Friday, 27 February 2015

Côtes du Rhône G+ hangout with Jamie Goode

Last week I got to experience the future of wine tasting - a virtual wine tasting held over a Google+ hangout, with participants spread all over the world! This was a truly fascinating event, organised by Côtes du Rhône Wines, Focus PR and hosted by Jamie Goode, a wine journalist with a real passion for talking about wine. This was the first time that Côtes du Rhône Wines and Focus PR had organised this kind of virtual wine tasting and I was really pleased to be invited to participate and represent Vinspire.

The wines were sent to us in advance; I had mine delivered to my buddy, and fellow blogger, Mike as we had decided that we would use the tasting as an opportunity for an overdue catch up too. Along with the wines we were sent some interesting background reading material and some maps, all to help us understand a bit more about the wines and prepare for the evening ahead. 

I had not experienced a Google+ hangout before, but I had done some video-conferencing with work so I knew a little of what was to be expected. The event was even more exciting as it was being streamed live on YouTube on the Côtes du Rhône channel (you can see highlights from the session here, if you're keen to watch it...!).

Mike and I got our wines opened, arranged our glasses and then took a seat in front of our laptop. It took a few minutes for everyone to log-on, but after a little bit of waiting we were all ready and raring to go!

Jamie gave us a really good introduction to his background and interest in wine and a brief explanation of the wines that come under the Côtes du Rhône (CdR) label.

The wines of the Rhône valley are rightly lauded as some of the best wines in France, from the delightfully poised and exciting Syrahs of the Northern Rhône to the bombastic GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) blends of the Southern Rhône.

Wines labelled under the banner of Côtes du Rhône AOC are the basic level of production in the Rhône area and can take a wide variety of grapes from all over the region. They have a reputation as decent, if somewhat unspectacular wines, that would fall into your "midweek wines" category. They tend to focus on blends, as this allows them to use the best characteristics from a number of different varietals.

We tasted our way through six wines:

2012 La Chasse Reserve from Gabriel Meffre (blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault), available from Tescos for £7.99. This wine was a clever first wine, as it epitomised what a lot of us expected from a CdR wine; it was simple and light bodied with pleasant red fruit characteristics. Quality: 4.0; Value: 8.0.

2012 Delas "Saint-Esprit" (blend of Syrah and Grenache; unusually for a CdR this one was Syrah led), available from Majestic for £9.99. This one had a lot more going on in the nose, with notes of smoke, meat and barnyard; on the palate it was quite savoury with olive and tapanade flavours. Someone from the group (sorry, I can't remember who!) said that this reminded them more of an Aussie Shiraz, as opposed to a French Syrah. It was universally agreed that this would be a good food wine. 
Quality: 5.0; Value: 8.0

2012 Côtes du Rhône Rouge, Domaine Chaume Arnaud (blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault), available from BBR for £12.25. This was a biodynamic wine, which I'll admit to being relatively sceptical about normally. The wine was slightly lighter on the nose, hints of blackberry. On the palate it was fuller, with flavours of black cherry, chocolate and spice. Overall this was a pretty decent bottle of wine.
Quality: 5.0; Value: 7.0  
2012 Clos du Le Caillou (blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Counoise) available from H2Vin for £14.50. This producer is noted for their Chateauneuf du Pape as well as their CdRs. The wine is made from some old vines in the Southern Rhône and is a whopping 15% - perhaps not such a good idea for that "midweek wine" I mentioned earlier!

This wine sat rather quietly in the glass at first,  but then it opened up wonderfully. On the palate it was jammy and fruity, with a rather minty finish. Mike and I concluded that this wine really could have done with sitting in a decanter for an hour or so to really help it.
Quality: 6.0; Value: 7.0

2012 Saint-Agathe from Domaine Georges Vernay (100% Syrah, unusual for a CdR) available from BBR for £19.95. The grapes for this wine come from very close to the highly regarded (and very expensive) Condrieu appellation. Once more the wine had a nice funky nose with leather and bacon, plus a bit of smoke and cloves that suggested some oak ageing. On the mouth it was clean and fresh with black fruit characteristics; the finish did not hold for nearly as long as we were hoping for.
Quality: 6.5; Value: 5.0
2012 Château de Beaucastel Coudoulet (blend with Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault) available for £16.63 from Little Big Wines. On the nose this was a little light to me with some black fruit notes. On the mouth it took on a lot more presence with black cherry, gamey and spicy notes coming through. This was a pretty pronounced and weighty wine.
Quality: 6.0; Value: 4.5

So, there you have it; six very different wines showing that there is considerable variety and breadth amongst the Côtes du Rhône label. As with most things, if you spend a bit more money you tend to get better quality; however all of the wines above have their place - some of them are "crack open on a Saturday afternoon whilst listening to Test Match Special"; whereas others really need a food match to exhibit their best.

I dearly want to travel to the Rhône so that I can taste these wines in their natural environment and with their local cuisine - I always feel that this is a good way of understanding a wine better.  
Thank you so much to the lovely people at Focus PR and Côtes du Rhône Wines for organising this event. Thanks to Jamie Goode for being such a good host and thank you to the other participants, it was really nice to (virtually) meet other wine people from round the world.

Disclaimer: the wines were sent to me as a sample - the opinions contained within this article are my own.

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