The Southern Rhône is one of the greatest wine regions of the world - or so say I (as you can see from my short Wine Bio on our 'About' page). And ten-year-old Rhône wine is a real treat to taste side-by-side from eight different estates too.
Our Guest this evening was Marc Staples who is a Product Manager at LCBO and responsible for buying wines from different regions in both North and South America. Marc shared with us his knowledge of Southern Rhône and the different grape varieties that make up a typical or traditional Châteauneuf-Du-Pape (CnDP). Grenache is the main grape and loves the heat and ripens well in the south of France. But on its own it can be a bit intense and needs some tempering with other grapes; this AOC allows anything up to 13 varieties. This unique allowance may now be somewhat of a marketing ploy and the typical bottle contains more like five or six different grapes.
CnDP is a region of small and family-run producers still (compared to the huge producers of boardeaux or burgundy). And as the wineries are passed down through the family, the younger generations are not necessarily following their parents' methods and are chasing higher quality tastes. The wines this evening are beginning to show these differences with three different styles on offer. It was a marvellous opportunity to taste these wines side-by-side to see if it was possible to differentiate between the different styles either by colour, nose or on the palate. Did you manage it?
All eight wines were powerhouses of between 14.5-16% alcohol. Three of the wines were 100% Grenache: some of the producers are playing with "prestige cuvées" from specific parcels of land in their vineyards and experimenting with single grape varieties. Grenache is distinguishable by its red fruit, with earthy notes and usually high alcohol. Three of the wines had between 40-50% Syrah: this is unusual and is a high percentage for a typical CnDP. Syrah is distinguishable by its dark fruit and spicy notes with usually great structure and balanced acidity. And finally, the two remaining wines are more traditional with a blend of multiple grapes. These can usually be distinguished with less intensity of a Grenache or the backbone of a Syrah.
Tonight we were back to pre-pandemic numbers attending our tastings (hurrah!). And you could definitely sense the energy of the room and enjoy the laughter as Marc explained some of his more controversial favourites from the tasting. Marc described his tasting and scoring of the eight wines by saying that one wine stood head-and-shoulders above the rest; that one was very different from the rest, but that basically his wines 2 through 7 were within 2 points of each other. He found it a very difficult selection to sort into an order of favourites. Did you agree?
We hope you enjoyed the evening. Here are the final scores to compare. Note the variance between Guest and Group for wines E and F...
Please see the original tasting notes for these beautiful eight wines below: