Weekly Practice Tasting - Rhône - An exercise in "terroir"...


For our weekly practice tasting, we focused on wines from the Rhône.  

Particularly interesting for this exercise is that all wines were from a single producer: Domaine Paul Jaboulet Ainé.

We tasted:

Viognier Secret de Famille 2010

Crozes Hermitage Les Jalets Blanc 2009

Crozes Hermitage Les Jalets Rouge 2009

Cornas Les Grandes Terrasses 2008

Côte-Rotie Les Jumelles 2005

Hermitage la Petite Chapelle 2007

The whites were instructive to compare side by side in order to get a good feel of the grapes they are made from.

Viognier Secret de Famille 2010

Crozes Hermitage Les Jalets Blanc 2009

The Viognier is obviously made from the grape of the same name.  Here, the interesting aspect is that this wine is a Vin De Pays Portes De Méditerranée, from the basin Côtes du Rhône and Côtes de Provence,

The Crozes-Hermitage is also interesting in that it was made exclusively from Marsanne.  In Crozes, it normally is blended with a little Roussanne, but not here.

The Viognier.  A color of Pale lemon with a touch of gold.  Medium intensity on the nose  with a touch aromatic with a fragrance of apricot, a touch of honey, delicate peach and what seems to be rose petals.  Not as clearly defined as I was hoping to get from a Rhône Viognier.  Quickly evolving in the glass.  The palate is unctuous but balanced with moderate acidity and alcohol at 13%.  The mid-palate is a little short and quickly become bitter with a flavour reminding me of the skin of almonds.  The length is medium at best.  It is good in that it gives a clear sense of the grape.  It is well made, in balance and shows some lenght.  But lacks definition, complexity, and overall it is just that, good.

The Crozes.  A color of pale lemon skin.  The nose is fresh, expressive.  Slightly floral.  A touch of herbs and dried hay.  A faint whiff of lanolin and exotic spices.  It is less aromatic than the Viognier yet it is more delicate and interesting.  The palate is smooth and well balanced.  Somehow it is less unctuous than the Viognier, but more savoury, rounder.  Perhpas because it went through malo-lactic fermentation?  The mid palate is moderate its length medium.  Good wine, but much better than the Viognier.  Not very good though, as it lacks complexity and overall intensity.

Here, the Crozes is superior to the Viognier.  Somehow, even if less aromatic, slightly more elegant in both aromatics and texture.  A good wine.

Interesting to compare both. Whereas the Viognier was clearly apricoty and intense, the Crozes was more subtle if floral and spicy.

Frankly, the reds of this tasting are more instructive and interesting.

Crozes Hermitage Les Jalets Rouge 2009

Cornas Les Grandes Terrasses 2008

Côte-Rotie Les Jumelles 2005

Hermitage la Petite Chapelle 2007

The Crozes.  Deep purple to the rim clearly showing its youth.  The nose is somewhat fresh with crisp red & black fruits.  Some black pepper and touch, but just a touch floral.  A little dense.  The palate is grippy with a fair amount of tannins.  The alcohol and acidity are moderate and in balance.  There is concentration of fruit here but just.  I wonder if there is enough for the length of time it will need to smoothen the tannins? The finish is chalky, but juicy & fruity with a moderate length.  A good wine.

Somehow it gives me exactly what I expected from a Crozes Hermitage.  A sense of Syrah as a grape and a sense of place as Crozes.  A little rough around the edges but quite good and enjoyable.  Nothing to write home about but certainly a decent wine that I would be happy ordering in a restaurant mid-week.

The Cornas.  Deep purple with a narrow, fading rim.  Savoury nose.  Baked red & black fruits, a little brambly but elegant with touch of licorice, spices & black pepper.  The palate is generous but a little talc-like with a good dose of tannins.  Concentrated but a moderately high acidity lifting it up.  Juicy & fruity mid-palate if a little grippy.  The finish is moderately long, fruity and somewhat intense.  A good wine.  It will be more enjoyable 2 years later at least and will certainly develop nicely.

In some way, here again I have what I expected.  A little rusticity, concentration, and warm fruits. Perhaps the tannin is a little too dry here however.

The Côte-Rôtie: Moderately deep garnet with a narrow fading rim.  The nose is gamey, with forest floor, raisined berry fruits, and spices.  It is the palate that characterizes this wine.  Round with an excellent balance of components.  The tannins is velvety & caressing.  There is still quite a bit of concentration here and certainly a good amount of tannin left in this wine.  The mid-palate is long and fruity, more so than the nose, as well it is supple and vibrant.  The length is long and complex with notes of mocha, roasted nuts, and smoke.  A very good wine.  Certainly one that can evolve another good 5 years and improve.

Here, when we compare this wine with the other 2, we immediately see that it belongs in another class.  Especially compared to the Crozes.  It is the quality of the mouthfeel that tells the story right away.  Certainly it is 4 years older and benefited from time to soften and integrate.  However, the quality of the tannins is immediately evident.  

The Hermitage.  Deep purple with narrow pale rim.  The nose is savory, floral with rose petals scent.  Tasty, succulent red & black berry fruits & spices.  Elegant and fine.  The palate is concentrated and dense.  Silky and smooth.  Here is a wine that combines elegance & power.  The mid-palate is vibrant and energetic.  The finish is long, savoury, and tasty.  Clearly the superior wine of the tasting if it is only for its vibrancy and longer ageing ability.  A very good wine.

Compared to the Côte-Rôtie both are clearly in the same league with elegance and finesse.  Both display superior quality tannins and a definite ability to age for a very long time.  However the Hermitage feels somewhat more muscular, even if supple (more like the muscle structure of a gymnast rather than the one of a body-builder).  One can feel it will carry on longer and its nose seems to hide a beautiful, if latent, potential to develop wonderful complexity.  

For me, an interesting tasting if only that it clearly highlighted the differences between each terroir and certainly clarified what I need to expect from each.