This was one of those magical tastings where people assembled early, and there seemed to be a palpable excitement evident about the whole exercise. From the presenter's point of view, this is very exciting – you just hope the wines and the presentation fulfill the expectations. Happily on this occasion they did – the follow-up from participants in the next few days exceeded previous experience. And it is always gratifying when winemakers display the interest to attend … and all the moreso right in the middle of vintage. They contributed greatly to the tasting – particularly at the discussion stage, as technical details emerged after the blind tasting.
Tasters commented particularly on the volume of bouquet the wines showed, the way the wines just jumped out of the glass, and spoke to you. The freshness and fragrance of many of the wines, at 20 years of age, appealed widely … as did the thought of having them with appropriate meals. Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the whole presentation was the way participants assessed the wines, particularly with respect to the brett component that most tastings of last-century Southern Rhone wines will inescapably display. Tasters noted the presence of brett as a complexity factor in some of the wines, but went on to assess whether the wine was in fact diminished by it … for example, the fruit curtailed.
The glasses presented an enticing sight. Even just sitting there, once poured the 22 sets made the tasting room smell delightful. Numbering in two arcs from the front left, wine 8 shows the lighter colour of an all-grenache cuvée, wine 12 the darker vibrant hues of a high percentage of mourvedre. As is often the case with more burgundy-styled wines, there was not a great correlation between ranking and depth of colour, wine 9 for example, Clos des Papes, being one of the lighter colours, but one of the top wines.
In general, the wines suggested that 20 years is a delightful point at which to drink good Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape Southern Rhone Valley wines. None of the wines was fading, and indeed several still had noticeable tannin to lose, and softening and charm still to emerge. And it was near-impossible to identify which were the Gigondas wines, and which were the Chateauneuf-du-Papes, at the blind stage. One long-experienced taster from Victoria University of Wellington came to the tasting with this specific ‘it would be fun if ...’ goal in mind, but conceded defeat.
1999 is an interesting year in France, a year of moderation after the hot-year and often tanniny wines of 1998. In Burgundy 1999 is rated 92 – juicy, rich and vibrant – by Wine Spectator, whereas in the Northern Rhone Valley their rating is 96 – silky vintage with stunning quality for Cote-Rotie. In the Southern Rhone Valley however, their conclusion is a little less than Burgundy, 90 – Syrah- and Mourvèdre-based wines offer lovely balance and length; Grenache-based wines less successful.
So for all those who think the 1998s in the Southern Rhone Valley (Wine Spectator, 97) are a bit big and ripe, or tanniny, then the lighter, more supple 1999s should have much appeal. The only caveat to mention is, at that time, a measure of brett was frequent in many of the wines of these districts, so if you are hypersensitive to the savoury, fragrant qualities of even a measured brett component, this tasting might not be for you. Happily, many people find a little brett part of the wonderfully food-friendly appeal of Southern Rhone Valley wines.
There is a certain symmetry in checking out the 1979s at their 20-year point … an age when most Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines are considered to be approaching maturity. But we can add to that symmetry by having half the tasting from the second great appellation of the Southern Rhone Valley, Gigondas, to match the six wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. For most Gigondas wines, 20 years should be clearly full maturity. In effect this will mean that the red (and some black) berry characters and hints of aromatic garrigue complexity of youth will now be fully melded into complex, savoury, mouth-watering wines with some mellow autumnal hints, wines crying out for protein-rich meals.
Robert Parker on the Southern Rhone Valley district, and 1999:
In the English-speaking world, Robert Parker had by the turn of the century accumulated almost unmatched knowledge of the wines of the Rhone Valley. Only John Livingstone-Learmonth in Great Britain compared. The only caution needed in adopting Parker’s views is, at that stage he was still quite enamoured of brett (more below) in wines, whereas in parts of the world more influenced by the science of wine, essentially Australia, brett was becoming a no-no. In Parker's Wine Buyers Guide Sixth Edition, 2002, he comments: I have been visiting France professionally as a wine critic for twenty-two years, and have never seen such a quality transformation in a viticultural region as I have witnessed in the Rhone Valley over the last four or five years. A new, young generation of winemakers has increasingly taken charge of their family domaines. This has resulted in a refreshing new, open-minded approach to winemaking where the goal is simple - high quality.
