It’s our final day in the Rhône valley and we are beginning to flag a little as we wend our way out of Orange once again at 8.30am. We’ve long since given up trying to convince friends and family that tasting wine is an arduous task, but you can have too much of a good thing. We are now well into three figures for wines tasted and considered this week for our Rhône 2009 vintage report, so we are both looking forward to getting back home. Yet it’s hard to feel sorry for ourselves as we roll up at Domaine Saint Gayan in 20 degree sunshine. Its 9am and Mont Ventoux towers above us in a blue sky, beautiful but brutal, and Jean-Pierre Meffre takes us through his gamme covering Sablet, Rasteau, Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape (where he owns less than a hectare that abuts the vineyards of Beaucastel). We taste a succession of vintages and its clear that the 2009's will have a freshness and elegance by comparison with their beefier 2007 siblings.
Heading north (on the home stretch now) we arrive at Domaine Biguet just outside Saint Péray, west of Valence. We’re an hour late for our tasting but Jean-Louis Thiers remains relaxed and promptly shows us in to his neat tasting room. Saint Péray is commonly recognised for its sparkling wines that historically out-priced Champagne, but the still version (also made from 100% Marsanne) deserves to be better known, with aromas of orchard fruit and a ripe, rich palate.
Our final tasting en route to Lyon airport is fittingly at Domaine Georges Vernay in Condrieu. Here we taste the range of 2009 Viogniers for which the estate is justifiably world-renowned, as well as red Côtes du Rhône (interestingly from vines within the AOC limits of Condrieu) and a sleek St Joseph from 35 year old vines. Paul Amsellem (Christine Vernay’s husband) is gamely hosting a large party of Norwegians, so winemaker Christine conducts our tasting and the conversation flows from yields and lieu-dits to the ‘dematerialisation’ of the music industry.
Alas, we have to flee as our return flight beckons, but it’s been one hell of a week!
Jason & Tom.