In the old fashioned world of gentlemen’s clubs and wine merchants, the ageing of wine, claret in particular, was virtually the essence of wine appreciation. How the wine scene has changed but there is still a fascination with how wines age, whether they improve, whether people actually like to drink older bottles. Andover Wine Friends’ monthly tasting, on this occasion of wines from the Rhône, threw these questions into sharp relief.
The tasting started with two whites, a Viognier and a typical Marsanne/Roussane blend. The Viognier from Jean Michel Gerin (Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes) I had bought in some hurry from Berry Bros and had not noticed that it was 2005. I became anxious about it before the tasting because in general Viognier is much better young with its very distinctive peach/apricot aromas and velvety texture. This was a pleasant rather than outstanding example, the nose not that pronounced, some of the lusciousness still present but quite structured.
By contrast, white Hermitage is a wine to keep and let develop in the bottle. It can be one of the grandest whites in the world. The example was from Domaine des Remizières, Cuvée Emilie, 2001. This wine split people, some struggling with its tough minerality and slightly muzzy herbiness. It’s definitely not easy drinking. Retasting it after 24 hours, it had cleaned up and was more approachable. Later in the week, I tasted a couple of Hermitage 2006s from different producers at the London wine fair. They obviously had more freshness but were rather undeveloped (Jaboulet), though Chapoutier had made theirs quite approachable with mildly oak aromas.
The reds were much more straight forward. The younger wines came from a mixed case offered by the Wine Society from the excellent 2007 vintage. The older wines were generously provided by club members Andrew and Maria from the wine they have bought over the years – we are always willing to help with clearing space if you have quality old bottles cluttering up your house!
A trio of Côtes du Rhône Villages showed exactly how these Grenache-based wines age. Visan’s Domaine de la Florane 2007 is bursting with young fruit and acidity, a slightly unruly but likeable adolescent. By contrast, Château Laudun 2000 is in sedate old age, marked tertiary aromas of leather with a little pruney fruit. Standing up to the ageing process rather better was Jaboulet Aîné 1999, with the same aged characteristics but much livelier fruit. The colour difference after a decade is very obvious.
The evening finished with a pair of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The 2007 from Domaine du Vieux Lazaret was a textbook example of rich, vibrant fruit, layers of interest and a refreshing finish. It’s a big but balanced wine. Château Mont-Redon 1996 is one for lovers of seriously aged wines. Predominantly Grenache but with 35% of no less than six other grape varieties, the fruit is again prune and blackberry now transmuted towards leather and treacle.
And which wine would you like to drink with a meal after a tasting like this? My vote would go to a brilliant youngster, Domaine Coursodon’s St Joseph, Silice, 2007. 100% Syrah from the Northern Rhône, it shone with its purply-red colour, lively mid red fruit in the mouth, excellent mineral streak and wonderful acidity. Age in wines is a matter of taste.