Earlier this year there were attempts within the UK wine trade to ‘talk up’ the 2008 Rhône vintage – as noted on our blog entry on March 10th. Although some perfectly decent wines were made in the Rhône valley in 2008 it was not an outstanding vintage.
Fortunately as our vineyard visits and tastings to date have confirmed Rhône 2009 is the ‘real deal’ – a markedly superior vintage that merits attention and will offer the opportunity to buy and lay down some exceptional wines. Early bottlings of junior wines that we have now started to ship such as our Côtes du Vivarais and Jean-Pierre Boisson’s excellent ‘La Côte’ Côtes du Rhône Villages show much promise that augurs well for their more senior siblings.
As in Bordeaux, Burgundy and all France’s other main wine producing regions the Rhône valley for 2009 enjoyed optimum ripening conditions in both the North and the South. A cold and wet winter and spring provided essential water reserves which were critical during August’s high temperatures. Sustained September sunshine meant that wine-makers could harvest individual parcels at peak maturity. Warm and dry conditions yielded a crop of phenolically ripe grapes with good colour, tannins and acidity - the resultant wines are already impressive in barrel but should have great aging potential when bottled. The heat meant that volumes were somewhat reduced, particularly in the south, but wine makers throughout the region are delighted with the quality of the harvest.
2009 is unquestionably a ‘Grand Millésime’ in the Rhône and comparisons are already being drawn with stellar vintages such as 1999, 1978 and the legendary 1929. We will be publishing detailed tasting notes and reports on individual wines in due course so do make sure that you have subscribed to our e-mail newsletter if you want to receive the latest information on this superb vintage.
Further expert opinion on Rhone 2009:
"To reiterate, the good news is that 2009 is looking like a potentially superb vintage. Even if you miss out on the 2007 vintage, 2009 may come close to rivaling that stupendous year, but the quality cannot be ascertained until the wines have finished their malolactic fermentation in late spring, 2010."
Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
"2009 is shaping up to be an exceptional vintage, most likely the best one of the last decade. It's indeed quite seldom to obtain such complete vintages: with white wines expressing themselves with finesse and maturity and where red wines deliver strength and elegance without being heavy."
Michel Chapoutier, Hermitage
"I knew that it could be great, but I had two worries: Will we have enough acidity and how will the tannins ripen with the lack of water? I got my answer at the end of the alcoholic fermentation: The tannins are beautiful; the acidity great."
Maxime Graillot, Crozes Hermitage
"The key was that the heat wave came after veraison so the maturity was not blocked, the grapes were concentrated and the acidity and structure was balanced."
Philippe Cambie, Châteauneuf du Pape