More often than not the Canadian May long weekend does not fall on the anniversary date of May 24, in remembrance of the 1819 birthday of Queen Victoria. In fact the last time the holiday Monday fell on the 24th was back in 2010. The not so phenomenal phenomenon happens every five or six years and the 24th never occurs before the Monday. So what? So, VINTAGES gets it right. The latest stop on the release calendar axis falls on the true May two-four, this coming Saturday.
The May 24, 2014 release puts a heavy emphasis on the southern Rhône, a region that regrettably has lost its balanced way; to heat, extraction, high alcohol and sugar. Sure that may sound like an agglomerated generalization but it is not just the bulk of the 15 plus reds on this release that are guilty as charged. The issue is endemic and has been rising with impunity since the 2007 vintage, arguably even before. What was once a Rhône induced infatuation has rusted and faded away. Cellar stockpiling of once beloved Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape has grounded to a halt. How can the love supreme return?
There are diamonds in every rough and it is through relentless tasting that the wheat rises, the chaff settles and recommendations make themselves known. I am including a couple of reviews on wines weighed down by the encumbrance of over-ripeness and alcohol, if only to back up the rant and the theory. Where have all the good Rhônes gone? My guess is that it’s time to cross the sea and pay a visit, to find the producers who pick early, resist oak-bullying temptation and make honest, balanced wines. I know they’re out there.
So behold the Rhônes, some good, some not so much and other necessary May two-four whites to seek out this weekend.
Capital, principled and tidy, tide-in Picpoul. Like Touraine meets Melon de Bourgogne with a bit of shell and a touch of green. Steamed ocean whitefish and fresh herbs meets raw bar. Begs for a Camaron Taco or Camarones en Salsa Verde. Would pair well on a soft beach with a traditional Oaxacan seafood spread. Tasted May 2014
Personal preferences aside, here is the right kind of value in other world Viognier. I much admire the restraint, keeping the alcohol and the residual at mostly acceptable levels, allowing what rocks there are in the Colchagua terroir to speak along with bright fruit. A heavy soil accent comes by way of tang and lift, it’s floral as needed and walks a line of good length. Well done. Tasted May 2014
It is never wise to hide from the vintage and winemaker Arthur Harder is careful to work with the given lot. This ’12 is no doubt warm but the juicy acidity trumps any humidity that might want to creep in and set up shop. The profile here is more Germanic, more Trocken than was seen in the 2011. The winemaker’s history with Nahe, Rüdesheim and Geisenheim speaks in this vintage. Continues the Calamus roll of offering really good value and impresses the notion that you can take a Riesling out of the Vinemount Ridge but you can’t take the Vinemount Ridge out of the Riesling. Tasted May 2014 @calamuswinery
A highly aromatic Musqué, one step up from its Escarpment brethren, with more viscosity and density. Mathematically calculated for the demurred vintage with conscientious risk. Crispy and crunchy, with a touch a waxy fruit, like biting into a buffed and polished green apple. Tasted May 2014 @VinelandEstates @BenchWineGuy
Casting aside initial hot and bothered, massive attacks of baked cherry pie and predictable extraction disabling thoughts, this caresses with a really soft mouthfeel. Work with its phenolic ripe charm and let it build with meaty notes and finish smothered in a Bovril gravy textured by chalk and grain. Ultimately it’s quite sophisticated for the appellation and a more than commendably good effort. Tasted May 2014 @chsaintesteve @ProfileWineGrp
Here presents a Côtes Du Rhône acting the epitome of elegance lost. A wasteland lays forth in charred sinew, vineyard stink, buff, scorched earth, funk, baked shriveled berries, toughness and grit. That said it is possessive of flavours, endearing or not, that last. Like a funky, highly seasoned sweetmeat-flavoured gobstopper dissolving in highly tannic tea. Might be your thing. Tasted May 2014
From a vintage that just can’t seem to hide from itself, this is typically, egregia cum laude commonly rich, extracted and juicy but it’s also got angst and verve. The 2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape to a wine are categorically, excruciatingly huge and this is why such a Gigondas is a breath of fresh, alternative air. A molten raspberry ooze paints a boulder-strewn Vaucluse crush of good Rhône things. Solid as a rock. Tasted May 2014 @GabrielMeffre @DiamondEstates
This wine has been referred to as a “Provençal fruit bomb” and a red with “tannins enrobed in the finest chocolate.” Those compliments are as kind as any that should be given. As expected and to stereotype 2011 Châteauneuf Du Pape, this is a blind faith traffic jam of hyper-ripe, over-extracted, baked and sickly sweet liqueur. A Negroni imbalanced by the free pour of Red Vermouth from a tap. This is the kind of Rhône that needs to hear “come down off your throne and leave your body alone, somebody must change.” Wayward, wandering Grenache along with its Mourvèdre and Syrah apostles who are wasted and can’t find their way home. Tasted May 2014
First off, three words for you babe: 16 per cent. One can only hope the rising tide of hot Rhône wines ends with this penultimate vintage. The licentiousness and quiver of extracted desperation is here in every grain of sugar. Smells like a candy factory in the heat of July and tastes like a fruit roll up mired in pectin quicksand. Big, big wine. So baked, so hot, so rich, so sweet. When did Bosquet Des Papes become the Belle Glos of the Rhône? Tasted May 2014