Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

I think I can fairly say that over the years,  the wines in my cellar that have consistently given the most pleasure to the most people (people who like wine keenly but are not label-drinkers / wine-snobs),  are 1983 Guigal Cotes du Rhone and 1983 Guigal Gigondas.  Note these wines continue to give great pleasure,  despite the bizarre writings of consumerist American wine authorities who say Cotes du Rhone should be consumed (never tasted, note) within two to three years – or even one to two years.  And,  few wines are so increasingly food-friendly with increasing age.

Since 2009 and 2010 in the Southern Rhone Valley are considered by many knowledgeable people to be the most exciting back-to-back vintages in recent years,  or perhaps even living memory,  it seems imperative to examine and re-examine representative wines available in New Zealand,  with thoughts of cellaring in mind.  The tasting of the four wines below comes into the re-checking category.  Note that neither proprietor totally passes the (also bizarre) dicta of the brett police,  lead in this part of the world by the Australian Wine Research Institute.  But then,  when did Australia ever lead the world in their illustration of red wine beauty,  as opposed to wine size,  power and weight,  or their misuse of tartaric acid and oak?

Guigal wines are imported here by Negociants New Zealand,  and are available through discriminating wine shops.  Saint Cosme wines from Louis Barruol,  one of the most exciting and personable growers in the Southern Rhone Valley,  are imported by Paul Mitchell,  The Wine Importer,  at Kumeu,  and are available on his website www.wineimporter.co.nz

Cellaring Southern Rhone wines:  Some I'm sure will read these thoughts and the reviews below with disbelief,  and shake their heads.  Nonetheless,  I urge you to buy some of these wines,  and follow them,  and decide for yourself on the evidence,  not presumption.  

Meanwhile,  it is a rare thing for winewriters to put their musings to the test,  or more accurately have their writings put to public test by readers.  Next year I plan to do exactly this via my Library Tastings.

In 1988 I wrote of the beauty to be found in the very good 1983 and 1985 (mainly) vintages in the Rhone Valley.  This was in Cuisine Issue 9,  June – July 1988,  under the title:  The Glorious Wines of the Rhone.  Library Tastings of the best of these 1983 and 1985 Northern and Southern Rhone wines (as reviewed then) will be offered in 2013,  via this website,  Regional Wines Wellington's website,  and perhaps others if there is interest.  I cannot easily communicate how eagerly I am looking forward to seeing some of these wines again.  I hope you will wish to too,  particularly if you followed my advice then to buy certain of them by the case.

THE WINES REVIEWED:  Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends

2009  Guigal Gigondas
2010  Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone Les Deux Albion
  2010  Saint Cosme Gigondas
2009  Saint Cosme Gigondas

