On Day 3, we were up and at ‘em with a climat by climat barrel-tasting of the 2007 Hermitage at the Rhône valley’s most prestigious address – Domaine Jean-Louis Chave in the village of Mauves. The Chaves farm just under 14 of Hermitages precious 131 hectares and have an unbroken ‘de père en fils’ lineage stretching back to 1481. They have vines in 9 different sites on the hill of Hermitage so this was quite a protracted tasting. Here Jean-Louis Chave patiently explained the different attributes of fruit from different parcels of vines in what amounted to a masterclass in the concept of terroir or the impact of location on taste. Jean-Louis told us that 2007 is ‘Un bon millésime’ for his Hermitage – not a blockbuster but a vintage of flesh and fruit ‘a bit like 1997 or 2000’ that should drink well soon after bottling – we wouldn’t disagree.
Our final tasting of the trip was with Alain Graillot and his son Maxime at Les Chênes Verts on Le Chassis plateau of Crozes-Hermitage. The Graillots 2007’s are bursting with black fruit flavours and one could happily drink them right off the bat. Despite the current economic gloom Graillot ‘Père et Fils’ are upbeat about business explaining that demand for their relatively inexpensive, early-drinking Syrahs is strong at the moment as people are looking for value on restaurant wine lists and aren’t buying grander bottles. This has always been a modern, forward-thinking operation and there is much evidence of innovation and re-investment. A substantial new cellar and wine store are being excavated to increase capacity for Maxime’s new négociant projects in Saint Joseph and Cornas. Also Alain’s superb, mineral-edged white Crozes’ has been bottled under screw-cap for the first time in the 2008 vintage which should show its clean apricot fruit to full advantage.
After our tasting and tour we headed back into Tain’ for a wonderful al fresco lunch of modern Mediterranean cuisine on the terrace of Le Quai restaurant where we enjoyed a bottle of Jean-Louis Thiers’ 2007 Saint Péray Nature and Alain’s own 2007 red Saint Joseph - which is supple and sapid and ideal for outdoor drinking.
After lunch we piled back into our rented ride and headed south for Avignon. There we checked into the basic but central Hotel Garlande and strolled around the town for an obligatory look at what’s left of the Pont.
Our mission completed with myriad tasting notes, a raft of photographs and a few very fine meals under our belts it was a pleasure to sit in the sunshine in the Place de l’Horloge and sip a glass of Domaine Maby’s delightful 2007 Tavel rosé which La Civette Brasserie bangs out at a not unreasonable 19 euros a bottle. It’s a tough job – but someone’s got to do it!