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1999 Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon
Bibendum Fine Wine Tasting
Monday March 5th 2001
Home House, Portman Square, London

1999 has been hyped as vintage of the decade in the Northern and Southern Rhône, hot on the heels of a very successful 1998. In the Languedoc, 1999 was a good but tricky vintage by all accounts; less successful than the previous year (1998 was 'vintage of the century'). This line up of wines was my first chance to try serious 1999s from these regions, and although there weren't enough examples to draw any general conclusions about the vintage, there were some real stunners here. The real stand-out wine was Jamet's 1999 Côte Rôtie. I wouldn't be exaggerating by much if I was to say that this is one of the most stunning wines I've tried in recent years. A close runner-up is the outstanding Côte Rôtie from Gilles Barge, and I was also pretty taken by the two Condrieus from Robert Niero. These wines aren't expensive for the quality on offer, but if you don't want to a real bargain, the Colombier Crozes Hermitage Cuvée Gaby from Colombier is a lovely perfumed Syrah for just £9.20 a bottle (all taxes paid). My tasting notes that follow are accompanied by the notes from Wine Anorak columnist Nick Alabaster for comparison purposes (we attended the tasting separately and wrote our notes up independently). It's interesting to see two sometimes rather different impressions of the same wines, although overall the notes tally reassuringly well.

All prices are given per case of 12 (or 6 where specified) in bond (ex duty, ex VAT). To work out the bottle price, add £14 per case duty, add 17.5% VAT, then divide by 12.

Part 1: Northern Rhône 
(see also Part 2: Southern Rhône, Languedoc and Provence)

J-P et J-L Jamet Cote-Rotie 1999 (£210 per case of 12, in bond, ex VAT)
A stunning effort that ranks as one of the best wines I've tasted in recent years. Vibrant bright purple colour. Lovely, exotic full nose of intense, pure berry fruit combining with herbs, liquorice and floral notes. Firm tannins underpin the wonderfully expressive palate, with many layers of flavour. Dense, concentrated and showing great balance. Excellent
(Nick Alabaster: Ripe, black fruity nose with meaty richness and subtle oak. Full, ripe tannins but still more mid-full in weight with elegance. More Hermitage in style perhaps. VG+)

Gilles Barges Cote-Rotie Cuvee Duplessy 1999 (£175 per 12)
Gilles Barge reckons this is the best wine he has ever made. Bright red purple colour with a sensational nose of pure berry fruit and the distinctive Syrah characteristics of smoked bacon, liquorice and herbs. It shows meaty, herby fruit on the palate with great balance and complexity. A superb wine, but not quite as breathtaking as the Jamet 1999. Excellent
(NA: Also a sense of good ripeness on the nose but with a positive floral/Viognier top note that’s attractive. More elegance on the palate, fewer tannins, medium bodied with crisper acid. Good fruit-driven finish. More Cote-Rotie in style. VG+/Excellent. My favourite wine of the tasting.)

Pierre Dumazet Vin de Pays Viognier 1999 (£65 per 12)
Nutty nose has some honeyed notes to it. The rounded palate is fresh and again shows some honeyed character. Slightly odd, but still quite nice. Good/very good
(NA: Citrus, some plastic (almost botrytis like) and floral elements. Simple sweet palate with hard (added?) underlying acidity. Fair)

Pierre Dumazet Cotes du Rhone Cuvee du Zenith 1999 (£95 per 12)
Fresh herby nose with some floral notes. Firm acidity and taut fruit on the palate. Nice, fresh stuff. Very good
(NA: Peachy fruit on the nose flows onto the palate with enough acidity for balance. A nice, modest white Rhone. Good, very good for type.)

Pierre Dumazet Condrieu 1999 (£180 per 12)
Quite a full colour, and a delicate, enticing floral nose. It is quite tight on the palate with some rather subdued peach and pear fruit, good balance and appropriate acidity. This may well age open out a bit with a couple of years in bottle. Very good+
(NA: Mid-intensity peachy/buttery fruit on nose. Crisp acids on entry but softening to a simple mid-weight palate. Good.)

