These 89 wines seemed definitely less ripe than the Châteauneuf 2015s, and more astringent on the finish, as though the phenolics didn’t always ripen fully. The floral and black-cherry aromas I found in many a Châteauneuf were largely absent here. Overall I felt the appellation was rather less successful. To reduce the number of wines tasted to a manageable level, I limited the number of cuvées tasted per producer in some cases.
Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Gigondas
85% Grenache (80 to over 100 years old), 10% Syrah (80 to over 100 years old), 5% Mourvèdre (80 to over 100 years old). From the Dentelles, Boussière, Garrigues and Teysonnières. Two-thirds whole bunch. Aged in one-year-old barrels.
Dark purplish crimson. This sample smelt just a little tired unfortunately. There is massive ripeness here and almost animal savour. A little saltiness. This particular sample didn’t quite hang together and seemed a tad scrawny on the end but I can quite believe this was down to the condition of the sample rather than the intrinsic worth of the wine. 14.5%
£195 per case of 12 ib RRP
Dom de Longue Toque 2015 Gigondas
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah. The Grenache is matured in mix of concrete vats and demi-muids, the Syrah in French oak for about 18 months. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Bright crimson. Very fresh nose with lots of drive and energetic tannins. An excellent package for mid-term drinking though not one of the most long-term wines.
Gabriel Meffre, La Châsse Grande Réserve 2015 Gigondas
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Slightly dull crimson. Rather muddy, vegetal nose. Edge of sourness rather than freshness and very solid fruit that seems quite evolved. Useful for restaurateurs?
Louis Bernard 2015 Gigondas
Grenache, Syrah. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Bright crimson. Sweet, rich, unadorned, almost rude fruit. Very straightforward with good freshness. Super-healthy.
Ravoire & Fils, Olivier Ravoire 2015 Gigondas
85% Grenache, 15% Syrah, destemmed and vinified separately. 20% of the final blend is aged 12 to 18 months in new barrels (225 litre for Syrah and half barrels for the Grenache), the rest is aged in stainless-steel tanks. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Dense, velvety crimson. There is even a hint of black-cherry opulence here. Velvet texture – very worked? – but nothing overripe. A Gigondas in ‘modern’ idiom with some oak influence evident. A love or loathe wine. 14%
Dom des Bosquets (Bréchet) 2015 Gigondas
70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 7% Mourvèdre, 3% Cinsault. Vinified in stainless steel. Matured for 12 months in various sized oak vessels for the Syrah, concrete tank for the Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. After blending, the wine will mature a further six months in concrete tanks before bottling. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Slightly grey crimson. Very ripe indeed and then some leathery tannins. So sweet! Not quite fresh enough for my taste. Falls away a little on the end. 15.6%
Dom des Bosquets (Bréchet), Le Lieu Dit 2015 Gigondas
Mostly Grenache. Vinified in stainless steel, matured in 600-litre old oak demi-muids. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Relatively light crimson. Sweet, ripe Grenache on the nose. Light and lively. Well-judged, sprightly, entertaining wine. 16.2%
Dom des Bosquets (Bréchet), La Colline 2015 Gigondas
Grenache-dominated blend. Vinified in stainless steel. Matured in 500-litre demi-muids, first and third use. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Full, opulent, floral notes on the nose. Racy palate with real energy. Sweet finish. The fruit almost obscures the fine tannins. 16.3%
Dom de Cabasse, Jucunditas 2015 Gigondas
80% Grenache, 20% blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre. 100% destemmed. Vinified in concrete tank, matured in oak, a mix of demi-muid and barrique. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Pale-rimmed crimson. Meaty nose with very fine tannins. Good freshness without its being dominant. A well-balanced wine for fairly early drinking. Some heat on the end. 14.5%
St-Damien, Les Souteyrades 2015 Gigondas
80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Dark ruby with a fading rim. Sweet, salty and floral on the nose with medium weight, fully ripe fruit. Lightly grainy tannins. Nice package for early to mid-term drinking. 15%
There was very exuberant fruit on palate entry in these 67 wines in general (and sometimes the distinct impression of residual sugar) with few wines showing great sophistication. And as with Gigondas 2015s, many of these Vacqueyras showed notably drying tannins (was this a lack of phenolic ripeness?) and some of the wines were marked by a strong green streak on the palate. Overall they seemed much earlier-maturing than either Gigondas or Châteauneuf.
Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Vacqueyras
70% Grenache (over 60 years old), 25% Syrah (40 years old), 5% Mourvèdre (40 years old). Two-thirds whole bunch, aged in one-year-old barrels.
Blackish ruby. Sweet and silky on the nose – most alluring already. Heady. Round with very gentle tannins that make their presence felt only on the very end, along with a hint of alcoholic warmth. This really does taste of Provençal sunshine; there could even be a hint of lavender along with the sautéed plums. 14.5%
£175 per case of 12 ib RRP
Dom de la Charbonnière 2015 Vacqueyras
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah. Aged in large oak.
Round and ripe with some structure. Ambitious and a little dry on the end but not excessively drying. Ambitious. 15.5%
Dom de la Charbonnière, Cuvée Spéciale 2015 Vacqueyras
All Grenache, a new cuvée made from a parcel acquired in 2014. Philippe Cambie now consults here.
Tasted blind. I seem to have been more impressed by this producer’s Vacqueyras than by their Châteauneuf. Purplish. Some interesting ripe fruit on the nose here. Ripe and well balanced. Proper full ripeness and some ripe and substantial but not drying tannins too. Serious stuff. 15.5%
Ravoire & Fils, Olivier Ravoire 2015 Vacqueyras
80% Grenache, 20% Syrah. Destemmed. 20% spends 12-18 months in new barrels of 225 litres for the Syrah and in demi-muids for the Grenache, the rest in concrete tanks.
Tasted blind. Opulent texture and candied rose petals on the nose – but just a bit too sweet and sickly for comfort. Shame because it has so much going for it. Falls off a ledge at the end. 14%
Gabriel Meffre, Laurus 2015 Vacqueyras
70% Grenache, 30% Syrah. Destemmed. A third of the blend spends 14 months in new 275-litre barrels.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Light nose with a suggestion of carbonic gas. Sweet start and some raciness. Not the subtlest, deepest wine but it is appetising. No great length but should give considerable short-term pleasure. 14.5%
Gabriel Meffre, Barthélemy 2015 Vacqueyras
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Not much nose – just a slightly industrial whiff. Sweet start and then very drying finish with rather a hollow middle.
Dom de Longue Toque 2015 Vacqueyras
60% Syrah, 40% Grenache. Destemmed. Grenache spends six months in tank and Syrah in oak.
Tasted blind. Dark purple. Really quite a lot of blue in the colour here. Spicy ripe fruit. But also drying tannins on the end – just a bit pinched. 15%
I tasted these immediately after the Rasteau and noted an enormous difference. The Cairanne wines were more refined and obviously from cooler climes, but were notably good.
Dom des Coteaux des Travers, Terra Rosea 2015 Cairanne
70% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre. Destemmed and fermented in wooden tronconic vats. Élevage in 70% concrete, 30% 228-litre one- and two-year-old barrels for 10-12 months.
Tasted blind. Mid crimson with shading. Notably spicy nose. Green-strawberry flavours. Very racy and refreshing. Cool site? No weight at all. The thirst-quenching side of southern Rhône. 14.5%
Dom des Escaravailles, Ventabren 2015 Cairanne
70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Carignan. Élevage in concrete tanks. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Dark crimson. Straightforward, sweet fruit without any exaggeration. Clean and workmanlike with Cairanne freshness. Very brisk indeed. Quite long and neat. 15%
Dom des Escaravailles, La Boutine 2015 Cairanne
Mostly Grenache. Nine months in concrete tank.
Tasted blind. Light crimson. Straightforward, fully ripe fruit, unadorned. Round, juicy and thoroughly local. Pure pleasure in the strawberry/rose-petal idiom. Masses of sweetness and transparency. Very honest. Even if not for the very long term. Real grunt and authenticity to this wine. Lovely freshness on the end after all that sweet fruit. 15%
Good density of fruit here.
