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Summary of Grower Visits – Part IV

More commentary on the visits Michael and I made to the growers between Oct 16 and Oct 23 …

DOMAINE DU GOUR DE CHAULE: Harvest in 2018 started on 13 Sept for the Rosé and then proceeded in stages of 3 to4 days as the vineyards ripened in an irregular, and different, pace … 17 Sept, a break, then 21 Sept, a break and again on 27 Sept. with a final stage occurring between Oct 1 and Oct 5. The estate is now certified organic.

The 2017 vintage suffered a 30 to 35% loss from normal production levels due to frost damage.

Gigondas Rosé 2018 is 100% direct press this year and is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault; on the elegant side with a pale pink tint.

The Cotes du Rhone 2017 was harvested under perfect conditions; it is nicely aromatic, quite spicy and less fruity; with excellent balance and length and lively, somewhat grainy tannins. The wine comes in at 14.2%

In 2017, there are as usual two cuvees of Gigondas; on tasting them blind, I again selected with a clear preference the cuvee assemblage that always represents “our cuvée” which always sees elevage in foudre; a truly traditional and classic Grenache-driven wine.

The Gigondas 2016 was also harvested under ideal weather conditions and, according to Stephanie, will be a “grand vin de garde”! beautiful balance, fresh with silky tannins; a very impressive wine. Stephanie also made a small amount of the Gigondas “Cuvée Eugene” with an elevage in barriques of 3 years age (because they didn’t have room to get a demi-muid into the cellar!). Only 900 bottles have been produced. It is a wine marked slightly by “surmaturité” but further aging should prove beneficial in rounding out the wine and dialing it back a bit. Clearly a wine of excellent concentration.

MIKAEL BOUTIN – RASTEAU: Mildew was a problem here in 2018, the result of which is a loss of about 20% of the crop; harvest began on Sept 24 as the Grenache which is 50% of the cuvée took time to ripen.

The 2017 Rasteau is full in the mouth, quite lovely but less ripe than the 2016 (to follow). Harvest in 2017 was quite early: debuted on 3 and 4 Sept and was completed in a week. The ultimate wine finishes at 14%. The wine is unfiltered.

Boutin uses all of his press wine to supplement the base of the wine which results from a relatively short cuvaison of 15 to 18 days; thus, the richness of the extract comes from the press wine.

The 2016 Rasteau is a child of a small crop. Concentration level is excellent. A touch of rain before harvest was quite beneficial. The wine has outstanding body and, in Mikael’s judgment, is superior even to the top-rank 2015. Lots of spice, quite fresh tasting and lively on the palate. Compostion: 50% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 15% Carignan, 15% Cinsault. It was bottled in July 2017 with a light filtration due to the high level of extract and richness; it sits at 14.5%. This will be the next wine for us to ship.

SPECIAL NOTE: The wine clearly punches above its weight and its fresh, spicy profile is very different from the bulk of the candied, overripe wines that hit our shores from the southern Rhone. Great value, stylish wine!

DOMAINE LA MANARINE: Gilles Gasq suffered like most of his fellow vignerons in the southern Rhone from a spring that was damp and without the drying winds of the mistral. The result: a loss of about 50% of his 2018 harvest from mildew, and this on the heels of a loss of 30% of the 2017 harvest due to frost. In spite of this loss, the quality of what remained is outstanding in both vintages.

The Blanc 2018 comes in at 13% ABV and is composed of 20% Grenache Blanc, 40% Clairette, 40% Bourboulenc; quite elegant and fruity at this early stage.

The Rosé 2018 is 50% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah. It is “vif”, elegant, sufficiently round, with a pink-rose robe.

Carignan 2017: a very dry vintage but with good freshness; it will be bottled at the end of 2018 at 13.5%. a solid value and without a hint of the “animal”.

Cotes du Rhone 2017: a 14% ABV wine from 100% Grenache; excellent density and length; less elegant than the 2016 but the touch of rusticity gives lots of character to this bellwether wine. The tannins provide good grip and a subtle but persistent finish. We will not be disappointed! To be bottled end of 2018.

Cotes du Rhone “Plan de Dieu” 2016: 90% Grenache + 10% Syrah; nicely round and fat, this wine no longer carries that “confiture” that made it seem heavy and overripe; beginning with 2014, Gilles has started harvesting the grapes for this cuvée earlier to capture more acidity and freshness; the wine really benefits from that change of strategy and this 2016, from an outstanding vintage, is the best effort yet. It sits at 14.5%

Chateauneuf du Pape “Pied de Baud” 2016: excellent vintage; quite « garrigue » on the nose and spice in the mouth ; has a sunny aspect to it : warm but not clumsy with lots of « tension » ; Gilles left 50% of the stems in this vintage ; more material and structure in this wine than in its predecessor from the 2015 harvest ; an ongoing project that is proving its worth … very fine !

That is it for this Part IV. More to follow over the coming days. NIR