Some of the young men and women Parker lists as changing the face of the Rhone Valley ... [ here, only those relevant to our Southern Rhone Valley tasting, and the text paraphrased ] include: Paul-Vincent Avril at Clos des Papes, Louis Barruol at Saint Cosme, Laurent Charvin at Dom Charvin, Christophe Délorme at Dom La Mordorée (now deceased), Laurence Féraud at Dom Pegau, Yves Gras at Santa Duc, Christophe & Isabelle Sabon at La Janasse, and Sophie and Karine Armenier at Dom Marcoux. In other words, over half our wines are considered by Parker to be showcase wines for the Southern Rhone Valley. Exciting, even with a little brett.
For the district as whole in 1999, Parker considers: This excellent vintage will be simply over shadowed ... [ by 1998, 2000, 2001 ] ... Fine ripeness was achieved in all varietals, with mourvedre and syrah performing better in 1999 than in 1998 ... Elegance and balance are the operative words to describe the Southern Rhone's 1999s, a vintage that will get better press as it evolves.
To complement Parker’s views, Antonio Galloni at Vinous considers: In the South … crop levels were lower in '99, but the growing season and harvest conditions were not so ideal as those of the previous year, and rain in mid-September affected some later harvesters. Numerous producers mentioned that careful elimination of less-than-ideal fruit was critical. While grenache was not quite as splendid as in the previous year, 1999 was an excellent vintage for later-ripening syrah and mourvedre. So there is good agreement.
Traditional vs Modern elevation:
An intriguing detail for the Gigondas wines within the tasting is the opportunity to compare alternative oak handlings. For 1999 Domaine La Bouissiere Gigondas and 1999 Domaine La Bouissiere Gigondas Le Font du Tonin, and for 1999 Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas and 1999 Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues, in each case the second more specifically named variant is the ‘modern’ version with elevation in a percentage of new oak. The standard wine tends to be the traditional approach, raised in vat and large old wood. There are comparable trends in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. In youth the difference is obvious – but less so later.
Background information to the Tasting – Vintages in the Southern Rhone Valley:
Only five times in the 47 vintages 1970 – 2016 has Robert Parker / The Wine Advocate allocated a score of 98 to a Southern Rhone vintage. For 1999 they say 90. Wine Spectator Rhone Valley ratings start in 1988. Though they are a bit more conservative, having allocated 98 once only, to 2010, they have now gone to 97 four times. For 1999 they also say 90. So 1999 is a good year by any standards, and when one reflects that American sources tend to rate bigger and more alcoholic years more highly, tasters with a more European palate may well find an understated year such as 1999 more to their liking than the numbers suggest. Incidentally, the exciting detail in these ratings is, Wine Spectator rates 2016 at 99, the finest ever. Since these wines are (at the point of writing) just coming into the market-place, it is time to add to one's Southern Rhone cellar.
There is no doubt that 1998 heralds a golden era for the southern Rhone Valley, with relatively few vintages in the preceding 20 years rating 90 or more (in the American view), but many reaching that level since. Yet with the recent strength of the New Zealand dollar, until the 2015 and 2016 vintages, prices have remained accessible, for wines of absolute world quality. The problem now is, the world is discovering the joys of Southern Rhone Valley wines. It will be harder to find comparative tastings like this 1999 one, for the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Table 1: The better Southern Rhone Vintages of the last 47 years, compiled from Broadbent (B, to 2002), Parker (rated 90 or more, from 1970, where T = Tannic / youthful, E = Early / accessible, I = Irregular, and C means Caution, may be too old), Wine Spectator (WS, 90 or more, from 1988), and John Livingstone-Learmonth (J.L-L, for additional detail):
|YEAR||Broadbent||Wine Advocate||Wine Spectator||Summarised comments|
|1970||****||–||–||B: excellent in south, rich and well-balanced|
|1971||****½||–||–||B: low acid, not kept quite as well|
|1978||*****||97R||–||B: best since 1911, big, tannic, rich; J.L-L reference year|
|1983||*****||87C||–||B: excellent, rich, concentrated, hard tannins have softened|
|1985||*****||88R||–||B: outstanding reds, rich, long-lasting|
|1989||****½||94T||96||B: rich complete reds; WS: powerful concentrated reds, round tannins|
|1990||*****||95E||95||B: less aromatic than 1989, powerful, promising; WS: massive wines, great concentration|
|1995||****½||90T||90||B: comparable with 1990; WS: tannic reds, Chateauneufs improving beautifully|
|1998||*****||98E||97||B: best since 1990; WS: dense, rich, superb grenache, ripe tannins|
|1999||****½||90E||90||B: south less than north; WS: syrah and mourvedre wines better than grenache|
