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Decanter panel praises 2006 northern Rhone vintage

A top Decanter tasting panel has praised a ‘fantastic’ 2006 vintage in the northern Rhone.

The panel, which included international Rhone expert John Livingstone-Learmonth, Alun Griffiths MW and Marcel-Orford Williams, David Wainwright and wine writer Margaret Rand lauded the wines from Cote-Rotie, Cornas and Hermitage.

‘It gives people access to the truth,’ said Livingstone-Learmonth of the ’06 vintage in the Cote-Rotie. He added that the wines took him back to his ‘early days in the 70s, when steroid wines did not exist’.

The wines from Cornas were also singled out for praise, showing good value for money.

‘Cornas is one of the true stars of the northern Rhone,’ said David Wainwright. ‘Under-valued and underrated, its now being taken more seriously. It represents great value…I loved them.’

Hermitage, despite being more variable, was also praised.

‘It makes wines of tremendous finesse and I think this was shown today,’ said Marcel Orford-Williams of The Wine Society. ‘The wines were absolutely stunning.’

He added that caveat that the wines would ‘need a long time’ to show their best.

The panel also compared the vintage to 2005, generally accepted as a great vintage for the region. They said 2006 showed more elegance.

‘2005 is a muscular, powerful vintage,’ said Alun Griffiths MW, of wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd. ‘There is more elegance and finesse in these wines.’

Livingstone-Learmonth agreed.

‘In 2005, everything was “boom-boom”,’ he said. ‘But in ’06 you really appreciate that the Rhone can outstrip other regions, and really does merit full, top-table seating.’

When asked to sum up the vintage, Livingston-Learmonth said 2006 was ‘a slow burner…it can only gain, it’s on a constant amelioration.’

Where some wines fell down, however, was on over-extraction and on too much oak.

‘It’s such a Burgundian year,’ said Livingston-Learmonth. ‘[By using oak] you’re supressing the wagging tail the vintage has.’

  • The full panel tasting and vintage report will appear in the March issue of Decanter magazine – out February 2009. Don’t miss the issue – subscribe to Decanter

    Written by Oliver Styles

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