This ‘Cru Bourgeois’ from Cotes De Blaye shows how good 2005 claret is at every level. Made from 45 year old vines (80%Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) in an ‘early drinking’ style, it is in fine form now.
A dark and intense ruby with a slightly pink (rhubarb) rim. On opening it was cellar cool but already very drinkable with lots of sweet red fruit and a hint of blackcurrant leaves. The tannins were well- integrated and it is always nice to have oak used sympathetically rather than wrung out for all its worth. After 10 minutes it was even softer and had opened up on the nose and had some cigar box and spicy notes on the finish. A pretty versatile and robust red to have with food including roasted red meats, game or a lump of hard cheese.
I think its was around £8 from The Wine Society and it has been sitting happily in my cellar for the last couple of years. It is really good to have some 05s to open now as most that I bought en primeur need a decade more to hit their stride. The 2006 retails at £9.50 and I should order a bottle to try but is unlikely to be as good as this.
I bought this St Joseph (100 per cent Syrah) La Royes from Domaine Courbis a few years ago as part of a Wine Society ‘clear out’ of 2004 Rhones. It has aged perfectly in my cellar (Victorian coal hole) and is drinking really well right now (and should be fine for another 2 or 3 years at least). It is a perfect example of why wine should be enjoyed with food; very drinkable on its own but when paired with lamb chops it is sublime. The tannins have softened and it is brim full of black cherry fruit and background notes that suggest a trip along a spice rack.
The Domaine in the Northern Rhone (which also grows cherries) is managed by brothers Laurent and Dominique Courbis. They have integrated modern vinicultural techniques without losing touch with core values that make this region so appealing. The fruit is usually de-stemmed, cold-soaked and aged in a combination of old and new oak. This produces relatively dark, but not over-extracted, silky wine which is powerful but, at 13%, not headache-inducing (especially when combined with food – another good reason to put the oven on).
The Rhone has been producing consistently good wines for a decade, bar the 2002 nightmare vintage, and continues to offer value when compared with Burgundy and Bordeaux. Interestingly this wine is reported to have increased in value by 15% during the last year (it is a ’90 pointer’) and is not cheap at around £20. There are lots of investors who realised that wines from the region being scored at 90+ (especially by Robert Parker) were signifcantly cheaper than wines with equivalent scores from Bordeaux or Napa. Thus was born the pound/dollar to Parker point investment strategy that has resulted in significant price increases in some of the most sought after Rhones. I think that following the recent blip in prices this will continue to be the case and hope that people who collect to enjoy (drink)wines will still be able to afford them. Wines that are destined never to be drunk because they are traded as an investment vehicle are a testament to a culture that knows the price of everything but value of very little.