Small but perfectly formed: 2017 in the southern Rhone
Over the last couple of years the southern part of the Rhone valley, and Chateauneuf in particular has begun to regain its mojo for wine lovers. Sure, the wine fashionistas may be obsessing over Piedmont and Burgundy but there's no arguing with the sunshiney pleasures that these bottles bring.
Vieux Telegraphe's traditional, simple and organic approach to their precious vines on Le Crau plateau is one of the purest expressions of this ancient riverbed terroir. It's polished pudding stones rolled down from underneath Swiss glaciers millenia ago are both evocative and an essential ingredient of the vineyard. 2017 was a vintage of low yield and very high quality. The cold spring disrupted flowering while the dry summer kept fruit healthy and vines stressed, resulting in some fabulous, hedonistic, yet restrained wines. These will drink beautifully over a long period.
Gigondas also had a great vintage, with crop losses restricted to about a quarter, with their higher and cooler vineyards benefitting from later flowering. They've made Les Pallieres, which are pure and again, more restrained and drinkable than some of the hotter years. As in Chateauneuf, the smaller proportion of Grenache has made them a bit more balanced for the modern taste. Piedlong's terroir still allowed the use of 90% of Grenache with 10% Mourvedre, but this too is a wine of finesse and perfume from these 70 year old vines.
Readers should not overlook the 2016 vintage either. They are a tad cheaper than the 2017s as quantities weren't adversely affected and are now in the UK and will be available for delivery shortly. /CW
Offered subject to remaining unsold; for shipment autumn 2019