What an array of stunners! A little tasting of 2017 Northern Rhône’s was, I think all who attended would agree, quite a bundle of laughs and a pile of quality wine experiences. 2017 is a great Northern Rhône vintage.
Many thanks must go to The Editor for his lunch of Chalk Stream trout followed by quite perfectly cooked Galician fillet steak with Hampshire asparagus. It was as refulgent a meal as the wines were explendent.
If you ignore the corked wine, we did not have a single bottle, and I include the Condrieu and two Champagnes, that was less than brilliant. In a way this was a bit of a shame as they all screamed and clamoured for you to lavish your attention of each one. But we did, oh how we did.
Let the heavy drinking begin!
Champagne Collection 243, Maison Louis Roederer
I have not had this for six months or so and it is just beginning to blossom. Candied orange and lemon peel flavours and toasty, bready aromas pulse through your nose along with scintillations of Digestive biscuit crumbs bursting.
It is dense and full, but the perpetual reserve wines with it more than enough acidity to keep it fresh. Very long with lively toastiness and plenty on fruit on the finish.
Quite full bodied, but not really rich, the dosage is spot on here and it is just a Champagne to drink with total delight.
Ignoring magnums, this is the single best bottle of Roederer Collection I have had. The Editor and I have 14 bottles of this in storage and they can happily stay there for another six months before we start wallowing our way through them. Super – what a way to start an afternoon!
Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006, Tattinger
Light, refined and totally beautiful nose. Désinvolte with its obvious quality, this knows it is good but is up for enjoyment without you have to work too hard to appreciate it.
It is highly refined with great lemony fruit and aged mushroom hints. Very fresh, though, it is drinking superbly well now and it does not seem like there is any rush to drink now, beyond everyone else topping their glasses up and I need more for me!
It wears its quality so effortlessly you just cannot help but enjoy with a smile and a chuckle. Very fine indeed. If you’ve got some, pop a bottle next time you see some friends and charm their socks off. Keep some bottles to drink over the next… Paf!… 5-10 years, easily.
Condrieu le Grand Vallon 2020, Francois Villard
Not too many years ago I would have thought we were wasting our time drinking a bottle on Condrieu – I hated the stuff. Just goes to show we can all make mistakes.
And I would have been very mistaken with this wine. I think I have had it three times now and it is easily the best Condrieu I have ever had. Now, you rabble at the back, that is not like saying it is the dog turd in London that has the least broken glass in it, this is a properly fine wine.
Positively sexy fruit with a lovely floral element. It oozes deliciousness. It is charged with a really powerful stoniness that gives it a lot of life and energy.
Despite this being from the crazy-hot 2020 vintage it is neither heavy nor overly boozy (it clocks on at 13.5%). I find too many Condrieu to be dense, thick and ponderous; this is none of those whilst having a great intensity of flavour.
OK, it may not have the most acidity of any low-acidity white wine in the world, but I feel that is made up for the powerful stone and fresh flower-elements that give this palate a lot of energy and direction. It is not gloopy; it could dance on the head of a pin so light is it on its feet.
I know not everyone at the tasting agreed, but this was a fine wine, and I am very glad to have more (that Matt Walls has twisted my arm into trying to age. If any Condrieu could age it is this one). I will pluck them from storage at regular intervals and enjoy having a lovely, expansive charm-fest with each bottle.
Cornas Patou 2017, Dumien-Serrette
This wine demonstrated a problem with tastings such as this. It was a small-scale, elegant, poised beauty of incalculable class, but it just got a bit lost after the prodigiously endowed wines that followed.
It has a pure, silken nose with refined, plum/blackberry fruit. It is squeaky-clean, Bewitching complexity also peeped nervously from the glass. It smelled really brilliant.
That silky purity is continued on the palate with a firm but oh so refined tannic structure. This is most energetic due to good acidity and freshly chipped stone flavours. The fruit is purest beauty and persists on a finish that seems to last forever as you remain transfigured by its star-bright, asterine charms.
