So far we have looked at the northern Crus (part 1), Châteauneuf-du-Pape (part 2) and other southern Crus (part 3). Now it’s the turn of wines from the regional Côtes du Rhône appellation plus one of the stars of Ventoux, not a cru as such but one of the best of the other AOCs in the Rhône.
Domaine André Brunel “Cuvée Sommelongue” Côtes du Rhône 2012 (14.0%, RRP €18.30 at Karwig Wines)
It would be very rare for a wine drinker to have not had a bottle of Rhône, and it’s close to a certainty that they have tried an AOC Côtes du Rhône. The reason is simple – 48% of the whole region’s production has that AOC with a further 11% being Côtes du Rhône-Villages [2016 vintage: source: http://www.rhone-wines.com/en/en-chiffre].
What would be unusual, however, would be for that drinker to have tried a CDR with five or six years of age – most are very approachable in their youth and so are enjoyed when young. Just because a wine can be enjoyed young doesn’t mean that it should be – and this is the perfect example of a CDR that has benefitted from ageing.
This tastes quite different from the exuberantly fruity young CDRs; primary fresh fruit has mellowed and the herbal garrigue notes are more prominent. This Cuvée Sommelongue would be perfect with a hearty stew, and adding a dash or two as you make it would be highly appropriate!
Domaine Roche-Audran “César” Côtes du Rhône 2012 (15.0%, RRP €22.95 at Baggot Street Wines)
Just like buses, there seem to be no 2012 CDRs and then two come along together! This shows that well made wines can age gracefully, despite a modest appellation. I say gracefully, but César is a bit of a bruiser – with 15.0% abv it has as much power as Greyskull. You don’t need to be He-Man to drink it though – this biodynamic beauty has lots of lovely red fruit and herbal notes from 100% Grenache grapes. If it’s cold outside, pop the cork and warm yourself up!
Château Pesquié “Quintessence” Ventoux 2015 (13.5%, RRP €27.95 at Searsons)
René & Odette Bastide bought Château Pesquié in the early 1970s, around the same time that the Côtes du Ventoux appellation was created (it dropped the “Côtes du” from 30th November 2008). They replanted much of the vineyards while still selling their grapes to the local co-operative. A decade or so later their daughter Edith and her husband Paul Chaudière joined the family firm and took up oenology seriously. Together they built a winery and started producing Château Pesquié wines from the 1990 vintage – including Quintessence which was (and remains) a statement of quality for the region.
The slopes of Mont Ventoux provide much needed cool air to the area, thus making Syrah a key variety down here as it is in the north. Quintessence is 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache, full of dark black fruit and savoury tapenade. Although drinking nicely now, it has the structure and acidity to age for several decades – if you can manage not to touch it!
Château Pesquié “Artemia” Ventoux 2014 (14.5%, RRP €46.50)
Edith and Paul Chaudière’s sons Alex and Fred became the next generation to join the family wine business, bringing additional enthusiasm and know-how. Artemia became the new flagship wine, the combination of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah from two individual low-yielding old vine single vineyards. Maturation is 18 months in oak, split half and half between new and used barrels.
Given the blend, Artemia is more fruit forward and less obviously structured than Quintessence – more elegant and more approachable, though still with an intense concentration of fruit. The oak is well integrated and adds a little gravitas. This is a very different expression of Ventoux from its sibling, and preference between the two is very much down to personal preference. My own….I’ll take both please!