Pierre Dumazet Condrieu Cote Fournet 1999 (£215 per 12)
I'm not so keen on this cuvée: along with the floral, fruity notes there is a strong spice element to the wine. It is taut, alcoholic and quite woody on the palate. Perhaps it will improve with some age; it is obviously quite an ambitious wine, in a rich style. Good/very good
(NA: Vanillary/caramelly oak. Oaky palate. Too much oak, I can’t really judge at this stage whether the fruit will ever come back into balance….not on my money.)

Robert Niero Condrieu 1999 (£150 per 12)
Now this is my style of Condrieu. Full of interest, it has a lovely, slightly stinky nose with a smoky edge to the fruit and that elusive 'burnt rubber' edge that the Viognier grape can sometimes show. The palate is rich and rounded (with some oak?). Very good/excellent
(NA: Apricots and bananas [that Beaujolais yeast character] on nose. Tight, crisp palate but nicely balanced. Good)

Robert Niero Condrieu Coteau de Chery 1999 (£185 per 12)
Niero makes this special cuvée from a small parcel of old vine fruit. This is super stuff. It has an almost exotic nose: smoky, rich and full, with a rubbery edge to the fruit and some spice to boot. The full, rich, rounded palate has a spicy finish and plenty of interest. Very good/excellent
(NA: Richer, deeper preachy/buttery fruit – some minerals and a waxy element adds interest. Fatter style on the palate with moderate acidity but maintaining balance. Very good+)

Domaine de Colombier Crozes-Hermitage Cuvee Gaby 1999 (£80 per 12)
Florent Viale owns 14 ha of vineyards, 12 of which are Crozes-Hermitage (he also has 1.5 ha of Hermitage and 1.2 ha of Crozes-Hermitage blanc). A bright red purple colour, this lovely wine has a dense, firm but open nose with meaty, savoury, varietally true Syrah fruit. On the palate this is tannic and firm, with quite high acidity. Very attractive and probably the bargain of the tasting. Very good/excellent
(NA: Lovely, tarry fruit, complex already with hints of earth and minerals. Good bright palate – mid-weight, with modest balanced finish. VG+/excellent Crozes.)

Domaine de Colombier Hermitage Rouge 1999 (£195 per 12)
From a small 1.5 ha holding, this is a very unusual but appealing wine. It has a distinctive floral and liquorice nose, underpinned by astonishingly pure fruit. This pure fruit is underpinned on the palate by firm, dense tannins: it is an interesting and potentially ageworthy wine, but the fruit makes it tempting now, in its infancy. Very good/excellent
(NA: Sweeter, jammier nose. Hints of cinnamon and spicy oak. Palate of same. Mid-weight, modest finish but a touch longer. VG)

Domaine des Remizieres Hermitage Blanc 1999 (£185 per 12)
This is a full flavoured wine with good concentration, but it's currently so dominated by new oak that it's difficult to assess fairly. May well evolve nicely, who knows?
(NA: Buttery cashewy oak with lees like notes. Oaky background doesn’t detract from lovely vibrant citrus fruit with good overall balance and complexity. Lovely white Rhone, VG+)

Domaine des Remizieres Crozes-Hermitage Cuvee Particuliere 1999 (£75 per 12)
Firm and tannic, this wine has good density and a nice core of fruit, but needs some time to come round. At the moment it's a bit angular. Good+
(NA: Chunky, tannic, farmyardy Crozes. OK)

Domaine des Remizieres St Joseph Rouge 1999 (£95 per 12)
Dense, almost opaque purple colour. Good concentration. The nose is a little subdued, and the dense tannins on the palate make this quite unapproachable at the moment. It's certainly a good wine, but this will need some time to open out (rather unusually for a St Joseph). Very good
(NA: Cleaner, riper fruit, touch of oak. Firm tannic palate. Good)

Domaine des Remizieres Hermitage Rouge Cuvee Emilie 1999 (£200 per 12)
Dense purple/black colour with a mildly closed nose showing smoky, spicy fruit. Impressive concentration on the palate, but with rather brutal tannic structure suggesting that this is one for the long haul. Very good+
(NA: Oaky style, sweet(ened) jammy fruit with tarry richness. Tannins firm but nearly covered by extract. Long fruit driven finish. VG/VG+)

(see also Part 2: Southern Rhône, Languedoc and Provence)
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