Tasted in Villefranche, 06 April 2017.
The appellation of Chiroubles has something of a problem at the moment – but it’s not a wine quality problem – as can be seen from the tasting that follows – the average quality of these wines was certainly higher than that of the Régnié tasting done on the same day and very much in-line with what I would expect in the 2015 vintage.
475 hectares are delimited for the Chiroubles appellation – 351 ha are currently planted, of which 314 hectares were harvested in 2016. The problem for Chiroubles is the geography/topography of these hectares and the connotations that they bring in the modern market.
Chiroubles has not just some of the highest altitude vines, it also has some of the steepest slopes, slopes that were ravaged by both hail and rain last year – with almost equal destructive effect. The heavy rain combined with the steep slopes resulted in a lot of fast-moving water ripping channels through the vines and the loss of much of, what is already a meagre topsoil. If you combine this with soils that are often too steep for tractors – and horses too – plus price-points for many that virtually mandate a reliance on chemical weed control, the destruction in 2016 was enough that a number of growers approaching retirement age simply gave up after to hail. One grower estimated as much as 50 hectares of prime (quality) old-vine Chiroubles was ‘for sale’ – reading between those lines – if they don’t have buyers, they are effectively abandoned – effectively 15% of the Chiroubles appellation went up for sale within a few weeks…
Whilst the vines are undeniably attractive from a wine-quality viewpoint, the younger demographic of growers who might consider purchasing vines, are more organic/biodynamic-minded – but the steepness of many slopes brings a level of manual work that can not be recovered from selling the wines – at current pricing.
As always, the wines were tasted blind, and pairing of the note with name of the wine (from its technical sheet) as done a couple of weeks later.
Some super wines here – I very much liked the consistency of presentation here – it was just sometimes a question of whether the sweetness of fruit balanced the acidity. The wines have a combination of volume energy and tannin – to the extent that ‘texture’ is a word that hardly comes to mind with these wines – you are simply holding on for the ride!
Quite a heavy, red wax-topped bottle. Deeply coloured. Hmm, this has very nice shape and depth of aroma – dark-fruited. Lots of sweetness but it also has intensity, complexity and drive – there’s lots of energy here. Really mouth-watering and long in the finish. A great start.
Another deeply coloured wine. A little more spiced, less fruited aromatic. Also lots of volume and energy – intense and with drive – a little licorice and more saline flavour – really a great finish. Super wine again, impressively long…
Just a hint less colour. More floral perfumed – a subtle base of fruit in support. Fresh again, lots of energy again, just a little more texture and melting fruit flavour here – this is the best yet – bravo! With a great crescendo of finishing flavour!
Fabien Collonge, l’Aurore des Côtes
Very dark colour. A sweetness of Beaujolais, but a dark-fruited rendition. Here is more tannin but with a similar freshness and energy to the last wines – more floral in the mouth too. In terms of energy and shape in the mouth, that’s 4 very consistent wines so far, though this I find just a little behind the previous wines in terms of clarity, with a lovely bouquet of flowers though. Still a super wine though.
Heavy bottle. Deeply coloured. A deep nose too – macerating dark fruit but fresh – slowly building a little higher-toned vibrance of aroma. A wine of scale and of concentration. Good freshness here, if a little behind the previous 4 in terms of overt energy. This wine is more about the delivery of saturated layers of flavour – pure dark-fruited flavour. Different but bravo!
Christophe Savoye, Cuvée Loic
Deeply coloured. A tighter nose – just the faintest of fresh, dark fruit references. Big in the mouth, fresh, quite good energy – less sucrosity, more tannin – but then a super burst of mid-palate to finishing flavour. Some dryness of texture here. A wine to be patient with, but there’s still a lot of wine here.
Domiane Ruet, La Fontenelle
Deep colour. Also a modestly tight nose – faint pepper spice above and a depth, a suggestion, of dark fruit. Another wine of volume and energy – fine freshness – nothing fat – a little less challenging than the last. Big, fresh, mouth-watering dark fruit flavour. A juiciness in the finish. Another wine for the patient but really super wine!
Very deep colour. A freshness of fruit, high tones that hint of extraction – massive depth. Big and fresh – really the characteristic of all these wines so-far. Ingraining fresh flavour, great intensity too. The texture of tannin is the most overt finishing note, but there’s great potential here. Super wine.
Domaine de la Combe au Loup – Méziat Père et Fils
A little less colour – only a little. A big, open, perfumed nose of violets over a deeper fruit. Good volume but less so and with less overt energy vs all the previous wines. There is still freshness and weight of flavour, complex flavour but it is a more compact, a more compressed experience. But long with a faint tannin. Still very good.
Domaine Dufoux, Cuvée Reservée
A colour like the last. Very deep nose – almost a hint of fresh white mushroom and pyrazine. In the mouth here is volume and freshness with lots of energy again – the impression is of a lower order of ripeness. This is just a little mouth-puckering, finishing with tannin too.
Château de Javernand, Vieilles-Vignes
Not so deep colour. Faint pepper spice over more red than black fruit. Big, fresh, energetic, no fat, growing intensity – a blacker component here almost like a toast or licorice in the mid-palate. Big, mouth-watering, long finishing, faintly dark mineral. Very good wine!
Quite deep colour. A tighter nose – faintly floral over dark fruit notes. Big, fresh, energetic. Plenty of tannin here, growing concentration – Oof! That’s a big wine! Really a lot of tannin in the finish. Lacking a little deliciousness today, but clearly not lacking material! Impressive wine.
