Tuesday 22nd October 2013
After a splendid supper at Le Mangevins, one of the best but smallest restaurants in the Rhône valley with a minimalist Franco-Japenese menu and an extensive and modestly priced carte des vins (so worth booking well in advance) we turned in early with the prospect of a busy day ahead.
At his ever expanding HQ in the villages of Mauves we found Jean-Louis Chave busier than ever juggling childcare, phone calls and the vinification of the 2013 harvest - the quality of which should be excellent. Volumes, however, are low particularly for the white wines so, as ever, demand is likely to outstrip supply.
A barrel tasting of the 2012 vintage revealed wines of immediate charm with a wealth of ripe fruit scents and flavours. Jean-Louis avers that this elegant, fruit-forward vintage should drink well from bottling and continue to please. A warm, sunny end to the ripening season has imbued the wines with a soft, supple charm and a core of juicy fruit. Jean-Louis likened it to the the 2000 vintage as an unashamed crowd-pleaser that will drink well at every stage of its evolution. It was great to see Jean-Louis' father, Gerard, looking fit and well on the eve of a trip to Canada. We left père and fils caring for the next generation of wines and children confident that both are in very safe hands.
Our next stop was at Domaine Alain Graillot in Crozes Hermitage. Here we were greeted by Alain himself as well as his two sons Antoine and Max and Max's business partner Thomas Schmittel. Here too volumes were severely depleted in 2013, especially for the white wines which were hit by a hail storm on July 9th. Barrel samples of the more prolific 2012 vintage showed lots of sleek, black fruit with lovely licks of pepper and liquorice and a fresh acidity. It will be a Crozes-Hermitage of ready charm - accessible from the off but with good ageing potential. There is a strong possibility Alain will make a bottling of his 'cuvée du patron' - La Guiraude of which we hope to secure an allocation.
Our final call of the day was to see Pierre and Olivier Clape in Cornas. There we enjoyed the newly bottled 2012 vintage of their Côtes du Rhône and 'Vin des Amis' both of which showed beautifully on fat, young fruit and ripe tannins. These two supple youthful Syrahs should provide plenty of rewarding drinking while we wait for the senior wines to mature. The constituent parts of the 'Cuvée Renaissance' have all the raw materials to make great Cornas - lots of dark fruit, a solid framework of tannin and fine acidity - we can't wait to sample the finished wine. If the principal bottling of Clape Cornas 2012 is not a blockbuster it will be close to it - a magnificent wine with an amazing concentration of rich, dark, hedgerow fruit and complex granitic undertones.
Now we head south to Châteauneuf' and beyond!
(We will shortly release more information on the Rhône 2012 vintage and our En Primeur offer on our Rhône 2012 page here).