Another week, another trip to Lyon

involving hideous parking problems (3 hours to find a parking space!), an idiot opening his car door on me as I drove past and a self-inflicted bang on the head. At least there are some compensations, good wine being chief among them.

Christelle Betton

Christelle Betton

Christelle Betton let us taste her newly fermenting red and white Crozes-Hermitage, as well as her lovely 2011 reds, Espiègle and Caprice. Christelle ferments the grapes from her various plots separately and even at this stage it’s easy to spot the difference between the wines from, say, Les Chassis and Sept Chemins, young vines and old vines. Christelle was shattered after three weeks with three hours sleep a night, but charm itself.

Alain and Emmanuelle Verset

Alain and Emmanuelle Verset

Alain Verset showed us how he draws the wine off the bottom of his tanks of Cornas every day during fermentation and pumps it back over the top to help extract colour and flavour. And so we could see the result, he then poured us glasses of every finished vintage from 2006 to 2010. The ripe 2009 and structured ’10 are still very young, the spicy ’06 and funky ’07 ready to drink. The most pleasant surprise, however, is the ’08, which Alain serves last. In the language of winemakers, 2008 was a “difficult” vintage (for which read “horrible”), cool with lots of rain. But despite that, Alain’s ’08 is a wine I’d very happily drink very often. Yes it’s lighter than the rest, but it smells like the contents of a spice rack (clove, cinnamon, star anise) and would be perfect with roast pheasant (maybe lightly rubbed with a little pimenton, for you foodies out there).

Mika outside his cellar

Mika outside his cellar

Mickaël Bourg handed us a barrel sample of his 2012 St. Péray. By the time of writing it should be in bottle and will be worth looking out for if you’re in the region (sadly he doesn’t export). Mika recently took over a plot of very old marsanne vines growing on granite in the northern sector of the appellation and they have added richness and structure to round out the liveliness of the wine from his vines grown on limestone. He’s rightly very pleased with the result.

We finished with a glass of his delicious 2011 Cornas. It’s a totally different style to Alain’s, darker with more fruit (especially blackcurrant). It’s one of wine’s fascinations that two winemakers, growing the same grape variety – syrah – in a wine region only a few kilometres long and wide, using similarly Heath Robinson facilities, can fashion such contrasting wines.

Seb in the cellar at Domaine de Lucie

Seb in the cellar at Domaine de Lucie

Non-interventionist rebel Sébastien Wiedmann explained the difficulties of doing as little as possible when making wine, drawing pictures to illustrate the whole thing, and expounded on his love of old plots of hybrid vines (naughty boy, Seb, but strictly for home consumption) before letting us taste his red St. Joseph 2011 and Lucie Fourel’s range of Crozes-Hermitage. Lucie makes a pure roussanne white and three different reds, of which the Saint-Jaimes 2011 was my pick. I should explain the Seb and Lucie are partners, in the living together sense, if not when it comes to winemaking.

Lucie Fourel's Aux Racines de Saint-Jaimes 2011

Lucie Fourel’s Aux Racines de Saint-Jaimes 2011

There were also visits to two of the Rhône’s big guns: Vidal-Fleury, who put on a great tour of their hi-tech winery before a comprehensive tasting of their range, and Yves Cuilleron, producer of damn fine Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu. Of course I picked up a couple of things; well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

Vidal-Fleurie's Brune et Blonde Cote-Rotie 2009

Vidal-Fleurie’s Brune et Blonde Côte-Rôtie 2009

Yves Cuileron's Les Chaillets Condrieu 2011

Yves Cuileron’s Les Chaillets Condrieu 2011

And for light relief and super-tasty everyday drinking, I came home to Alexandre Liotaud’s Rieu Frais syrah rosé 2012 (an excellent cure for stress and bumps on the head) and Julien Montagnon’s Domaine Lombard La Côte 2011 (an equally excellent accompaniment to a roast guinea fowl and an episode of Morse on YouTube).

Alexandre Liotaud

Alexandre Liotaud

Domaine Lombard La Cote

Domaine Lombard La Côte

Thanks to them all for helping me forget the less glamourous side of the job.

Santé

Paul

Note: This is the blog of Rhône Wine Tours, where I write about wine, food and the hazards of driving in Lyon. There’s plenty more on the website – www.RhoneWineTours – and lots of shorter pieces, photo albums and the like on our Facebook page.

For those of you who can’t make it to the Rhône valley, Christelle’s red Crozes and her white Hermitage are available at Theatre of Wine in London and the Hermitage should soon be in New York; Fields Morris and Verdin import Alain Verset’s Cornas, which should mean that you can get it at Berry Brothers (again in London); Seb and Lucie’s wines are – or at least were – sold by Vinoteca (guess where) and Lucie’s wines are imported into the USA by Wine Traditions; Vidal-Fleury’s tasty Côtes-du-Rhône is available at Majestic in the UK, check wine-searcher.com for US suppliers; Yves Cuilleron’s wines can be found at many independent merchants of taste and discernment – Theatre of Wine certainly stocks his great value vin de pays viognier, roussanne and marsanne, as well as some of his more expensive bottles. Again, a quick scan of wine-searcher.com should bring up a supplier near you.

 

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