Rhone Wine Tasting Dinner
July 18, 2007
By Audrey Luk
Go to any wine-related event these days and itâ€™s obvious that the appreciation of wine is attracting a younger set. But no matter how long youâ€™ve been ordering futures or keeping a tasting notebook, a Rhone wine event is a tremendous educational experience for any palate. The regionâ€™s varied terrior, grapes, and appellations leave a lifetime of hedonistic learning to be desired. At a recent Rhone wine-tasting dinner at New York Vintners, six tables of eager oenophiles gathered to experience top-flight examples of the region.
Wine-making in the Rhone Valley has a long and storied past. Given its prime location as a passage to the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Atlantic, the Rhone River was long used as a trade route by the ancient Greeks but it wasnâ€™t until Roman times that the area became renowned for wine production. The papal occupancy of Avignon (1307-1399), a city in the southern Rhone, was another highlight in Rhone wine history. Local wines came to be known as â€œVin du Papeâ€? and this 68-year period did much to increase the quality of wine production in the area, and a relatively short while later in 1923, native son Baron le Roy revolutionized the French winemaking industry by introducing the appellation dâ€™origine contrÃ´lÃ©e system (A.O.C.) to wine. This system was adopted across France in 1935.
The Rhone provides a varied portfolio of prized wines as the valley is split into the north and the south, each encompassing a number of well-regarded A.O.C.s. The north is home to CÃ´te-RÃ´tie, Condrieu, ChÃ¢teau-Grillet, Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Cornas and Saint-Peray, while the south has ChÃ¢teauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Lirac, Tavel and Vacqueras. While the regulations and location of each of these appellations give one insight into why or why not one wine is appreciated over another, there is no substitute for tasting to determine personal preference.
At the dinner, a friend and I were lucky enough to be seated with a couple in the military that had recently moved to New York from Turkey, and an Indian couple that lived in New Jersey. All of us favored different wines; I couldnâ€™t get enough of Andre Perretâ€™s 2005 Condrieuâ€™s ping-pong effect, which sent beams of green apple, lemon zest, fennel and cedar racing around my palate while a diner at my table proclaimed, â€œOoh, I like this one!â€? when she tasted the Patrick Jasminâ€™s 2000 CÃ´te-RÃ´tie. The enjoyment of all the wines was enhanced by the pairings, which were expertly done by Rob Allen and Derrick Mize. The Rose was paired with a frisee salad with lardons, soft-scrambled egg and whole-grain vinaigrette, the Condrieu with seared trout with spinach, lemon, parsley and almond tapenade with saffron tomato sauce, and the Beaumes-de-Venise, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and CÃ´te-RÃ´tie with rack of lamb with ratatouille, potato, kalamata olive pesto and red wine demi-glace, and assorted regional French cheeses with the Cornas. Although there is no set formula for the task, especially considering the complexities of these wines in particular, Allen uses his â€œtower of powerâ€? method in which wine and food and placed in separate columns to see if they line up against one another. To view these wine on New York Vintners website please click here.
Chateau Pesquie 2006 Cotes du Ventoux Rose $15.00
Paul and Edith Chaudiere purchased their winery, Chateau Pesquie, in 1989 after deciding to leave successful careers in the private sector. Since then, they have drastically increased the quality level in the small AOC Cotes du Ventoux, eventually expanding their holdings to 72 hectares. The Rose is a nearly equal blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. Vinification takes place completely in stainless steel tanks and malolactic is always blocked to preserve freshness. The wine has lavender and nectarine on the nose with a crisp mineral finish that tames the bitterness of the salad greens while bringing out the slight smoke in the lardons.
Andre Perret 2005 Condrieu Chery $75.00
Andre Perret took control of the family domaine, just half a hectare, in 1982. With such a small domaine expansion was vital, and soon after taking control Andrew purchased a number of plots of Condrieu, toether with some in St Joseph, increasing the size of their holdings to over 8 ha. The new acquisitions included two lieux-dits Coteau de Chery and Clos Chanson. The balanced acidity and mid-palate is an excellent platform for the mÃ©lange of flavors featured in the second course of trout.
Redortier 2000 Beaumes-de-Venise $18.00
Eteinne de Menthon of Chateau Redortier is known for his use of 40% Syrah in most of his red wine cuvees, as well as his refusal to use any wood ageing, which he considers detrimental to the flavors of Grenache-based wines. The results are some of the most elegant Gigondas produced. His Beaumes-de-Venise wines are also quite excellent and offer tremendous value. The nose offered scents of game, barnyard and black cherry that led to sichuan peppercorn and dried rosemary after breathing in the glass for over an hour, leading to a satisfying, long finish.
Monpertuis 2004 Chateauneuf-du-Pape $57.00
The Domaine de Monpertuis has been in the hands of the Jeune family for several generations. Paul Jeune is now the proprietor of the 5 hectares of vines that are spread amongst 32 separate parcels throughout the confines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Cuvee Tradition is produced solely from old vines of minimum age of 60 years, with at least 85% Grenache grapes. The emphasis on terroir expression is clear here as the high alcohol and robust nose of earth and Provencal herbs are hallmarks of the appellation.
Patrick Jasmin 2000 CÃ´te-RÃ´tie $66.00
Patrick Jasmin produces only one red wine, with grapes produced from several different parcels spread over the appellation of CÃ´te-RÃ´tie. Half the wine is aged in 590-liter demimuids, half in 228-liter casks. The wines are never fined, but see a light filtration. Patrick is known for producing elegant, finesse-styled CÃ´te-RÃ´tie. The firm tannins here and sharp attack show that this wine still has plenty of ageing potential.
Robert Michel 1990 Cornas $105.00
Robert Michel took over his fatherâ€™s domaine at the young age of 29 in 1975. His holdings include 4 hectares in Cornas and smaller parcels in St. Joseph and Vin de Pays territory. La Geynale, a single parcel in his 4 hectares in Cornas, typically produces wines that are elegant, contain a lot of spice, and hold good tannins. Michel is considered one of the most authentic and traditional producers of Cornas. This superb example of layered flavors, from the juniper berries and mirin on the nose to the smooth, slight touch of brine on the finish, brought the dinner to an end.