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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

’07 Rhone, Recent Impressions

I attended a sampling of some yet to be released ‘07s at Crush Wine & Spirits this evening and wanted to pass along a few brief observations:
· Several of the wines were closed, likely from bottle shock. Tasting them in this less than flattering stage brought their deceptively structured backbones to the forefront. This is a vintage that is not short of flesh or power, but don’t underestimate the firmly tannic spines that lurk beneath each wine’s wealth of fruit.
· The whites, as well as the reds, seem to be on point and deliver vivid flavors that aren’t short of bright acidity or palate cleansing minerality. More and more domaines are utilizing stainless steel tanks to ferment their whites to prevent oxidation and maintain freshness. The consistent success w/ tank fermentation has obviously been contagious.
· Olivier Hillaire continues to improve from vintage to vintage, w/ his ‘07s hitting a high water mark. The recurring theme here is that the lowest level bottlings (in this case, his Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes) over-deliver in terms of quality for their respective price points. I’ve found this domaine’s Cotes du Rhones underwhelming in the past, but this ’07 is a spicy, intense ball of Provencal flavors that is sure to please over the next several years.
· For whatever reason, Bosquet des Papes has remained under my radar, but their ‘07s have made that blip a bit more pronounced. The tradition and Chante Merle cuvees are absolute knockouts, already wowing w/ their wonderful concentration, flavor authority and persistence. If you haven’t sought them out yet, I highly encourage you to do so as I imagine they’ll leave you just as impressed as I.
· Is there a better base cuvee than Usseglio’s ’07? Before the prices get out of control, grab yourself a case of this explosive elixir. The sweet, floral aromas are completely intoxicating, and the density of the palate could fool just about anyone into thinking that this humble ‘appellation level’ wine is a super cuvee in disguise.
· Mas de Boislauzon’s ‘06s are some of the vintage’s finest, but look out for their ‘07s. The Cuvee Quet is quietly sneaking into discussions of the appellation’s best, but the Tinto (100 percent Mourvedre) has made the biggest splash. This label is a sheer crowd pleaser and I applaud Boislauzon for going out on a limb and making something so singular in the land of Grenache.
· The surprise of the evening had to be the Cairanne based Domaine named Boisson. I was somewhat familiar w/ their wines before but boy are my eyes open now! Their Cotes du Rhone is exceptional, the Massif d’Uchaux La Brussiere outstanding, but their highest end cuvee (from 70 plus year old Grenache vines), called Cairanne L’Exigence, was a sheer tour de force! At 20 dollars, you will NOT find more wine for the money. This is a meaty, chewy explosion of layered Grenache fruit, almost overwhelming the senses w/ its sheer palate saturation and dynamic array of flavors. Their line-up is not to be missed and I firmly place it in the run, don’t walk camp.


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