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A & B Vintners Tasting: part 2, the Rhône

A & B Vintners are a mail-order/internet merchant who specialize in (and concentrate almost exclusively on) wines from the Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon and Burgundy. The good news for customers is that smaller merchants such as this can cherry pick the smaller production wines that simply aren't made in big enough quantities to satisfy the larger retailers. And A & B (otherwise known as John Arnold and Ken Brook) have done a pretty good job in putting together a focused, well chosen list of wines at reasonable prices. It's worth getting on their mailing list because a lot of the more sought-after wines tend to sell out en primeur and never make the regular list, although the wines shown at this tasting are mostly still available.

I'm dividing my write-up into three parts: first the Burgundies, the Rhône wines and the South of France. It was a well-run tasting, with decent Riedel glasses, plenty of room, and self-pouring (this tends to be rare in consumer tastings, but it makes the whole process a lot quicker and more convenient). 

See also: part 1, Burgundy; part 3, the South of France

Roger Sabon Lirac 'Chapelle de Maillac' 1999
Rather a pale colour, with a nice meaty, smoky nose. Quite a substantial medium-bodied palate with some nice southern character and a touch of spiciness. Very good+ (£8.22)

Rabasse-Charavin Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Cuvée d'Estevenas 1998
The name is a bit of a mouthful, but this is a breathtaking expression of Grenache from ancient vines and low yields. I was blown away by the full-on, attractive, fragrant and peppery nose. This leads to a palate displaying concentrated, ripe spicy fruit with a touch of sweetness to it. Very good/excellent (£10.67)

Moulin de la Gardette Gigondas Cuvée Ventabren 1997
Lovely slightly stinky, meaty nose, along with some peppery Grenache notes: expressive but not 'modernized'. There's some structure on the palate, with spicy tannins. It's quite austere, but with good concentration. A first-rate Gigondas. Very good+ (£13.60)

Château de Saint Cosme Gigondas 1999
Sweet liquoricey fruit meshes with some complex heral notes on the nose. Quite a lush, modern style. Palate is dense and rich but with some substantial tannic structure. Finishes dry. A serious effort but a little stern at the moment, though. Very good/excellent (£10.67)

Font de Michelle Châteauneuf du Pape 1999
Sweet herbal nose with some jammy fruit and a caramel and medicine edge. Dense palate is quite typical of Châteauneuf, with spicy tannins on the finish. Interesting stuff, and not in the oaky modern style. Interesting and very enjoyable. Very good+ (£12.63)

Domaine de la Charbonnière Cuvée Mourre des Perdrix Châteauneuf du Pape 1999
Relatively muted slightly spicy nose. Quite a dense, rich style but with dry, dusty tannins. Relatively closed at the moment; some new wood here? Very good (£13.60)

Bosquet des Papes Cuvée Classique Châteauneuf du Pape 1999
Attractive nose with complex herby and spice elements, and a touch of liquorice. Very enticing and classy. Savoury palate with dense, spicy, peppery fruit. A very good example of Châteauneuf du Pape, and potentially ageworthy. Very good/excellent (£13.12)

Jean-Louis Chave Saint Joseph Offerus 1999
A negociant wine from possibly the best producer in the Northern Rhône. It's a deep red/purple colour with striking meaty nose showing some lively peppery notes. The palate is intensely savoury with more meaty Syrah fruit and quite a firm tannic edge. There's a high-acid finish to this substantial wine. Very good/excellent (£12.14)

Domaine des Remizières Saint Joseph 1999
An opaque red/purple colour this wine has a sexy, ostentatious nose of sweet, tarry, oaky fruit with a toasty edge. The palate shows savoury, roasted raspberry fruit with great concentration. Very modern and full, this is a striking wine which some will really love, although it's a little too oaky for my palate. Very good+ (£10.18)

Gilles Barge Côte Rôtie Cuvée du Plessy 1998
Wonderful open nose showing beautifully complex perfumed, meaty Syrah fruit, with a herbal green olive edge. The palate is intensely savoury and nicely balanced, with meaty, herbal fruit and substantial structure from the tannins and acidity. I'd leave for a little while before drinking though. Excellent (£18.50)

Contact details:
A&B Vintners
John Arnold/Ken Brook
Little Tawsden
Spout Lane
Kent TN12 7AS
Tel: 01892 724977  Fax: 01892 722673
E-mail: info@abvintners.co.uk

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