Maby, Nessun Dorma 2015 Lirac
50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 25% Mourvèdre. Destemmed. 60% aged in oak (one-third new), 40% in concrete tanks for 15 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Ripe, opulent nose. A little confected with some sharp drying tannins on the end. Not settled down to a comfortable whole yet but there is masses of ripe fruit anyway. Exuberant. 15%
Maby, Bel Canto 2015 Lirac
100% Grenache, whole bunch. Aged in demi-muids (half new) for 15 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Very opulent nose and round tannins. Very drying end. A bit uncomfortably over the top. And then it all falls away on the end. 15%
Maby, La Fermade 2015 Lirac
80% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah. Destemmed. In cement tanks for 15 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Intense, glossy, glamorous wine with real line and punch. Very appetising with ripe but not particularly sweet fruit. Carefully guided. Very smart indeed. May be GV? 14.5%
I thought most of these wines showed particularly well, with the Pique Basse and Beaurenard better than many a Châteauneuf.
Dom des Coteaux des Travers, La Mondona 2015 Rasteau
70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. Destemmed and fermented in wooden tronconic tanks. Tasted blind. Aged 10-12 months in 70% concrete and 30% 228-litre barrels of first and second use. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Dark crimson. Intense and gorgeous on the nose though a tiny bit astringent on the finish. Good combo of ripeness and freshness but not quite a hedonistic whole. 15%
Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Rasteau
65% Grenache (80 years old), 25% Syrah (40 years old), 10% Mourvèdre (40 years old on limestone clay and blue clay). One-third whole bunch, aged in one-year-old barrels.
Dark ruby. Colour not quite out to the rim. Notably gamey/meaty on the nose (a Mourvèdre effect?). Sweet, roasted start and without quite the concentration of the top Côtes du Rhône bottlings. But masses of tannins on the end. 14.5%
£155 per case of 12 ib RRP
Grand Nicolet, Terre des Bertrand 2015 Rasteau
70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Carignan. Élevage in concrete tank. Tasted blind.
Dark crimson. Racy and fully evolved. Expressive, confident, no-frills fruit . Edgy and energetic. Long and relaxed. Really most impressive on the finish. But a very different style to the most ‘worked’ examples. 15%
Grand Nicolet, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Rasteau
60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. Élevage mostly in concrete with 10% of the Syrah in one- to three-year-old barriques for 12 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Very dark crimson. Sample rather oxidised. Thick and soupy on the palate – this has lost its mojo. Hugely impressive concentration but not enough true freshness. There is even a hint of mousiness on the end but this may just be a sample problem. 15%
Grand Nicolet, Les Esqueyrons 2015 Rasteau
50% Grenache (80-year-old vines), 50% Syrah (50-year-old vines). The Syrah is aged in one-year-old barriques for 12 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish purple. Raw, purple fruits on the nose. Sweet and velvety. Fades a bit on the finish though. Like the Grand Nicolet Vieilles Vignes, this may be a sample problem but both wines seem a bit over the top. 15%
Dom des Escaravailles, Héritage 1924 2015 Rasteau
Mostly Grenache. In concrete tanks for nine months.
Tasted blind. Dark ruby. Some damp-fur elements plus very ripe, intense fruit. Dry tannins on the end but lots of concentration and ambition. Hot end (rare for Rasteau). Fun to drink! Racy strawberry fruit. 15%
Dom des Escaravailles, La Ponce 2015 Rasteau
80% Grenache, 20% Syrah. The Grenache is in concrete tank for a year and the Syrah in oak barrel for a year. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Rather oxidised sample but with lots of suave fruit underneath. Drawing-room Rasteau rather than the rustic sort! Maybe another sample would be even more impressive… Lots of punch. I suspect I am under-scoring this wine. 15%
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES, PLAN DE DIEU
Calendal 2015 Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Plan de Dieu
70% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre. Aged in 225-litre barrels for nine to 10 months.
