The July meeting of the EDW Alumni group was a little trip down memory lane for our very own Erica Dent. Erica and Sara Bangert, from General Wine, took a holiday together in the Rhone earlier in the year and as any good wine educators should they brought back some superb wines to share with our monthly wine club in Winchester.
Sara delivered part one of her presentation to our group and focused on The Northern Rhone. With a slightly different twist to our normal event Sara had put together a presentation whereby she was able to show us maps and photographs of this region. Sara’s presentation began with a map of the Rhone which she used to talk us through how the Northern and Southern Rhone differ from each other and how the Mistral wind influenced the cooler climate of the Northern Rhone.
Sara and Erica began their tour of the Northern Rhone with a visit to Andre Perret but unfortunately for the Club, Erica’s favourite Condrieu was sold out! Moving on, the next stop was the vineyards of Roland Grainger. Domaine Grainger was created in 2002 when Roland took over the vineyards of his parents and a neighbour in Saint Joseph and Condrieu. Roland manages the vineyards himself where he employs green harvesting to control yields. In the summer the vines are stripped around the cluster sites to allow the grapes the maximum exposure to the sun. The grapes are then manually harvested from mid-September to early October.
Sara presented our group with three wines from Roland Grainger which included two white wines. As only 10% of wine produced in the Rhone is white this was a nice opportunity for us to try some. The first wine, Nuit Blanche, made from 100% Chardonnay is a wine designed to be young with lots of fresh citrus fruit flavours. The second wine, Condrieu Les Terrasses, made from 100% Viognier, had been fermented in oak barrels and had a much more pronounced flavour intensity with higher alcohol and a full body. Our third wine from Roland Grainger was a red wine, Saint Joseph AC Cote Granitis, 100% Syrah from vines that were 48 years old. The grapes were manually harvested, sorted and de-stemmed. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for three weeks and the wine was then aged for 18 months in oak barrels. The wine had strong black fruit characters and a long finish, the 2016 vintage that we tried was youthful, but this is a wine that has the potential to age for up to 10 years.
Moving further down the Northern Rhone, Sara and Erica’s next stop was Crozes-Hermitage where they visited the winery of Domaine Belle. Dating back many years and having been passed down from generation to generation, today Domaine Belle now stretches over six communes and three appellations. In 2006, the purchase of a small neighbouring vineyard in the commune of Crozes-Hermitage led to the enlarging and modernization of the Domaine’s winery. We tried two wines from Domaine Belle, Domaine Belle Roche Blanche 2016 made from 100% Marsanne and Domaine Belle Roche Pierre 2015 made from 100% Syrah. Both wines were of outstanding quality with pronounced flavours and long finishes.
The final leg of their Northern Rhone trip Sara and Erica visited Hermitage. Hermitage is the home to an estate owned by Cave de Tain. Founded in 1933 by Louis Gambert, successive generations have contributed to the growth of the company which today has more than 300 growers who share a common goal of economic success based on sustainable vineyards. Cave de Tain support replanting projects and use ancient skills that have been passed down through the generations which include traditional trellising on stakes and terraces. We had the great pleasure of tasting Cave de Tain Gambert de Loche Hermitage 2010, a wine that has the potential to age for between 15 – 20 years, it was full bodied, pronounced and the finish was extremely long.
To accompany the tasting of our wines from the Northern Rhone Sara had put together a presentation which included photographs taken on their trip. For us as a group we found the photographs fascinating as they gave a visual representation to the slopes and how steep they really are.
For our wine club’s September meeting Sara will be presenting the second part of their trip, the Southern Rhone, and we are all very excited to try the wines that they have brought back and learn more about the producers from this fabulous region. The EDW monthly wine club meets on the last Wednesday of the month and is open to anyone who has WSET Level 2 or above. It gives our members the opportunity to keep learning and trying new and exciting wines while having a chat with like minded people. Full details of our monthly wine club and joining instructions are available on our website.