The Rhone Wine Region organized the 4th edition of its professional tasting week across the Rhone Valley. Held every other year, the tastings take place on the course of a week (2007 : march 13 to 19) in 20 locations spread along the many Rhone Appellations. It is free and professionals just have to register online a few weeks in advance so as to receive by snail mail their pass and badge for the fair. It is very well planned (even though the similar Beaujolais professional tasting event_next one in 2008_ is slightly better planned), and a unique opportunity to taste hundreds of Rhone wines, from the most-sought after vintners to the cooperatives.
Just to have an idea of the participating wineries, click on this page, then for a given Appellation, on "En Savoir Plus" (on the right), and then, on "Voir La Liste Des Exposants" on the bottom of the page.
Even though the whole thing is free, you have to choose when you register for either a couple of days or the whole package, your choice. I guess that the organization needs some kind of planning to foreview how many people will attend. This may be important for them to plan how much food is needed : Free buffet is held at all the tasting places between 11:30am and 2:30pm, and the ones we went to were just excellent...
It is also a unique opportunity to physically experience this vast wine region, its landcape, hills, vineyards, garrigues and villages, and this, in a season with no tourists and under bearable temperatures.
The tastings were held in very different type of places, either big tents, communal buildings or historic chateaux, but the layout was the same : At the door, your badge was scanned electronically, you were given a booklet of the tasting, a glass, and you could have a quick overview of the wineries through the selection of the tasting table, if you didn't want to stop at all the stands.
B. and I registered for three of the days, march 16 to 18, or 12 Appellations. We did not go to all the locations, there were 3 to 5 depending of the day, and that is a lot. As we arrived a day earlier in the region, we even went to a tasting for which we were not registered (Tavel) without any problem.
The first tasting location with the Tavel wines was very interesting for me as I am not very familiar with these rosés wines. There were 25 participating wineries and we went to a handful of stands to taste their wines. The Tavel I preffered was the 2002 millesime by Balazu des Vaussières, a 12-hectare estate with a 3-hectare vineyard in Tavel. Intense nose, "gourmand", warmful mouth. These are definitely rosés to eat with. 4,65 Euro professional price.
March 16th we went to the Vinsobres and Coteaux Du Tricastin tastings (Southern Rhone). Frankly, after several minutes at the general tasting table, I thought : I'm not going to taste high-alcohol, high-extraction bombs like that for three days...or, what am I doing here ??... But I could handle it by spitting everything and managed to find good stuff (to my taste) among the ones we tasted. Not only are these wines actually made to go with food, but as the recent millesimes easily reach 14°, 15° or even 16°, and are coupled with the sometimes-excessive extraction, these first tastings were a bit difficult. The Vinsobres that took my attention : Domaine Viret, St Maurice, Mareotis 2004 (great one, the best Vinsobres I had); Domaine Chapoton Massif D'Uchaux 2005; Domaine de Givaudan "Les Hauts de Castellade" 2004; Domaine du Coriancon "L'Exception" 2004; Domaine Cros de la Mure 2006 (after a few years in the cellar); Chateau Saint Esteve d'Uchaux cuvée Therèse, Viognier 1999, a beautiful, suave, oxydative-style wine.
In Tricastin : Domaine des Rosier Cuvée Paul 2004; Domaine Vieux Micoulier 2000, good deal at 4 Euro [prices on this page are public prices]; La Suzienne (coop) Rabassière 2004, also a good deal at 4,05 Euro (and not too high in alcohol); SCEA Saint Michel Emotion 2005, at 7 Euro, Domaines Aubert "Le Devoy" 2001, a 100% Syrah at 4 Euro.
The next day, we went to the Beaumes De Venise, and to the Rasteau tastings. Best finds in B. de V. : Clos Du Caillou "Les Quartz" 2004 and "Bouquet des Garrigues 2005 (8,9 Euro) (vat); La Ferme Saint Martin Costanci 2004; Domaine Beauvalcinte "Les 3 Amours" 2004; Domaine de Fenouillet Reserve 2004 (16 Euro); Domaine des Bernardins "Perle dorée" (Muscat à petits grains_dry wine) 2005.
Among the Rasteaus : Domaine Grand Nicolet 2004; EARL Bernard Chamfort Sablet 2001; Domaine de Piaugier "Reserve alphonse Vautour" 2000; Domaine La Soumade Prestige 2004, and Confiance 2003...and a VDN (sweet white) 100% Grenache Rasteau Doré 2003.
There's not enough room to tell about all the wines that we tasted both at this evening and at the Rhone tastings proper, but this is the kind of event where you can refresh your experiences and touch a very diverse range of styles.