Red Rhone 2007: Keep
Superb rich, round, big-fruited wines from Southern Rhone; slightly less successful for Northern Rhône, though structure, colour and freshness impress.
The Northern Rhône suffered the same viticultural difficulties as Burgundy and Bordeaux in 2007, with an unusually dry, warm spring provoking early budding and thick canopies followed by a long, cool, damp growing season with the constant threat of mildew. Grapes became heavy and plump but developed little natural concentration, and only fresh, sunny weather in September saved the day. Grape sugars rose steadily, while cool, drying northerly winds restored health. Harvesting began late September.
In Southern Rhône, a wet spring was succeeded by a dry, hot summer with less than 1.5 inches rainfall between mid-June and mid-September. A strong Mistral warded off disease, while growers delayed harvesting as long as possible to ensure ripe tannins.
A severe June hailstorm in Côte-Rôtie destroyed a quarter of the crop.
Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie are highlights of the Northern Rhône – fresh, forward Syrah with good colour and well-structured, even silky, tannins.
Bountiful fruit and fine tannins distinguish the Southern Rhônes. They have an attractive finesse despite high alcohol (as a result of waiting for tannins to fully ripen). Blends containing late-ripening Mourvèdre, Syrah and/or Cinsault are fresher and firmer than their rich and heady 100%-Grenache counterparts. Higher acidity, too, promising better ageing potential.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Prestige wines are particularly exciting – hedonistically dense and long-lived, whilst wines from the later-ripening Gigondas appellation show good tannic structure and balance. Beaumes de Venise has performed well, providing supple wines for earlier drinking, and provided growers waited for full tannic ripeness, Vinsobres has lots of body. Expect enjoyable drinking, too, from many well-fruited Côtes du Rhône-Villages and Côtes du Rhône.
Hermitage: Ferraton Père & Fils, Chapoutier, Chave; Côte-Rôtie: Guigal, Michel Ogier; Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Château de Beaucastel, Château Rayas, Bosquet des Papes, Domaine Bois de Boursan, Paul Autard, Domaine de la Janasse, Domaine du Pegaü, Pierre Usseglio, Clos Saint-Jean, Clos des Papes, Domaine Roger Sabon, Clos du Mont-Olivet; Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Domaine Mathieu; Gigondas: Château de Saint Cosme, Domaine La Roubine, Gigondas La Cave, Domaine du Terme, Domaine de la Tourade ; Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages: Cave le Gravilla (Sablet), Domaine de l’Amauve (Séguret), Domaine Marie Blanche (Signargues), Domaine La Fourmente (Visan); Vacqueyras: Clos du Joncuas, Perrin & Fils.