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Southern French Bistro Night


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Notes from a bistro dinner with a Southern French theme.

2002 Guigal Condrieu – pretty good melon/apricot nose here, a medium bodied wine that was a tad light right in the middle, and tailed off a bit with a hint of astringency and an impression of a bit of residual sugar. Started stronger than it finished.

2000 Dom. de Clovallon Les Aurieges (VdP d’Oc) - a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Clairette, Sauvignon and “other whites”. Not as immediately expressive in the nose as the Condrieu, but better balanced with decent acidity – a pleasant drinker to sip while contemplating the menu.

1995 Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Dom. Thalabert – I have a long and fond association with Thalabert, but I’ve been ‘off’ it a bit in the 90s. Perhaps recent performance just doesn’t compare well with vintages like the outstanding 1978 we had at lunch last month. Bright colour, excellent Rhone nose of blood and pepper, the latter continuing on palate. Smooth, the tannins there but largely resolved. It is now drinking near the plateau, where it should stay for some years.

1995 Graillot Crozes Hermitage La Guiraude – an interesting contrast to the Thalabert. Leather and pepper in the nose, with a bit more tannin showing and slightly sweeter fruit, with good length. The Graillot was both attractive and slightly more rustic than the Jaboulet, which was ultimately judged to be the better wine with more class. We all kept coming back to the Graillot and going ‘That’s pretty good, though”.

1999 Brusset Gigondas Les Hauts de Montmirail – We had the chance to compare Brusset’s top wine in two vintages with a similar Santa Duc – a Southern French tasting and amazingly, no Chateauneufs to be seen! This one was not as forthcoming in the nose as the 98, but showed vanilla and dark fruit. Sweeter but a bit simpler in the mouth with good feel.

1998 Brusset Gigondas Les Hauts de Montmirail – more vanilla and smoky plumy fruit, soft tannin and a nice sweetness at the end. Drinks very well now. Note to self – I have both regular and Les Hauts in this vintage – it would be interesting to taste them side by side, perhaps against the 2000 Les Hauts, which is perhaps even better. Things to do in the garden this summer……

1998 Dom. Santa Duc Gigondas Haut Garrigues – I think that the purveyor (purveyoress?) of this one had qualms about whether it was too early to drink it, but it was great fun to try it against the Brusset wines. I had opened my first bottle of the excellent 1995 HG last weekend as a sort of setting up exercise to get in tune with our theme, so it was doubly interesting for me to compare. A deeper nose with spice and maturing fruit (that is, no longer simple – it showed blackberry and anise). It also had somewhat superior length to the 98 Brusset. No rush to drink this, but it would be hard to stay away from.

2000 Mas de Daumas Gassac – this wine came from nowhere to be touted by the critics with resultant skyrocketing prices. I enjoyed it right from the start when it was all cabernet – it now includes other varietals. I loved the 1985, which I forced into such unlikely pairings as between a 1984 and a 1987 Mouton. And oddly enough also enjoyed the 1992 quiet a bit, although that certainly wasn’t the best vintage for the wine. This example surprised me a bit – this wine has always had fairly tough young tannins as a hallmark, yet the 2000 showed a sweet vanilla nose, fairly soft tannin (although the company it was tasted with must be taken into consideration) and good acidity. It does need a bit of time, but it drank pretty well now.

1994 Bousecasse Madiran Vielles Vignes – I thought that I would bring a wine few people would have tasted, and I thought that with more than a decade, this would be at least almost ready to drink. Wrong on the second count. Tasted blind, I daresay most people would have picked this as the younger wine, based on colour and tannin structure. It reminded me a bit of a 1975 Bordeaux in terms of structure – big oak, sweet spicy vanilla nose, and then you taste it and the tannins clamp down. These guys must like to flaunt it – the Tannat grape makes firmly tannic wines, and I believe that this one (the Vielles Vignes) is 100% Tannat, while the regular wine is ‘only’ about 60-65%, with cab and/or cab franc for the balance. This wine needs more time than the 2000 Mas de Daumas does. I am not sure how much fruit will remain when the tannins finally moderate. 1975 Bordeaux all over again. I probably won’t open another one of these brutes for 5 years.

Gonzalez Byass ‘Noe’ Pedro Jimenez Muy Viejo (30 years) – Very sweet raisiny nose, and overwhelmingly sweet on palate – so much so that there wasn’t much readily discernable flavour differentiation. To me, this wine is overkill, and although it will never fail to make an impression, as someone else at the table suggested, this producer’s Matusalem has most of the impact and more interest.

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