The Rhone, part two! Electric boogaloo!

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

On our second night in Avignon I slept horribly and woke feeling sick, so I missed the morning and lunch tastings at Santa Duc and Domaine Fondreche, which was unfortunate because I am very fond of both wineries. The report I received from our Master Sommelier, however, leaves me confident that the 09 reds from both will be excellent as expected. And there were rave reviews for the 2010 Fondreche rosé from the group at large. In fact, after tasting all the from the southern producers, I’m convinced that this may be the best vintage for Southern French rosé that I’ve ever tasted, but more on that later.

I felt well enough by the afternoon on Sunday to participate in the tasting of wines from Domaine Andre Brunel. Again, this is a producer whose wines consistently impress me, from his entry level reds, all the way up to his top-tier Chateauneuf du Pape, which is well out of my price range. Andre farms 90 hectares, using sustainable agriculture methods. He makes two whites; a Cotes du Rhone and a Chateauneuf du Pape. Both were excellent, though they suffer from the same problem as many whites from their appellation: their price makes them hard to sell. That’s not to say they’re not worth what they cost, however. Andre’s reds have been regular fixtures in our store for some time, and this will continue. His two CdR Cuvées, “Sabrine” and “Sommelongue” are consistently high quality, and good value at around $15 retail. Of particular interest among his Chateauneufs is the fact that he did not make his top cuvée, “Centenaire” this year, owing to too little yield on the vines from which it is normally produced. As a result, the little fruit that these vines did produce were blended in with his regular Chateauneuf du Pape Les Cailloux, which means that if you’re normally a fan of either or both of these wines, the 2009 Les Cailloux is an excellent vintage to buy.

Monday we left Avignon for Nimes, which is just across the river and down a bit. On the way we stopped at the Pont du Gard, a part of the ancient Roman aqueduct that used to supply water to the city of Nimes.


We ate lunch at Domaine de Gournier. This is one of the importer’s largest estates, at 200 hectares. The estate doesn’t fall into any of the major appellations of the area, so most of the wine produced is simple vin de pays, which means they are typically quite inexpensive. As is usually the case for me, I most liked their viognier and their Grenache noir. We were very lucky where the food was concerned on this meal because Maurice, the owner, has a very good friend who is a truffle hunter. As a result, every course of the lunch had either truffle salt, truffle oil, shaved truffles, or come combination of the three.

Our first night in Nimes we had a rosé tasting, which was excellent. I’ve never been shy about espousing my love for rosé, but 2010 was honestly the best vintage for southern French rosé I’ve ever tasted. I’ve had each rosé in the Kacher portfolio many times, and many vintages, and there are generally a few that I prefer head and shoulders above the rest. This year however, nearly every one was showing so well, I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. Though, if I did have to pick, it would probably be the Petite Cassagne.

Speaking of whom, we ate lunch Tuesday at Petite Cassagne/D’or et de Gueules (one winemaker, and one winery, with two labels). Paella is a dish generally associated with Spain, but it is also traditional to this part of France, so that’s what we had for lunch.

As always, I loved the white and rosé from Petite Cassagne, and I found the red to be actually a little more approachable than it has been in some previous vintages, though still very structured and authentic in style.  The same goes with the reds from the D’or et de Gueules label, almost all of which shone for me as amazing values for beautifully deep, structured, and terroir-driven wines.

Our dinner that evening was at Mas de Guiot, where we tasted again the rosé, which is my favorite I’ve tasted from them. We also tasted the 2009 Grenache-Syrah, which is already available in the store, and is outstanding, drinkable, versatile, and fruit-driven red. I was also initiated into the Confrerie of Nimes, which is a group similar to others which exist in several other winemaking regions in France. Their purpose is more or less to tell stories, sing songs, and promote the idea that wines from their region are the best in France.

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