This Patou will last and improve for 15-20 years, and I suspect it will be even more winningly beautiful when it is 15 than it is now. Drink with nigh-limitless pleasure in quiet, peaceful surroundings with people who do not shout too much. I will get my coat now.
Cornas Terre Brûlée 2017, Domaine Lionnet
This is also 13.5% but seems confidently structured. And it is clean! Three clean Cornas in a row, this has to be some kind of record. It has beautiful, powerfully characterful blackberry and blueberry fruit on the nose with a good ground of Syrah pepper and that Syrah characteristic that is known as ‘spice’.
Some people suggested there was a hint of new oak to this and that it was a bit Claret-y. Some people! Lionnet just bung all the grapes and stems in concrete fermenters, let it ferment with some pigeage now and again, transfer it to neutral old oak foudre, adjust the sulphur and bottle it. That is it. That is really minimal intervention winemaking. This is as Syrah, Cornas indeed, as Syrah/Cornas as it gets.
And with fruit as hygienic as that from Lionnet’s vineyards in 2017 (well, from every vintage of his I’ve tried), minimal intervention works just a treat, there are no beery, cidery aromas, it is not dirty, there is no greenness from questionably ripe grapes making it into the fermenter. It is a profound interpretation of the Cornas genre.
I see no problem in this ageing until it is two decades old. I would do yourself a favour, though, and pop a bottle, double decant it and, two hours later, revel in a great big stunner of a Cornas; it is really delicious!
Cornas les p’tits bouts 2017, Mickael Bourg
“And Jos Butler walks to the crease, his shirt sleeves stretched thinly over his super-humanly enormous biceps, ready to hit more sixes than you could realistically ask of any man, and hit them with style, class and an ease of play that is adjacent to total refinement.”
Only Bourg is a warrior with a flashing blade who can actually manage total refinement. Yes, let us get us this out of the way, it is more impressively proportioned than you could reasonably expect from a 13.5% wine. It borders on huge. Yet it has classy, svelte fruit, a profound but lithe tannic structure and is charged with energy from ample acidity.
I was pleased I was not the only person who commented on this, but something about the earthiness of the wine reminded at least two of us of young Thierry Allemand wine. This is quite a compliment, of which it is clearly meritorious.
Everything about it is positively compelling, its scale, its acidity, its fruit, the savoury-character it shows on the finish, its length, its harmony, its cleanliness, its class. Brilliant!
What a wine! A long and glory-filled future ahead of it (assuming the corks don’t screw the wine up), no rush to drink this as all. But popped for lunch the other day? It was real.
Cote-Rotie les Grandes Places 2017, Domaine Clusel-Roch
Only 13%, good, and there is a class-engorged coolness to the nose. This throbs with the dimension of old vines fruit and a really privileged growing location. One sniff and I am smitten.
The fruit is completely ravishing. Freshly picked, perfectly ripe blueberries, cherries and blackberries. These are dusted with a seasoning of new oak, just the merest hint all infused with a rich earthiness.
There is a real depth of flavour to this, in a more elegant and refined way than the last two wines, it still is profound. It is scintillating with complexity at every level of its multi-faceted personality.
It is very long. However, on the finish I notice a hint of something that has not been present in any of the wines so far. It’s a little dirty just as you swallow – there is a hint of Brett here.
However, if you or, even better, I (donations to the usual address) had a bottle or more of this to age I would not give up on your hopes of ageing it just because of this. There is only the merest hint of Brett there and some people have convinced me that this is just enough to add complexity without threatening that it’ll all turn to shit. Let us hope so, eh? Especially if I get a bottle to age!! That being said, don’t keep it forever, pop in 8-10 years.
I view Brett as a fault, but this is a really fine wine despite it. Another really wine wine in an afternoon of really fine wines; but this one has that extra shade of dimension, as did the Bourg, that makes it really, really special.
We have a bottle of Hermitage le Greal 2017 from Marc Sorrel as well, but that was corked. Bugger.