Episode 42 – 13th January 2021
This is the darkest Wednesday Wine column I have ever written. Dark in the intense hue of the two wines featured. Dark in the fruit notes and spice with which they are both cram-packed. And dark in the elemental forces which they both summon up on both the nose and the palate. These are two of the most exciting red wines of the season and if you value powerfully earthy, densely fruited, long-lived reds then this pair will blow your mind.
2017 Bandol Rouge, Domaine du Gros’Noré, Provence, France (£29.08, www.laywheeler.com).
I can remember setting up a Bandol tasting years ago (in the nineties!) and thinking at the time that there was only one name to get excited about – Domaine Tempier. Granted there were a few other estates that made relatively clean and passably accurate wines, but none compared to the great wines of Tempier. And so, I bought only Tempier for my cellar (albeit paying a premium). Time has ticked along and I have never stopped being fascinated with the wines from this fabulous region but there hasn’t been a groundswell of other Domaines hitting the high notes. Pibarnon is much more hit than miss these days and Mas de la Rouvière usually stacks up, but my absolute favourite in the pack chasing Tempier is Gros’Noré. This 2017 is nothing short of sublime and it is a little more pliable and expressive in its youth than I would have expected. In fact, it is all too easy to demolish a bottle with some suitably robust wintry fare. Made from 80% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache and 5% Cinsault, this is an extremely serious wine and while it shows beautiful class and control now it will go the distance perfectly. In terms of value, there is little to compete in with world if you love deep, dark, earthy, regal, red wines. Rush to secure your stock (I have) because this estate’s wines are unlikely to remain in the sub-thirty zone for long.
2016 Cornas, Les Chailles, Domaine Alain Voge, Northern Rhône, France (£33.88, www.laywheeler.com).
Les Chailles used to wear a generic Cornas label, but in 2003 Alain Voge, who sadly passed away at the age of 81 last September, gave it the name Les Chailles. Made from slightly younger vines than the more famous cuvées (they are around the 40-year mark), the general idea is that this is a more forward-drinking wine than Les Vieilles Vignes and Les Vieilles Fontaines. The soils in this Cornas are more fertile and less demanding than those found in the heavily granite-soaked cuvées and this gives Les Chailles a more genial air. With no new oak on board and only a smattering of stems, this is a silky, gamey, spicy Syrah with a smooth, resonant mid-palate and a cool, long finish. There is wonderful balance and purity here and, like my Bandol pick, it shows extremely grand flavours for a relatively reasonable price tag. Interestingly, L&W also stock the 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 vintages of this wine so if this flavour does what it does for me, for you, then you are at liberty to load up with a scintillating vertical, and this is certainly a rare opportunity in the wine world. Once again, I cannot imagine that prices will remain as fair as they are today in the months to come.