|2000||–||98E||94||WS: powerful rich ripe reds with silky tannins|
|2001||–||96T||92||WS: great vintage with structured racy reds in Chateauneuf|
|2003||–||90I||93||WS: very hot dry year, best superb, some inconsistency|
|2005||–||95T||97||WS: great concentration, structure, should rival '98 and '90|
|2006||–||92R||93||WS: ripe, pure, balanced, fresh, like 1999 but more concentrated|
|2007||–||98E||95||WS: ripe rich powerful reds, some grenache over-ripe, mourvedre key for balance|
|2009||–||93E||94||WS: Warm dry year, cool nights retained acid, pure fruit and polished tannins|
|2010||–||98T||98||WS: Reduced crop, warm days, cool nights, beautifully ripe racy wines for aging, the spine of '05 with extra flesh|
|2012||–||92E||93||WS: small crop, grenache year, ripe flavours, well-balanced|
|2015||–||93T||97||WS: best since 2010, powerful; J.L-L: a very good vintage, but not on a par with 2010 ... though Gigondas excelled|
|2016||–||98E||99||WS: Exceptional diurnal variation, truly rare vintage. J.L-L: 2016 is an exceptional vintage at Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, and is very good indeed elsewhere ... superior to 2015.|
Cepage: the Main Grapes:
The main red grapes of the district are grenache, syrah, mourvedre, vaccarese, counoise, cinsaut and carignan. Some appellations permit whites in the red. Few winemakers use them. Grenache is far and away the dominant and traditional variety of the region. It is thin-skinned, is characterised by aromas of raspberry and cinnamon, and in a sense produces a kind of spirity pinot noir. Unlike pinot noir, it hides alcohol freakishly well, such that wines up to 15% may be quite acceptable. Either syrah or mourvedre is the next most important in quality terms. Both add darker berry notes and complexity, and (from syrah) perhaps hints of black pepper / spice though the climate is against the more subtle floral and aromatic characteristics of syrah. Mourvedre is more finicky, and harder to ripen, but in the great years is the more noble of the two in this district, particularly in its tannin structure. Wines with a higher percentage of mourvedre cellar well. Of the lesser varieties, vaccarese is floral and aromatic at best, counoise can contribute acid, cinsaut is a pretty, pale, early-maturing variety reminiscent of pinot meunier (and widely used for rosé), while carignan is a robust productive well-coloured grape making hearty wines which are great in youth, but don't age well. Its best use is in vin de pays and the like.
Wine style, and Buying:
The big challenge for the antipodean wine-lover is to find clean wines. Traditionally French winemakers and European winewriters have to varying degrees been blind to sulphides, which even in small amounts have the unfortunate effect of making the whole wine dumb. This is exacerbated by many wines being made and held in concrete vats, where aeration is difficult. Nowadays, switched-on winemakers (and winewriters) are much more conscious that these Southern Rhone grapes are gloriously fragrant when neither over-ripened, or reductive. The goal is to find wines redolent of floral notes such as sweet william / carnations / wallflowers / dark roses, lavender, rosemary (the so-called 'garrigue' note) sometimes with a touch of cinnamon spice (from grenache) or white or black pepper spice (from syrah).
Many wines are still made in concrete, a number now in stainless steel, supplemented by big old wood. The trend now for some is to be ‘modern’, with varying use of new oak. The varieties scarcely need it, due to their intrinsic tannins – especially in mourvedre. All too often, the Reserve bottlings with more new oak are intrinsically less fragrant and complex wines than the straight ones, but appeal to the American market where bigger, more obvious and heavier is favoured over lighter and more beautiful. The point of including the twinned pairs of Gigondas wines is to see essentially the same cepage raised in vat and big old wood in the standard Gigondas, whereas for the ‘prestige’ labels some of the wine is raised in small oak, including some new.
The other factor to be on the lookout for is our fragrant wild-yeast friend Brettanomyces, brett for short, which traditionally has been a part of the bouquet complexity in many Southern Rhone wines. This is due to the prevalence of old oak, and the reluctance of many proprietors to sterile-filter to bottle. The latter approach was mistakenly strongly endorsed by Robert Parker, before he became attuned to brett in wines. There are two key issues about brett: The first is that no two bottles in a case will be the same, unless the wine has been sterile-filtered, so do not give up on your resource, because one bottle is a bit too bretty. And the other is, some people are hyper-sensitive to brett, and like to make a fuss about it. All too often this can detract from the pure enjoyment of the wine by more tolerant tasters. The simple fact is, most people like a little bit of savoury brett complexity in wine, and it makes the wine superb with mains course foods.