Tasted blind. Bright dark crimson. Sweet with oak more in evidence than the fruit. Lots of sweet juiciness and very smoothed tannins but it’s more a cellar wine than a vineyard one. 15.5%
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES, ROAIX
Dom des Escaravailles, Les Hautes Granges 2015 Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Roaix
Mostly Syrah. Nine months in oak.
Tasted blind. Dark, glossy blackish crimson. A charred nose. This wine seems to have been overworked. So much extraction that it has virtually lost its fruit in the middle. Too much emphasis on the phenolics? A rather bitter end. 15%
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES, SABLET
Dom de Cabasse, Les Deux Anges 2015 Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Sablet
75% Grenache, 3% Carignan, 22% Syrah. Vinified in concrete but spends some time in wood.
Tasted blind. Dark ruby with a pale rim. Warm, spicy, slightly animal nose with only medium intensity. Seems very advanced without much tannin evident. Pleasant, quite simple wine with slightly stewed fruit. 14%
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES
Tardieu-Laurent, Les Becs Fins 2015 Côtes du Rhône-Villages
50% Grenache (60 years old), 40% Syrah (30 years old), 10% Cinsault (60 years old). Ten months in cement.
Dark purplish crimson. Vibrant peppery fruit on the nose and still quite tight on the finish. Clearly made to last. Drying tannins on the end at the moment. GV 14.5%
£95 per case of 12 ib RRP
CÔTES DU RHÔNE
Look out for the popular Guigal red Côtes du Rhône 2015 when it is released early in 2018. It is exceptional quality for a wine of which five million bottles are made and has, in the past anyway, represented outstanding value.
Tardieu-Laurent, Guy Louis 2015 Côtes du Rhône
60% Grenache (50 years old), 35% Syrah (40 years old), 5% Mourvèdre (30-40 years old). From parcels in Lirac, Rasteau, Beaume de Venise , Vacqueyras and Cairanne. One-third whole bunch and aged in one- and two-year-old barrels.
Very ripe, luscious nose with very well-managed tannins. I might take this for a Gigondas blind. Sweet and much more approachable than the Becs Fins bottling. GV 14.5%
£130 per case of 12 ib RRP
Tardieu-Laurent, Cuvée Spéciale 2015 Côtes du Rhône
95% Grenache, 5% others (70 years old). All whole bunch and aged in two-year-old barrels.
Spicily perfumed. More aromatic and lifted than the Guy Louis 2015. On the palate it is still pretty grainy and, with all those tannins on the end, needs further ageing but it should age very gracefully. Definitely many cuts above the appellation average. Ambitious. This will be released only in autumn 2017 and Corneys are selling it specifically in magnums.
£180 per case of 6 magnums ib Corney & Barrow
Le Clos du Caillou, Bouquet des Garrigues 2015 Côtes du Rhône
65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan. Tank sample.
Light garnet. Sweet, light, sweet and simple. A tad pinched on the end.
£110 per case of 12 ib H2Vin
Le Clos du Caillou, Les Quartz 2015 Côtes du Rhône
85% Grenache, 15% Syrah. Tank sample.
Sample a little tired on the nose but it’s extremely luscious on the palate. Sweet, salty and strawberry. May be a bit much for some palates but there is no shortage of personality.
£159 per case of 12 ib H2Vin
Le Clos du Caillou, Réserve 2015 Côtes du Rhône
85% Grenache, 15% Syrah. Tank sample.
Light, fresh and much tighter than the Quartz Côtes du Rhône. Broad and polished with rather a severe finish.
£205 per case of 12 ib H2Vin
Tardieu-Laurent 2015 Bandol
95% Mourvèdre (over 50 years old), 5% Grenache (over 50 years old). Clay-limestone soils on Le Castellet. One-year-old barrels.
Purplish crimson. Not as expressive on the nose as the southern Rhône wines. It’s all tarry and buried… Very sweet start and then it really dries out the inside of the mouth. Quite a different build! It could do with a little more juice. Not very expressive on the palate either at this stage. 14%
£185 per case of 12 ib RRP