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Rhones in the Garden


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Dinner in the garden again last night, this time with Rhone wines.

With a nice assembly of finger food:

Montaudon “Classe M” Brut Champagne – bottled for the year 2000 celebration (you’ll recall that many ill-informed people, blinded by nice round numbers laboured under the misapprehension that this was the turn of the century millennium, rather than a year later). This has now attained a nicely toasty note in the nose, and was clean and bright on palate. Pleasant beginning.

1993 Ch. de Beaucastel Vielles Vignes Roussanne – as has been my recent experience, this is now exhibiting a quite deep amber colour. The nose at first is slightly oxidative and there are some fino sherry notes on palate, but as the wine warmed up (rather swiftly as it was quite warm outside) it transformed into something rather different. The nose was one of beeswax and honeysuckle; it opened very nicely on palate and showed some peach fruit before a lengthy finish. These wines have a small following (they only make 4-500 cases a year and they are getting quite expensive), in which I am glad to include myself.

I had to really think about what to serve with this, especially in summer. I came up with something that worked very well (both to may taste and judging by other comments) – a cold Kubocha squash soup (very thick) served in teacups with unsweetened whipped cream piped over it, topped with a grating of nutmeg.

We had my wife in attendance, and as she isn’t one of the wine participants, I opened a bottle just for her. She allowed us to taste it:

1995 Jaboulet Parallel 45 Cote du Rhone – (I wanted to have her wine in theme) Dark, with a pronounced aroma of tomatoes and basil! Not bad at all, but now nearing the end of its useful life.

The next wine was old enough that I didn’t want to serve it with anything that might interfere with our enjoyment, so I made a grilled quail salad. I had based my deliberations on some recent notes on this wine, but as it turned out I needn’t have worried as it was more than capable of fending for itself.

1979 Jaboulet Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’ – this vintage gets less attention than it might otherwise attract as it came a year after the monumental 1978. The colour has lightened a bit over the years and the edges are now lightening a bit. The nose however, was big and unmistakeably Rhone – it resolved into a blood and tar melange with overtones of smokiness. The wine is now reasonably soft and is quite well balanced with excellent length and a hit of sweet fruit coming in late. The acidity became a bit more noticeable as it opened in the glass. This wine is concentrated and powerful – it is NOT elegant, as I have seen it described elsewhere. It will live on for quiet awhile but I think it is probably drinking as well as it ever will right now.

The next course was designed to facilitate comparison of two Gigondas – we had parsleyed new potatoes, grilled mixed peppers, and marinated butterflied leg of lamb grilled on the rare side.

1995 Dom. Santa Duc Gigondas ‘Haut Garrigues’ – made from 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre, with low yields and no filtration, these wines are a real surprise when you first taste them, as one doesn’t normally expect this sort of concentration from Gigondas. Ripe fruit and tons of black pepper in the nose, big in the mouth with soft tannin and a long finish. This wine is just getting into the beginning of its prime drinking plateau and has years to go.

1998 Dom. Santa Duc Gigondas ‘Haut Garrigues’ – the nose was much more restrained here and there was good depth of flavour, softer middle, almost a hint of bitterness right at the end, and actually drank better than the 95 right now. It developed some black pepper as it opened, but the pepper came in on the finish, not in the nose like the 95.The colour of this wine shows ‘older’ than the 95, and while it will continue to improve for a the next few years, I don’t think it will have the longevity of the 1995, which in the end I preferred.

With cheese:

1995 Les Cailloux Cuvee Centenaire – the reserve cuvee of this well known property, made of 80% Grenache, 16% Syrah and 4% Mourvedre. The nose was different – pepper, plums and camphor wood, later developing a perfumed quality. Medium bodied, long and mellow, this wine shows some soft tannin, but it is further aloing than I’d have thought it would be, and it should hold for a number of years.

1994 Dom. Font de Michelle Cuvee Etienne Gonnet – I pulled this out of the cellar when we reached the end of the last wine, we still had cheese left, and the assembled crew were looking thirstily at me. I served it blind, straight from the cellar, and they thought it might be younger than the Cailloux. It showed a stinkier peppery sweat sock nose with some black olive. A bit more full bodied than the previous wine, and with good length. Drinking well now.

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Lovely notes, bills. I'm impressed by the food pairings--they sound delicious, not overpowering, and fairly easy to prepare. (Which always wins points in my book.) I thought the squash soup with the roussanne was particularly inspired.

we reached the end of the last wine, we still had cheese left, and the assembled crew were looking thirstily at me

That's what happens when you're such a good host! :laugh:


Mary Baker

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