrous nose and medium-weight, mature-tasting fruit. There is always a lot of bottle variation with Noël Verset wines, but this is clearly not as good as 1990, 1991, 1994, 1998 and 1999. Finishes a bit narrowly. One to drink up on this showing. ***½
  6. I should add that the voting for the top 5 wines was in this order, with the Le Greal way out in front:
    1. Sorrel Hermitage Le Greal 1998
    2. Hermitage La Chapelle 1966
    3. Hermitage Chapoutier/Berry Bros 1967
    4. Jamet Cote-Rotie 1998
    5. Verset Cornas 1995
    Nicos Neocleous likes this.
  7. Which is the very essence of the great wine experience.
  8. Who is Ramon Cabrera?
  9. Any relation to Angel?
  10. Very envious. My kind of wine and thanks for the great notes . Decided to buy on Wine Owners 4 bottles of the 98 Greal. Surprised actually no one had snapped them up already
  11. Ramon is a a friend of mine from NYC and we were part of the same group doing offlines in Manhattan when I lived there. When I go there he helps organise an offline for me and when he comes here I reciprocate.

    TNs: A Juge head-fake and a bunch of Bordeaux from ‘82 to ‘86 - Wine Berserkers - international wine social media, online community, and forums

    He last came three years ago where we did a 70s Pessac/Medoc theme.

    UK Drinks Forums: Some greatest hits of the 1970s

    I didn’t advertise this because I invited back the same people as met him before plus Richard given his knowledge on the Rhône.

    Thanks to Chris and Richard for your excellent notes. And thanks to Mathieu and Noize for a brilliantly conceived menu and service. Noize really is delivering, and so good to have a restaurant like this winthin a three mile radius of N1.

    On to the wines. How shall I score these? I think the alphabet.

    Comtes De Champagne 2006

    There was only one bottle of this and I was puzzled how negative the two above notes were on this. In my opinion this is brilliant champagne ... with great potential. It is obviously young but rich, generous and vibrant with citrus and brioche - it tastes like an expensive bottle: A-

    Vernay Condrieu Coteau De Vernon 2010

    Herby, minty, fennel, cool, seamless, elegant, quite fresh but low acidity means it might be tiring to drink more than a couple of glasses, and it had a little bit of heat on the back. A very good bottle of Condrieu but I have had better. B/B+

    Flight 1

    Gerin Cote Rotie La Ladonne 2004

    I enjoyed this more than most: nice aromatics and texture, medium bodied, meaty, racy and elegant. A fine Côte-Rotie B+/A-

    Jamet Côté Rotie 1998

    Trademark Jamet, tapenade, Greek olives and bacon fat. Full bodied and thick textured. Highly pleasurable ... but a bit obvious. Lacks the raciness of the Gerin and the complexity of the Greal. B/B+

    Sorrel Hermitage 1998

    Quite afflicted with brett but an elegant lovely violety wine underneath. B

    Sorrel Hermitage Greal 1998

    A little bit of brett which is unobtrusive. This is a complete wine, in a perfect place, with beautiful secondary evolution, thrilling tension and complexity, with violets, minerals, pepper, plenty going. Multi-faceted and racy, beautiful from start to finish. One of the best bottles of Rhône I have ever drunk. A

    Flight 2

    Hermitage La Chapelle 1966

    Simply gorgeous resolved mature Hermitage magic out of the blocks, more tertiary ... but then it began to fade. A to start falling to a B+. It was however my second favourite wine.

    Berry Bros (Chapoutier) Hermitage 1967

    Very generous of Nicos to bring this when I asked for back ups as I had left my back ups at home. You can always rely on Nicos to step up. This wine was fully mature, relaxed, quite soft, and recognisable as mature Hermitage. Very popular around the table. B+

    Berry Bros (Chapoutier) Hermitage 1972

    Similar to the above but showing signs of tiring. B-

    Flight 3

    Allemand Cornas Chaillot 1994

    Has a wildness and edginess which I like in Verset ... but it is also a bit thick and gloopy. If you were unkind you could say this is all over the pace, but it is a wild ride and has good underlying ingredients. I did not find this entirely convincing. B

    Allemand Cornas Chaillot 1999

    Clearly needs a lot more time but likewise I found this unconvincing, almost as if it is trying too hard like some kind of interloper to be like Verset. These wines have been very popular in the US, and I bought several cases of 2005/6/7. I find the price action frankly baffling, even taking into account the limited supply. It is very unlikely that I won’t eventually sell them. B-

    Verset Cornas 1995

    This is the real thing. Even by Verset standards the 1995 is a prickly beast. A real wild child, with feral, carnal notes and a spikey attitude, but like a wild beast carries no excess baggage. It has beefy/bovril notes and stern spine, suggesting it still has plenty of time. It is not at the same level as the 1989/90/91 and 1998/99, but always a great pleasure and thrill. A-