Broadbent, Michael 2002: Michael Broadbent’s Vintage Wine. Harcourt, 560 p.
Broadbent, Michael 2003: Michael Broadbent’s Wine Vintages. Mitchell Beazley, 223 p.
Karis, Harry 2009: The Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Book. Kavino, 488 p.
Parker, Robert 1997: Wines of the Rhone Valley. Simon & Schuster, 685 p.
Parker, Robert 2002: Parker's Wine Buyers Guide Sixth Edition. Simon & Schuster, 1,648 p.
ww.drinkrhone.com = John Livingstone-Learmonth, J. L-L below, subscription needed. Invaluable detail.
www.jancisrobinson.com = Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW, subscription needed for reviews
www.robertparker.com = Robert Parker and Jeb Dunnuck, vintage chart, subscription needed for reviews
www.winespectator.com = vintage chart, subscription needed for reviews
THE WINES REVIEWED:
‘Prices’ shown below are the current wine-searcher value. Note these are often an indication only, since 1999 is considered unrealistically ‘old’ (by them), for Gigondas particularly … but for both appellations. Bizarre. The absence of comment from Jancis Robinson reflects the fact that she and her fellow tasters rather overlooked the Southern Rhone, till this century. Livingstone-Learmonth therefore provides the essential English viewpoint. Where known, the original purchase price is in the text.
The top six wines of the tasting. From the left: 1999 Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf-du-Pape, very different from the others, a near-Cote-Rotie floral bouquet and fresh palate bespeaking a whole-bunch approach, 18; 1999 Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas, a more traditional winestyle, 18; 1999 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape, soft, burgundian, almost succulent, 18.5; 1999 Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas, beautiful modern wine again with whole-bunch fragrance and complexity, a little deeper than the Charvin, 18.5; 1999 Domaine de la Mordorée Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de la Reine des Bois, supremely fragrant and subtle modern Chateauneuf, 18.5 +; and 1999 Domaine Brusset Cairanne Hommage a André Brusset, amazingly youthful and fresh, showing great richness and depth, 19.
Ruby and velvet, a sensational colour from for a 20-year-old wine, clearly the reddest of the 12, and the second deepest. Bouquet has that amazing deep, dark, velvety and darkest fresh plum (but not prune) character of a high mourvedre blend, wonderfully fragrant and pure, lightly aromatic with hints of rosemary / garrigue, plus a tanniny smell. In flavour the texture is velvety, only word for it, bespeaking a wonderfully low cropping rate, plus the velvety fine-grained dark tannins of mourvedre. With 24 hours development and air, in glass, there is the faintest savoury / spicy brett suggestion, adding to bouquet complexity. Two only tasters rated the brett ‘significant’. In terms of the stability of the wine in cellar, it is simply complexity, of academic interest. There is soft older oak shaping the wine and the tannin balance, but no aromatic resins from new oak. It is hard to imagine how a darker-spectrum Southern Rhone blend could be more exciting, unless one is totally wedded to the lighter red fruits and more pinot noir-like style of grenache-dominant wines. This will cellar another 20 years, easily, it still needing to lose some tannin. This 1999 vintage was the first release of the blend, to honour André following his death that year. It was then priced $NZ99. The 2016 just offered in New Zealand is $52. Perhaps production is now a little greater. This was clearly the favourite wine on the night, eight first places including both Otago winemakers, five second places. Exciting wine. You cannot help feeling that J.L-L's bottle in Copenhagen was unrepresentative, heat-affected in transit / storage maybe. GK 03/19
Ruby and velvet, not quite as youthful as the Hommage wine, but one of the two reddest, and the third deepest. Bouquet is in one sense even more exciting than the Hommage, for there is an enormous volume of fragrant red fruits all slightly cinnamon-spiced, a little vanillin from new oak adding to the garrigue aromatics, and all lifted slightly by the piquant alcohol fume. It is totally different from the Hommage, all red fruits browning slightly now, a much more regular but modern Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend. It could be marked higher than the Hommage – style preference comes into it. Both bouquet and palate show total purity, a saturation of cinnamon-laced red fruits, the new oak beautifully subtle so the finish lingers on aromatic fruit, not oak. This is very beautiful Chateauneuf-du-Pape in a more modern style, as is the 1998. It will cellar another 10 years, at least. Three people had this as their top wine. Curiously several people rated it their least wine, but I did not elucidate why. GK 03/19
