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Northern Rhone @ Mezzo 02/09/13

One of the perks of the job is shopping for these events. Trying to slide the best wines possible under the salary cap and working out the combinations often means I end up with more wine than I strictly need. But its all good wine, so the winner is me if no one else chooses to buy them.

Tonight’s event certainly got me fired up and I agonised over how to fit in all of the great names. In the end I think we did alright. There was no Champagne, I opted for a 100% Roussanne white from Northern Rhone under the ‘when in Rome’ principle. What we learned tonight was that Syrah from this part of the world needs time. The Clape Cornas was mean when we first tasted it but at the end of the night it had progressed to amiable. With a few more hours (or years) it might be downright charming. They all progressed very slowly but did really improve. It shows why the producers have the option of blending in some white wine in most appellations.

I could have ordered these wines in about five different ways. I opted to go oldest to youngest merely because I felt it would give the younger wines more time to open up. In the end it worked pretty well.

Pierre Gaillard St Joseph Blanc 2011 A lovely wine. Very shy and subdued even though it was served at room temperature, it probably needed some scallops to bring out more of its personality and highlight its texture. Very complete as a drink and very enjoyable.

Domaine Auguste Clape Renaissance Cornas 2002 Classic Cornas, dry, mean, and ungiving. It did open up over the night and showed some of its more floral and red fruit notes. Another 5- 15 years in the cellar for this one though. One of my wines of the night.

Guigal Cote Rotie 2003 Guigal are the masters of Cote Rotie and this the first step into some seriously impressive wines. It drew the short straw representing 2003 and looked clunky in the line up. There is a lot of class here but it was just too clumsy in the company.

Guigal St Joseph 2004 The most simple and straight forward of all the wines. It didn’t get better but it didn’t fall over either. Looked fresh and vibrant for a nine year old wine and at the price it is a bargain.

Guigal Hermitage 2005 A classy drink. Could easily have been the wine of the night but for the Rostaing and Clape being such stunners. Very complex and very complete, this was a joy to drink on the night. It probably will improve but I’d start drinking from now.

René Rostaing Cote Rotie La Landonne 2006 A great vineyard treated with a lot of respect. Complex and evolving, this wine was almost unanimously the wine of the night. You could drink it now but it will only get better with a lot more time in the bottle. Seriously enjoyable now though.

Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2007 This wine was a bit divisive, I loved the whole bunch, tapenade, mineral, white pepper and ultra clean almost tart palate. But it was very young and a bit confronting for some of the attendees. This is definitely my sort of wine and I’ve never had a Graillot that I didn’t love.

Mystery Wine Rockford Basket Press Shiraz 2002 Well not many people got this right. Most thought it was Southern Rhone Grenache. With the benefit of knowing what it was all I could see was eucalypt and sweet fruit and thought no one will be fooled. But it is a credit to the density, purity and complexity Rockford work into their Shiraz that only a few people initially thought it was new world. There was layers of flavour and it was looking stupidly youthful. If you have any in your cellar leave them for another five years at least. I love these wines.

No sweet wine due to a few late withdrawals but plenty of Syrah to get through and the Rockford looked juicy enough with a generous alcohol content to double as a Port replacement (in the best possible way). All in all a good night and a better understanding of what makes the Northern Rhone tick. .