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75 magnificent French wines to be tasted....the Rhone valley chosen as the first Wine Tour destination

The newly-formed WCoMC Wine Club sacrificing their tastebuds, to create for the Company a cellar that will add to the quality of wine provided at Company events, without any significant increase in cost

The WCoMC Wine Club was formed in September of 2012 with the objectives of:
 
• Providing a means for Members to share and develop their knowledge and appreciation of wine; 
• Creating a cellar for the Company that will add to the quality of wine provided at Company events without any significant increase in cost.
 
Last month the Wine Club organised its first tour with a view to meeting both of these objectives. 
 
I have been visiting the Rhône valley on and off for a couple decades. My first visit to the area was in 1993 when I was directing a choir that toured the area and gave several concerts of sixteenth century a cappella music to the interested, appreciative but slightly bewildered local population. In between concerts the more enthusiastic of us were entertained by a friend who took us wine tasting.
 
Kevin Aylott—or “Keveen” as the locals always address him—retired from teaching in England in 1986 and purchased a former winery in Rasteau which he converted into gites and this is where we stayed. For the past three decades he has been befriending the local wine producers, buying their wine and drinking it!
 
Having ready-made accommodation and a local tour guide, however, was only one reason for choosing the Rhône as our first wine tour destination. 
 
With its many villages and being such a huge fertile area the Rhône counts among the world’s great wine producing areas. It was an ideal place for the wine club to purchase further stock for our cellar because the producers do not command large prices for their young wines, but the potential for the wines to develop is considerable. Mature Rhône wines from the more famous villages such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape command eye-watering prices in London wine merchants.
 
We had an inauspicious start to the day when EasyJet announced to our plane-full of passengers destined for Marseille that the French public workers were holding a grève and that we would be held on the tarmac at Gatwick. This delay turned out to be seven hours but we eventually took off and, having hired the minibus from Marseille airport, we arrived in Rasteau just in time for a late dinner. 
 
It was a nail biting experience driving from Marseille to Rasteau since not only were we fighting the Mistral, but I had relied on Google maps to help guide the Master in driving the minibus, but after delay at Luton my Samsung’s battery was almost flat...
 
Over the two days Keveen took us to nine producers and we tasted around 75 wines. I am sure you will expect me to say that “it’s a tough job but someone has to do it”. The reason that this sort of assignment is tough is because at 10.00am in the morning tasting wine is rather less appealing than it becomes later in the day, but also it is important to maintain a consistency of judgement from start to finish when it comes to making purchasing decisions. It is also the case that because the wine is young and often not yet really ready for drinking the tannin levels are high and this dulls the taste buds. 
 
The producers were all very accommodating in providing the cracher as well as water, biscuits, bread and in one case small pieces of cheese.
 
We visited Rasteau, Vacqueyras and Gigondas and the village wines of Cairanne, Roaix, Sablet, Beaumes de Venise and Côtes du Ventoux. 
 
At the end of the second day the six of us compared notes and agreed that we were faced with an embarrassment of riches. We did however end up with a list of wines from four producers that sat in the common centre of our Venn Diagram of favourites:
  •  Domaine AOC Style Colour 
  •  Clos des Cazaux Gigondas La Tour Sarrazine Rouge
  •  Clos des Cazaux Vacqueyras Cuvee des Templiers Rouge
  •  Beau Mistral Côtes du Rhône Blanc
  •  Bressy-Masson CdR-Village Rasteau Rouge
  •  La Ligiere Vacqueyras Classique Rouge
 
For further details of three of these selections please see Patrick’s blog at: https://wcomc.org/node/223
 
The tour was a huge success. We achieved our objective of swelling the Club’s cellars with some terrific wine at good prices which we will enjoy drinking in the future. 
 
We were also ‘educated’: - how can you not be when you spend time with producers from the area who all give you the low down on the proportion of grape varieties used in their different styles, how old their vines are, what was the vendange like that year, how many times did they have to re-start the fermentation, what are their personal off-the-record views on the buyers from BBR ....
 
Personally I felt the experience was fascinating: understanding how a French wine producer works is actually far more interesting than maintaining the mystery. 
 
Please do have ideas for the region we might visit for the next tour - and get ready to sign up !
 
Liveryman Alistair Dixon