March 7 Tain-Hermitage

8 Mar

We are now at Tain-Hermitage, which is near the bottom (southern end) of the Northern Rhone. There’s about 50 kilometers between the South and the North. Today we had two fabulous visits/tastings, with lunch in between and a well-needed jog for about an hour.

We visited Jean-Luc Colombo and Chapoutier. Neither is small, especially Chapoutier, but we like their wines and philosophies. We will see about the cost o f the wines when we get back home, since we can’t tell from local prices how much more they’ll cost in good old MA.

Just a brief mention of the differences between the Northern and Southern Rhone. A major difference is that there’s only on red, Syrah. We think syrah is a great grape, and hope to be able to show this back home at Pairings. Also, there’s only 3 whites, Roussane, Marsanne, and Viognier. In contrast, the south has many varieties. For instance, Chateauneuf-du-Pape can have 13 varietals in their “reds” (including a few whites), and the white wine have as many as 6 different varietals.


The Northern Rhone is a good place to learn all about Syrah, and the best viognier in the world is reputed to be from this area, specifically Condrieu, which we will be visiting. We’ve already had some superior viogniers, ones different than from other places in the world….we like the best ones from everywhere. If you haven’t tried viogniers, we suggest you do.

The winery


Jean-Luc Colombo is in Cornas, one of the small but famous areas in the Northern Rhone. – Fannie Fource, who’d we’d met when a distributor, and is now a rep for Jean-Luc, set this up. Matthieu, who did the tasting, was very busy, also bottling a new rose, so when we arrived early he asked us to come back at the appointed time. We went for a nice walk and got some good pictures of the steep slopes. There was a definite advantage to Matthieu having to go out to the bottling line (which we did as well, and took pics). Bottling line at Jon Luc ColumboThis gave us time to swirl, chew and spit several times for each wine, savoring them. Most of these wines can and should age, so they open up in the glass over time. It’s fun to see how they evolve in the glass. We tasted seven wines in all, 3 whites, 4 reds, and he gave us a bottle of the rose just coming off the line. Their Amour de Dieu Condrieu (viognier) is the best white, with kiwi, apricots and dirty socks (in a good way…really!). The first two reds are from the Crozes Hermitage and Saint Joseph areas, both excellent, but leading up to the Cornas wines, which is what made them famous. The Cornas Terres Brulees, which is already at Pairings, is intense with black cherry on the nose, long minerally, with good acid…a terrific food wine…a candidate for a special Pairing. We finished with their awesome Les Ruchets 2006, a single vineyard wine, first made in 1987.

Cornas Hillside



Mathieu took us to the door and pointed to a small “brown” parcel where this grows. The wine has a beautiful nose, power, elegance and is minerally, all at the same time….earthy as well…the few years of aging has served it well. At 55 euros at the winery, this is a special wine.

On a whim, we decided to stop at Chapoutier, and we are very glad we did. The presentation and wines were fantastic…see the picture…we had 14 wines

Chapoutier Line-up

, different grapes from different areas, and got a tutorial all at the same time. We learned (at least somewhat) about how the wines differ from the different areas. Also, Chapoutier is biodynamic, in general, and a very generous person. The philosophy is to make wine characteristic of the area, to be balanced and elegant, but the wines are inherently powerful at the same time. Chapoutier also has exhibits showing the different types of soils in the different areas, which we have pictures of.

Chapoutier Terroirs

They have wines from many places in the world, including Australia. The person who’s going to Australia soon to run this operation was in the tasting room with us “training”, so we all got “trained”. The presenter, Samuel, said that it didn’t matter if training was going on, he would do this kind of tasting for any visitors that have this kind of interest in their wines (I note that during our tasting various other people came in, tasted a few wines, bought some, and were there way). In trying whites and reds (syrahs) from all the areas, we got a good idea of the differences….we hope to present this at Pairings, if enough of you are interested. Briefly…Crozes-Hermitage in on a flat area, and the least famous of the wines (though many are very good). Hermitage itself is a small plot on the side of a mountain, and very prestigious. Cornas is also small, again with much prestige. Saint-Joseph is larger and varied, and has some wonderful wines. Condrieu only has viognier, reputed the best in the world, and the surrounding area also has some pretty nice viognier, though less expensive (We had an awesome on at dinner last night, and look forward to more). I could go on an on…Samuel served us a special limited edition wine, as well as finishing up with a red from a very small parcel at the top of the mountain (see picture), which I don’t have words for. If you every come to this area,

Chapoutier Hillside

just drop in at Chapoutier, the only one in the area open 7 days and without needing an appointment (for Jean Luc  you should make an appointment). The visits were wonderful wine experiences.

I won’t describr dinner (and notice I haven’t been doing that) since they’ve been fraught with disappointment. The food in France is supposed to be so good….but has been mostly mediocre or worse.


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