    Chateau Trillon Sauternes 1975

    Very 1975 Sauternes this. Lean for a Sauternes but not mean. B+

    For the reds this was how the voting went

    1. Greal 17
    2. HLC 10
    3. 67. 9
    4. Jamet 8
    5. Verset 7
    6. Allemand 94. 5
  12. Brilliant. Sounds like a wonderful evening. Thank you for sharing the notes.
  13. Thank you Richard. It was a true pleasure for me to sit next to you all evening and talk about wine and life. Your passion for N.Rhone wines and life is truly admirable, and thank you for sharing. I have some N.Rhone gems that we should meet up and try. ;)
  14. I think it's time for me to chime in with my thoughts on what was a very enjoyable evening of good company, tasty dishes and special wines.

    Ian, thank you for organising this event and keeping it going through the evening. To be sitting next to Ian as the 'Amstad WOTN Score Card' unfolded was an additional bonus. :)

    Catching up with old wine friends is always pleasurable, and this particular evening was no exception. It was my first time meeting Alino in the flesh, and it was enjoyable to exchange views throughout the evening. Our special guest star Ramon was also a worthy addition to our rectangular dining table.

    Noize yet again performed well, with well executed tasty dishes and excellent service.

    And now, the wines...

    2006 Comtes De Champagne.
    Very good young champagne. Lime filled mouthfeel, I would age these for at least another 5+ years.

    2010 Vernay Condrieu Coteau De Vernon
    I like to drink Condrieu as young as possible, more than any other white wine. This bottle was enjoyable and held a certain minty freshness.

    Flight 1

    2004 Gerin Cote Rotie La Ladonne
    An enjoyable medium bodied Cote-Rotie. A tasty entry to this flight.

    1998 Jamet Côté Rotie
    I love a good Jamet and this was my second favourite wine of the night. Black olive tapenade on the nose, sweet/savoury mouthfeel, gorgeous concentration. Are a lot of the 1998 Cote-Roties, Cornas and Hermitages drinking really well at the moment?

    1998 Sorrel Hermitage
    I found less brett than others and enjoyed its 'middle lane of the motorway cruising' around my tastebuds to be positive. Really educational to try it next to its bolder and more complex brother next.

    1998 Sorrel Hermitage Greal
    Brilliant black fruit nose, silky mouthfeel. A savoury brilliance on its own and paired well with the dishes. My wine of the night and the overall WOTN.

    Flight 2

    1966 Hermitage La Chapelle
    My sincere thanks to the player who brought this along. I do love a good La Chapelle! Opaque plum red. This wine flew out of the starting blocks like a 100m sprinter, with espresso coffee (thanks Richard) on the nose. Velvet smooth palate that went on and on...for about 30 minutes then gently began to fade. When I noticed some dryness on the mouthfeel , I drank up my glass. A treat to try this rare gem.

    1967 Berry Bros (Chapoutier) Hermitage
    After a swift call with Ian less than 2 hours before the event, I decide to bring this along to reinforce the flight and as a foil to the 1972 BBR Hermitage. Coincidentally, I had drank my last bottles of the 1972 and 1983 BBR Hermitage a few weeks earlier. At that dinner, the nose on the 1972 was excellent, but the palate as weak. The 1983 had a weak nose and a brilliant palate, so I suggested that blending both would make a super Hermitage! This 1967 had a good fill level and solid provenance. It opened its batting account well and simply improved over the evening. There was no hint of oxidation or weakness at any stage and was a testament to both the old vine grapes, the winemaking and the storage.

    1972 Berry Bros (Chapoutier) Hermitage
    A treat to try again and it was a worthy part of the flight. It gave me pleasure to drink it. However, this particular bottle suffered by comparison to the other two bottles of the flight.

    Flight 3

    1994 Allemand Cornas Chaillot
    I certainly drank my pour of this wine with some pleasure, but it felt unstructured to me.

    1999 Allemand Cornas Chaillot
    I liked this more than the 1994. However, I would buy at the prevailing prices.

    1995 Verset Cornas
    I enjoyed this Verset Cornas and thanks to Ian for bringing it along. I thought it was a good but not great 1995. It was one of our discussion points of the evening. I believe that, although the highs of Verset Cornas can be spine chillingly good, there is huge variability which is not often talked about or even mentioned. I bought 12 bottles of this wine on release and drank every single bottle over a 15 year period. My wine drinking experiences ranged from it tasting like an ordinary Cotes du Rhone (sadly my last bottle and one of the worst disappoints of my wine life) to a wine that made me and the person I was sharing this with enthusiastically proclaim that this nectar of the Gods had touched our very souls.

