Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wine Notes: 2007 Rhones

The wines from the 2007 southern Rhone vintage are in the process of arriving in the United States. For both noteworthy values and dynamite quality this vintage is without peer in this wine market. The vintage was given a 98 point rating by the prominent wine critic Robert Parker, indicating a consensus that the 2007 growing season was as close to perfect as it gets, with a long, warm growing season without hail or frosts; the harsh mistral winds coming from the north were not too harsh and came just in time to prevent rot and mildew from attacking the vineyards. The harvest was long and leisurely during the warm yet dry weather that persisted during September to mid-October, producing perfectly right fruit that resulted in ripe, intensely flavored wines with soft tannins, brisk acidity, and higher than normal alcohol levels.

Given that the Rhone Valley is still primarily an agricultural region, labor costs and land costs remain low. I spoke to Bill Kniep, president of Pinnacle Imports, who reported that an entirely different ethos pervades winemaking in the region with producers who don't expect to receive hugely inflated prices for their wines; entry-level Cotes du Rhone can often be had for under $20 retail in America. One can expect that white wines often are composed of the aromatic viognier, along with the minerality and acidity of roussane and marsanne; red wines are often blends of syrah, mouvedre, and grenache.

We've to date sampled many of these wines and find an enormous range of stylistic differences as fruit from around the region managed to attain particularly focused expressions of the soils they came from. This is a vintage to enjoy immediately though rewarding for the individual with the ability (and the patience!) to lay them down for a couple of years or more.

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