Again quite a deep colour. A tighter nose again too – faint floral notes. Big and fresh, a redder fruit profile and lots of growing, energetic intensity. There is some tannin here, but it’s not quite in the ascendant. Really a beautiful, layered, dark fruit in the finish which is delicious despite all the structure that surrounds it. Painfully young but really great wine!
Not so deep colour. A modest nose but with some fruit and floral focus, slowly a little depth of aroma too. Big and bright, fresh and energetic, faintly saline with plenty of dark complexity. Juicy finishing dark fruit. Just another really super wine!
Dominique et Remy Passot
Back to deeply coloured wine. A tight nose, though herbs slowly start to escape the glass. Massive, fresh, tannin-laden wine. Really more herb than fruit here. Massive tannin. A wine to leave in the cellar and forget. But the finish heralds lots of hope for the still juicy dark fruit…
Medium-plus colour. An open nose, a little redder fruit – less intense. Good shape in the mouth, lots of mouth-watering red fruit – it could be a different appellation after the last wine. But very tasty wine all the same…. delicious finishing!
Deeper colour again. Tight dark fruit – only a suggestion of freshness escapes the tightness! Super texture but I forgive all with a wave of fresh energy – back to the Chiroubles 2015 archetype. Big volume and here a super-impressive and delicious water-fall of finishing flavour yum!
Frederic Berne, Les Terrasses
Another heavy sommelier bottle – red wax-topped. Oof deep dark and simmering with vanilla oak. A perturbed texture – some gas? A compressed wine but concentrated and tannic too. Lots of flavour but much of that is artificial – it’s vanilla oak… lots of finishing dimension though…
Quite deep colour. Deep, a different style of nose – some pepper, some suggestion of reduction. Bright, fresh, sucrosity the same ‘reductive’ note as the nose. Almost a chocolate impression to the flavour. Many great points of interest here. I’m so close to highlighting this wine…
Dark colour. A deep, compact but interesting dark fruit. Lots and lots of volume in the mouth, an accent of floral notes, really a lot of energy here. A great, mouth-watering and juicy finish. A hard wine to drink today yet an easy one to recommend – to the patient! Bravo!
Vignerons de Bel Air – Domaine des Rocherots
Deep colour. The tightest of noses! Big, though less volume than most, muscular wine, a base of fine-grained tannin. Very dark fruit and I have to say delicious in the finish – but more anonymous than most up to that point.
P Ferraud et Fils, Le Champ en Pente
A heavy bottle containing almost black wine! Tight top notes over a macerating, almost stewing, very dark fruit. This has volume and energy – like most – but the massive weight of fruit has a slightly stewed aspect – some spice character too. Even in the finish, whilst nicer, it lacks the delicious aspects of most wines here. Maybe it will be great in 15 years – but not on my dollar…
Anthony Charvet, LXIR
Oof – I can hardly lift this bottle! Deep simmering dark fruit with a saline aspect. Big in the mouth, but less overtly fresh than the others – this is more considered – concentrated and layered – a wine more about texture than energy – lots of barrel here I’m guessing, but very well-managed with no vanilla. A cuvée prestige without the vanilla – I must say I prefer the freshness of most of the others though.
Anthony Charvet, Granite
A little less deep colour. A nose of fresh dark fruit though with a sense of depth too. Back to the big volume and energy style – though here also with a bit more obvious concentration and the texture that brings. Another wine with less energy, but more than the last. Very good finishing flavour and mouth-coating tannins. That is a just a little more attractive than the last wine today… ha! The same producer – the texture has it!
Georges Duboeuf – Domaine des Pontheux
Dark colour. A nose that’s less attractive than many – almost a little toast. Another wine that is more about concentration and texture than freshness and energy. Less dimension of flavour vs the last two but quite tasty all the same. Good wine, but hard to see the Chiroubles…
Château de Javernand, Les Gatilles
A little more modest colour. A brighter nose, a little floral pyrazine, and some depth too. Fresh, good volume, plenty of energy, a modest length in the current context. A faint bitter twist in the finish to augment a quite nice fruit.
Deeply coloured. Also a deep nose – slowly developing a very elegant dark fruit! Big, fresh, nice complexity, lots of intensity. Bright, mouth-watering juicy intensity of fine fruit in the finish – bravo!
Modest colour. Deep, a more stewed style of dark fruit, maybe some oak hiding in here. Wider than directly of volume, but fresh and a hint saline too. Yes there is oak, vanilla oak, but it’s quite subtle. Long finishing through plenty of tannin. Good but not great wine in the context of this group.
Ouf – black wine. A simmering depth of black fruit. A little less volume than most, but more concentrated – a wine of intensity and weight rather than overt energy. Slightly stewed fruit flavour in the finish. Lots here, it’s very impressive (oppressive?) wine, but missing a little eclat and elan…
Obviously a little less colour than the last. Another slightly savoury, saline nose – it’s not particularly inviting. Big in the mouth and fresh too – here more saline than fruited it seems. Really only in the finish does the fruit come to the front of the stage, but it remains reticent in the face of the rest of this wine.
Jean Louis Chapuis
Modestly medium-plus coloured. A discreet nose, but one that’s got a floral lead. A little more a wine of width than volume, but fine energy and mouth-watering flavour here – good texture too. A bright peak of energy in the finish before slowly fading on a similar floral aspect as the nose. This is very attractive! Different to the majority but very tasty indeed!