2009  Guigal Gigondas   19  ()
Gigondas,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $65   [ 50 mm cork;  Gr 65%,  Mv 25,  Sy 10;  average vine age 40  years;  cropped c.3.75 t/ha = c.1.5 t/ac;  traditional extended cuvaison;  24 months in large French oak,  50% new;  c.21,000 cases;  www.guigal.com ]
Elegant ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  the second to lightest and fractionally the least youthful of the wines.  Bouquet is simply sensational fragrant Cotes du Rhone / Chateauneuf grenache-lead red,  wonderful red and black cherry / red plum fruit,  voluminous cinnamon and garrigue floral and spice notes,  great excitement in the glass.  Palate is already velvety,  scarcely any new oak apparent (joy !),  yet lovely tannins,  a mouth-filling wine that is the most burgundian of the set – a little softness already.  The sensations in the mouth as the bulk of the fruit and tannins subside,  and the garrigue and spice notes return,  is a delight.  One thing to comment on:  note the cepage.  In my experience with southern Rhone reds,  wines with more grenache than mourvedre,  and more mourvedre than syrah cellar particularly well and develop wonderful burgundian complexity with age.  It is this change in cepage that has lead to the relative fall in quality of Guigal's Cotes du Rhone over the last 30 years,  now it is syrah-lead.  This is magical wine,  exemplifying all the best qualities of Guigal's reds over the last 30 years.  Like my 1983 Guigal Gigondas mentioned earlier,  buy this wine by the case-lot,  and treasure it.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone Les Deux Albion   18 ½ +  ()
Cotes du Rhone,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $27   [ 50 mm cork;  cepage along the lines of Sy 40%,  Gr 30,  Mv 10,  Ca 10,  clairette (white) 10%,  the Sy and clairette co-fermented,  the other three fermented separately;  wild-yeast fermentations include whole-bunch components and the cuvaisons extend to six weeks,  wonderfully traditional;  note that from the 2007 vintage this wine (which is frequently Louis Barruol's best-value wine) has been from a single vineyard,  now owned by Saint Cosme,  and is therefore both an Estate or domaine wine and in fact a Cotes du Rhone-Villages wine;  the greater part of the 2010 was raised in concrete vats,  the balance in 1 – 4 years-old larger barrels.  The subtle oak accounts for much of the wine's charm;  c.1,590 cases;  www.saintcosme.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the deepest colour,  wonderful.  Bouquet is deeper and quieter by far than the Gigondas wines,  yet in one sense it is the purest too.  There is a wonderful dusky florality of darkest roses and violets on bottled black doris plums and cinnamon,  and a touch of new oak.  Palate is nearly fleshy,  yet more fine-grained (less oak) than the Gigondas wines,  the darker plummyness lingering long,  the wine staying fresh on lovely acid (and a touch of cinnamon).  Total acid is not quite as high as the 2010 Gigondas,  but nonetheless this wine will cellar very well.  Being as rich as the Gigondas wines,  and of somewhat similar cepage,  I expect it to be in fine form for 10 – 25 + years,  notwithstanding a carignan component (which can be a weak link in southern Rhone blends).  For the powerful 2009 vintage of this wine Robert Parker states:  requires consumption in its first 2-3 years of life.  This comment is so far removed from the wine's factual reality in the glass that I opened the 2000 vintage while the 2009 and 2010 were open.  The 2000 is now superlative,  at an early full maturity,  as velvety as fine burgundy and nearly as fragrant,  but darker.  Buy as much of the 2010 Albion as you can afford.  I am buying it for a two-year-old's twenty-first.  GK 10/12

2010  Saint Cosme Gigondas   18 ½  ()
Gigondas,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $40   [ 50 mm cork;  Gr 60%,  Sy 20;  Mv 18,  Ci 2;  whole-bunch and wild-yeast fermentations and extended cuvaison;  perhaps up to 70% of the wine is aged in 1 – 4 years-old barrels,  the balance concrete vat;  not filtered;  3,330 cases;  www.saintcosme.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  fractionally the lightest of the wines,  still a great colour.  Bouquet is complex,  with quite noticeable garrigue aromatics and florals,  clean cinnamon,  lots of red and black fruits,  great integration and just an academic level of brett to make the wine even more food-friendly.  Palate is gorgeous,  similar fruit to the top wines but slightly more oak,  so in one sense the wine seems delicate and aromatic.  It hasn't quite got the burgundian beauty of the Guigal yet,  it is clearly more aromatic,  and the flavour lingers on the aromatics.  Do not think of the concrete vat component as detracting from the quality of the wine.  In fact surprisingly often this cuvée ends up more supple,  burgundian and harmonious than the more oak-affected "serious" Gigondas such as Valbelle from Saint Cosme.  Another wine to buy as much as you can afford,  and rejoice in for half a lifetime.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 10/12

2009  Saint Cosme Gigondas   18 ½  ()
Gigondas,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $40   [ 50 mm cork;  Gr 60%,  Sy 20;  Mv 18,  Ci 2;  a small crop due to hail at flowering, which turned out to be in a sense beneficial for handling the late season drought – tannic wines;  whole-bunch and wild-yeast fermentations and extended cuvaison;  up to 70% of the wine is aged in 1 – 4 years-old barrels,  the balance concrete vat;  not filtered;  2.900 cases;  www.saintcosme.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the second to deepest wine.  Bouquet shows all the beauty of great Chateauneuf,  in a wine of greater richness,  plummyness and fruit than the 2010.  The cinnamon and silver / pink pine (Dacrydium spp) aromatics of grenache are wonderfully apparent,  complexed by faint brett.  In mouth,  the wine is the most burly in the group as befits a 2009 representative.  The total acid and the aromatics are slightly down relative to the 2010 Saint Cosme Gigondas,  but the plushness of this midnight-dark fruit is sensational.  This wine too will give great pleasure for 10 – 30 years.  Robert Parker reports that his sample of the 2009 Gigondas showed reduction.  The bottling available in New Zealand is perfect in this respect,  and the wine can be cellared with great confidence (unless you are paranoid about brett).  GK 10/12