Ruby and garnet, another glowing exquisite colour, quite the lightest of the 12. The volume of bouquet here is a delight, mainly red fruits, a beautiful near-floral garrigue aromatic component, plus great zing / piquant excitement from trace brett. In mouth the whole wine is soft, velvety, burgundian in a big spicy Cote de Nuits way, shaped by older oak but the oak flavours minor, suppressed, exquisitely integrated. As so often, Clos des Papes is the most free-run and charming wine in the set, supple, mature, yet no hurry at all. Even with trace brett, this is absolutely beautiful wine, which would grace any dinner setting. It was the second most-favoured wine on the night, four first places, three second. Two tasters thought the brett ‘significant’. The aftertaste lingers delightfully on spicy almost succulent fruit. GK 03/19
Glowing garnet and ruby, below midway in depth. This bouquet stands out in the set, showing a slightly garrigue-influenced florality and charm on red fruits which in style tiptoes towards the Cote de Nuits. There are suggestions of whole-bunch freshness, fragrance and complexity – all exceptionally beautiful. Palate is not quite as rich as some, but the quality of flavour makes up for that. The red fruits plus spice of grenache dominate, but it is easy to imagine some black pepper aromatics from syrah, too. Being the standard cuvée of Saint Cosme Gigondas, there is no new oak, but nonetheless reasonably young oak notes do lengthen the palate. This is totally pure wine, fresh to a remarkable degree reflecting the whole bunch component, a southern Rhone wine to show to those who dismiss Chateauneuf-du-Pape and its related winestyles as either too alcoholic, too strong / heavy, or too bretty. This Saint Cosme is exemplary. Four people rated it their top or second wine – fair enough: it defines modern Gigondas. Fully mature now, but will hold 10 years at least. GK 03/19
Garnet and ruby, glowing and limpid yet older than most. Bouquet is totally different from all the other wines in the set. It is clearly highly fragrant, nearly wallflower / dianthus floral, closely in style and confusable with Cote Rotie. This wine shows the most obvious whole-bunch influence in the set. Palate follows exactly, a person habituated to warm-climate wine styles might say there is a stalky suggestion, but to anyone who studies Cote Rotie, it is well within the spectrum of syrah complexity, even if there is a hint of white pepper. In one sense the wine is light in the mouth, but it is neither weak or unsubstantial. It just draws its analogies more with Cote Rotie or the Cote de Nuits, than the Southern Rhone Valley, as Domaine Charvin so often does. No first places, but six second favourite ratings: interesting! It is remarkably pure wine, approaching full maturity. It will hold this style for maybe 10 years. GK 03/19
Garnet and ruby, right in the middle for depth. This wine was set as number one in the blind sequence, since at the decanting and sequencing stage, it seemed to fairly represent the style sought in a tasting like this, without being clearly the best wine. In sequencing blind tastings, it is critical to never put the ‘best’ wine first, for it is psychologically impossible for tasters to rate the first wine top. This wine exhibits lovely fumey red fruits browning now, with aromatic and spicy southern Rhone complexities, all lifted by academic / trace brett at a desirable complexity level. Palate is texturally excellent, nearly velvety, full of flavour yet not heavy, no new oak intruding, long and gently lingering in mouth, slightly drying cinnamon to the finish. Nobody rated it first, second, or least. It is fully mature now, but will hold its form for some years. GK 03/19
Ruby and garnet, well above midway in depth. Bouquet is immediately heavier / stronger in this wine, with a nearly resiny new oak quality complexing the red and darker fruits of a southern Rhone winestyle. It is quite spicy, and fumey too, the higher alcohol lifting the bouquet. Palate is fairly rich, plenty of browning fruit and cinnamon spice, all made aromatic by the oak. It is now nicely integrated, the whole wine harmonious yet obviously new-oaky too. Smelling and tasting it alongside the mainstream Santa Duc Gigondas, the latter wine is so much softer and gentler in mouth. New oak in Southern Rhone blends needs to be as carefully conditioned, and as subtly used, as in the Mordorée example. Here it is approaching unsubtle – though that means many New World tasters think it just right. No votes for first or second place, but one ‘least’ vote. Thus a wine well in the middle, which fulfilled its intended role of demonstrating if new oak contributes at all positively to Southern Rhone winestyles. [ The goal was to have two such pairings, the standard old oak elevation versus the new oak / more modern wine, but the mainstream La Bouissiere Gigondas had to be rejected for TCA, which allowed one of the Reserve wines, the Hommage are André Brusset in. ] Fully mature now, but will hold. GK 03/19