    1975 Chateau Trillon Sauternes
    I love the probably illegal main label reference of 'Contigu Chateau Yquem' - what a cheek! The fill level of this wine was in the neck and was part of a parcel I bought in France some years ago. Bottles have been at least good, and a previously bottle drank about 3 weeks earlier was liquid creme brûlée, pairing superbly with the madeleines at St John over the course of a 4.5 hour luncheon with esteemed hard core wine drinking friends. This bottle had a dash of funk on the nose and the simple mouthfeel was nice but not what I had previously experienced. #BottleVariation
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
  15. CED660C5-90E2-49A0-B5FE-3A9DC5F617DA.jpeg 04FE615B-2AFB-4B19-8B99-159DCFB62DDC.jpeg

    Thank you to Mathieu and the team at Noizé. Brilliant service and a wonderful set of dishes paired superbly with the wines. I didn’t manage to get shots of all of the dishes as the wines and food occupied all of the attention.

    Many interesting notes above and what a pleasure to imbibe so many fascinating wines from The Northern Rhône region.

    Just to add my thanks and a few small comments from the night!

    It looks like there were a few of us that truly enjoyed the Champagne, one wonders if the cocktails clouded the judgment and the excitement of the wait of the still wines dampening. The nose and palate of the Comte were fresh, citrusy and the bubbles respectably beading. I agree with Nicos the wine will certainly benefit from age to gain those brioche notes, I think it is a spritely aperitif and drinking respectably well now.

    I’d never turn up my nose for a chance to drink Vernay’s Vernon, and the golden robe was as alluring as always: the pears, light scent, dried fruits and viscosity, made for an elegant/quietly powerful sup. Vernay is a good producer and its a marvel what they can do with Viognier outside the ‘ super climat ‘ of Ch. Grillet. Clearly, both Vernay and let’s not forget Clusel Roch working the South Eastern terraces with a nice dollop of fine granite and schist under foot, gives them a tad more interest than the weighty, aromatic and floral wines that is typically Viognier.

    I picked up Gerin’s La Landonne over a decade ago. I recall being convinced by JLL - their beauty lies in their simplicity of this vintage, with a top rating handed to Gerin’s La Landonne - acidity in abundance and little oak required as it evolves gracefully. A fine representation of Northern Rhone nose and spice flavours. Tonight this was showing more backbone (acidity) and had more direct appeal with frank flavours than more subtle versions from bottles I’ve previously enjoyed .

    I wonder why everyone is surprised to smell and drink a wine that is quintessentially Northern Rhone and the signature obviously Jamet. The 1998 Jamet was that wine. It was the Campbell Tomato Soup. The quintessentially commercial advertisement - ‘Does exactly what it says on the tin’. If it didn’t have aromas of smoke, game and ‘gras’ then there would be an issue. It was a wonderful product of the Jamet estate. Great bouquet, solid nose of gras, an elegance that broadens on the palate with great length. As a Rhone fan, I was enamoured.

    The Hermitage next to the Cote Rotie allowed, in my opinion, to show the beauty of assemblage (Syrah and a dollop of Viognier) and what is great about Rhone’s single varietal. The latter never tiring on the palate and showing elegance, the former diverse and elegant.
    The bouquet started closed, as often the case in these more complex years (‘01, ‘95, ‘83) , perhaps not on par with the serious structure as in ‘99, Sorrel topped up ‘98 Greal with some ‘cru’ Greffieux providing a touch of roundness we come to know and love in Chave. There were plenty of secondary notes, game, black fruits and an assured ensemble on the palate.

    The 1966 La Chapelle was stunningly vibrant, rich with a viscous texture. The nose was indeed alluring, plum compote and yet, I found myself enjoying the vibrancy in the glass without a true sense of place. Could I tell this was a Rhone if served blind, well it didnt matter on the night, but the answer is no.
    In contrast, the 1967, which had a sense of place mid-France, not the most assured on the nose but wafts of syrah pepper and game made it a compelling rendition. The 1972 was clearly tired by comparison and the savoury notes slightly overwhelming.

    I’ll be the first to admit I am biased towards older Cornas. I thought the order and placement of the Cornas at the sitting ( saved for the last flight) was apt. They are mammoth wines. Noel Verset is the epitome of mastery in the region and it showed. He outshone both Allemand’s Reynard and Chaillot climats. Bold fruits, backbone and fine tannins outclassed the more chunky, chewiness of the latter.

    Again, a pleasure and privilege to enjoy a fine display of Northern Rhône wines.
  16. '98 Rene Rostaing La Landonne is drinking really well now, not far behind '98 Jamet. I had the two back to back over two days about 2 months ago.
    Gareth Powell likes this.
  17. Food line-up:

    Lamb belly canapés

    Turnip, duck gizzard, heart consommé
    Berkshire partridge, celeriac and apple
    Venison wellington, pomme puree, spinach
    Alino Punzalan likes this.
  18. 1998 is my go to vintage in the Northern Rhone at the moment. Most that I’ve had recently are in a lovely place and it’s a lovely vintage.
  19. Agreed.

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