Last night Liberty Merchant Co. spearheaded “Warm Winter Rhône,” a Children’s Hospital fundraiser wine tasting with Rhône Valley as the theme. Wine agencies across Vancouver banded together to pour their finest Côtes du Rhône (and CdR Villages), Crozes-Hermitage, Lirac and other specialties for a curious and energetic crowd.
I confess that I haven’t done much in the way of homework or tasting of Rhône wines, but this event offered a comprehensive, varied selection that helped bring me up to speed. Now if only I could remember to bring my camera along on my outings!
Rhône Valley is located in southeastern France, and is mostly a red wine producing region, although one can find delicious rosés called Tavel, as well as some interesting whites.
Recognize this? It's a Rhône wine.
You’ve likely seen or heard of this dusty, twisty-looking wine bottle labelled Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. It’s actually a place – this famous appellation is located in the southern part of Rhône Valley. Sadly, none was poured at Warm Winter Rhône that I know of, but the following goodies (among many other winners) were!
Warm Winter Rhône – Tasting Notes
Domaine de Cabasse “Les Deux Anges” Côtes du Rhône Villages – Sablet 2007
I wonder if the “two angels” in question here are Syrah and Grenache. Okay, there’s a splash of Carignan in here too, but I digress. An interesting red-fruity nose with an underlying theme of banana peel – at the tasting table, I couldn’t believe I dropped (for the first time) the über-pretentious wine term brettanomyces* into my conversation with the agent, but I did, guessing that the banana aromas could possibly be “brett”, to which he cheerily agreed – this wine was a lovely mix of red and wild berries with a very drinkable quality. You’ll definitely want to enjoy more than one glass. A light, rustic rabbit saddle dish would be most yummy. $20-24
* Brettanomyces (bret-TAN-oh-MICE-sees) is a strain of naturally-occurring yeast that tends to impart flavours into wine, ranging from mildly funky, leathery aromas to raw rubber or iodine (think dressed Band-Aids). Some wine nerds like to call it “brett” for short. I personally have never used this in regular conversation before, except for at last night’s event where I was making a wild guess – I don’t know if I was right or wrong. I’ve also never heard anyone else refer to it except for someone who is a Master of Wine, so don’t worry about not knowing this term. “Funky” ought to serve folks like you and me just fine.
Domaine de la Guicharde Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2008
A blend of Viognier, Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussane, this showed nice, prickly acidity and had delicious flavours of mineral, brine and tart fruits like guava, pear and unripe white nectarine. I think hamachi, tai, saba and other white fish sashimi would be a tasty match, or perhaps a not-too-lemony sole meunière. Price N/A.
E. Guigal Condrieu 2004
Condrieu is a northern Rhône wine producing region that makes exclusively Viognier wine.
Somebody catch me! This golden-hued work of art contains almost everything I like about white wine and more. To me, it tasted almost like it could have been a non-effervescent Champagne. Fresh and lively, this wine just dazzles with its complicated perfume and taste of peachy stone fruits in tandem with toasty aromas and creamy flavour and texture.
Imagine you’ve just finished breakfast on the farm, the taste of your buttered toast still lingering in your mouth, and you’re running through your orchard of ripe, heavy fruit, bowl of freshly whipped cream in hand. Every inhale is heaven, isn’t it? Now, stop fantasizing and go get yourself a bottle of this Condrieu.
The agent’s suggested food pairing was Cantonese-style steamed lobster in cream sauce, and I absolutely could not agree more. $60
La Compagnie Rhodanienne “Les Combelles” Côtes du Rhône 2006
One of Sean’s favourites, this is composed of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache. A subtle, brambly nose leads you enticingly into a rich, somewhat thick palate of dry, fine tannins and small red berries with a nice, mouth-coating finish. Good value to be found here for just $14. Personally, I’m not a big fan of veal, but this would be nice with a veal dish. At this price point, I’d recommend this as a reasonable yet classy wedding reception wine. (Ed.: Don’t worry, Sean, I’m not hinting at anything!)