In Crozes-Hermitage, the largest appellation in the northern Rhone, the focus is on Syrah whose vines occupy the best granite terroir. However, the two white grapes, Marsanne and Rousanne, are also grown and blended or produced as the mono-varietal Marsanne. They are relatively easy to spot and this Sunday’s offering was no different.
Domaine Belle’s Les Terres Blanches 2014 (13%), comprised 70% Marsanne with 30% Rousanne, had been aged for 10 months. Interestingly, only 20% of this was new oak, the rest being old oak and stainless steel. I assume that this was to maintain acidity levels which can be an issue for white grapes in the south.
The result was a delicate wine, a very bright, pale straw in colour. An elegant bouquet of stone fruits and blossom with lemon acidity was very attractive. The palate confirmed its refreshing delicacy and lightness. Medium length with a slight yoghurty creaminess, lifted by lemon acidity, the wine was not quite bone dry and would make an ideal – and unusual – aperitif or pair well with fish.
This was a very pleasant, gently attractive white wine.
[Richard: very well made wine with lots to interest the nose and palate. From The WS as part of a mixed white Rhone half case, no longer available so I’m not sure of the price but decent white Rhone is never cheap.]
This wine (Gaillard’s Marsanne IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2015) was tasted blind. Had a nose which reminded me of riesling, then chardonnay – it was neither. Rather short, rather lacking in fruit – I think it had been open some time – but it developed well in the glass and became an attractive drink. I eventually figured out it was a Rhone white but I find it hard to distinguish the grapes, apart from viognier so couldn’t get any further. Perhaps I should have done since we tasted another, different, Rhone white only seven days ago.
The name on the bottle reminded me of a Cote Rotie (not blogged) by a maker with the same surname. This turns out to be the father of Jeanne Gaillard.
[Geoff: I liked this wine which I bought from Vin Neuf in Stratford (cost circa £10). Just off the main street, this independent shop is well worth a visit for its range of wines and the knowledge of James, the owner.
I think the wine needed time to open out into the full style of stone fruits and low acidity which are the hallmarks of the wines of the grape from this area. It was an interesting follow up to the St Peray, not quite as classy but excellent value.]
These were the words used by my drinking chum to describe this wine and – I echo those sentiments. I tasted this blind and it was a very enjoyable experience. St. Peray, the small, southernmost AC of the northern Rhone region, only produces white wines – still and sparkling – by using various combinations of the Marsanne and Roussane grapes. Pre-phylloxera, this area was famous for sparkling wines (a tipple of Napolean, no less) but had declined to circa 50 hectares before building back to around 70.
The Domaine de Tunnel by Stephane Robert 2011 can be bought from the WS for £22 and is worth it. Clear, lemon yellow in the glass, there is a heavier look to the wine (13.5%) which suggests some richness. The lemon aroma is present but mixed with subtle floral notes and the stone fruits so redolent of the Rhone white grapes. I did not get any smell of oak – the fruit shone through. The palate was dry, spicy and long with an almond quality. There was some refreshing acidity but the impression that lingered was one of understated power and a very slight – and very attractive – fruity sweetness.
This was a quality wine that is in one of my favourite styles. Very enjoyable indeed.
[Richard: from a mixed case of Rhone whites. Hope they are all as good as this.]
The blend of white grapes Marsanne and Roussanne produces some fine wines in the northern Rhone. They are characterised as having big flavours with relieving acidity and yet a delicacy of perfume that is unique. These distinctive qualities were identified in Domaine Florentin’s Le Clos, a 2006 St Joseph (12.5%). Only 10% of St Joseph’s production of 5 million bottles is white.
The pale lemon/green colour suggested acidity which was confirmed on the nose. The initial impression was an apple acidity, rather than citrus, but this faded. What was obvious was a perfumed, floral quality to the nose. The palate was big in flavours, drying with the acidity coming through and finishing with an slight almond bitterness which was not unpleasant. Michel Chapoutier claims “The structure is the bittereness” when talking of the Marsanne grape.
This was a lovely wine – interesting, unusual and certainly not showing its 10 years.
[Richard, from Highbury Vintners, at a rather ambitious £23, although now sold out and BBR has the 2007 at the same price. Old white Rhones are not often found on-line so I thought this was worth a punt. Agree with Geoff’s comments and the wine held up well all evening.]