Garnet and ruby, just below midway in depth. This wine took a little while to clear, there being an unusual almost ‘canned green bean’ note on the newly-opened bottle. It developed in glass to a wine suggesting high mourvedre, quite dark, rich, lightly spicy and aromatic, no new oak. Palate lightened things up to a degree, clear cinnamon-influenced grenache now, but darker syrah and mourvedre still very obvious, rich furry but fine-grained tannins showing even a hint of coffee notes, and a very long flavour. In one sense it seems drying to the finish, yet it is so rich you feel it needs another 10 years, to crust in bottle and lose some tannins. Interesting wine, which two people rated top, and two second-favourite. The winemakers thought this wine showed a whole-bunch influence, and it is certainly part of the stated winemaking. This character seemed less obvious to me than in the fragrant Charvin and Saint Cosme wines, however. Cellar another 10 years at least. GK 03/19
Ruby and garnet, the deepest / densest colour of the 12. Bouquet is strong, unequivocally southern Rhone and sunshine, lots of red and darker fruits, a fumey lift, clear resiny even toasty new oak, and spicy both from grapes and a light brett component, as well as oak. Palate shows rich fruit and a long flavour, but even more resiny and noticeable new oak than the Hautes Garrigues, and more of a coffee undertone than the Vieux Donjon. At this level I think new oak detracts from the potential harmony of the southern Rhone winestyle, particularly when the cepage includes considerable mourvedre (or when the alcohol is elevated). The oak and alcohol interact to a degree, as in so many Australian red wines, but at least in this wine there is not the harshness of added acid to the finish. And the fruit flavours are well sustained too. This needs another 10 years in cellar to lose tannin, and will cellar for a good deal longer. This was the only wine of the 12 to achieve no ranking / response to any of the five questions, at the blind stage. GK 03/19
Garnet and ruby, right in the middle for depth. This wine has a considerable volume of bouquet, red fruits browning now and spicy with cinnamon, but also lifted with the darker spicy notes of some brett, particularly showing the nutmeg of the 4-EG phase. Oak is not at all apparent on bouquet, so the net smell is classic old-time Chateauneuf-du-Pape. In flavour the wine is rich, big and long, but drying a little to the finish. Unlike some of the other wines, despite the richness it might not be prudent to keep bottles for decades, in case the brett goes ballistic. It is pretty delicious now, though, well-suited to rich dark slow-cooked casseroles. One person had this as their top wine, and four their second-ranked. Even though 10 tasters noted it had brett at a ‘significant’ level, only one recorded the Pegau as their least wine. This shows sophisticated wine assessment skills and experience. An interesting wine to have in the tasting. GK 03/19
Garnet more than ruby, the second lightest, and clearly the least rosy wine. Initially opened and for some hours after, the bouquet showed some premature oxidation / sucrose-y / malty notes mingled with the fragrant all-red-fruits-browning-now characteristics of an all-grenache cuvée. This was a nark, as the role and contribution of this wine to the tasting was intended to be an illustration of the character of a 100% grenache wine, in comparison with the more regular blends. As soon as you tasted it, things improved a great deal, there being a delightful viscosity of rich browning red fruit with a long ‘sweet’ tail, almost diverting one away from any defects on bouquet. I think it is brett-free, but that is a little hard to tell, where there are somewhat oxidised tannins. Tasters were astute on this wine, too, finding oxidation less to their preference than brett, so 11 least places. The cork was exceptionally good, and ullage negligible for its age (14 mm), so we have to hope that this is one of those unexplained ‘cork failure’ bottles … and not symptomatic of the batch. A good bottle would score much higher. On the fruit richness, good bottles should cellar for some years yet. GK 03/19
Ruby and garnet, just above midway in depth. This wine stood out in the tasting for its conspicuously ‘complex’ bouquet: lots of spicy red and darker fruits matched by a big but essentially still-positive brett component: nutmeg on venison casserole. But yes … there are some hints of horse tack and unspecified farmyard as well. Fruit is still pretty good though, so the wine is not being attacked from within yet, with very savoury oxo / meat extract and spicy qualities enveloping the browning red fruits. Tannins are starting to show to the finish, so this is another wine not to keep too much longer, in case the brett takes control. Two people rated Cayron their favourite wine, and one their second favourite. Four however had it as their least, while five thought it showed ‘significant’ brett. It seemed necessary to say: it is okay to like brett – wines like this are wonderful with savoury slow-cooked dark casseroles. GK 03/19