A Happy New Year to you all from Cairanne; we hope you had a good break and savoured some wines of the Southern Rhône over the holiday season.
While it’s tradition in some parts of the world to greet the New Year with a hearty rendition of Auld Lang Syne – the meaning of which we understand to be ‘good times long past’ – we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on a few of our own ‘good times past’ of 2012.
HARVEST: Harvest time is always the pinnacle of our calendar; in 2012 picking started on the 13th September (5 days later than 2011) under clear blue skies with a Mistral blowing.
Syrah at La Ruche, the plot surrounding our Cairanne cellar, was the first to be picked, with old vine Grenache Noir from Saint Andéol the last. Seeing the small red baskets of grapes in an orderly line outside the cellar, as if waiting their turn to enter the the vast wooden tronconiques, fills us with excitement for the coming vintage.
Fermentation took a little while to start in 2012. We use only natural yeasts present on the grapes (mostly on their skins) so we have to be patient and wait for the yeasts in the first fermenter to ‘wake up’.
Soon we are plunged into the rhythmic routine of remontage and pigeage…..
….a manual task which gradually gets easier as fermentation runs its course in the open topped tronconiques and we can use a pigeour rather than foot power…
We know we are deep into the vintage when our hands are continually stained red.
As fermentation finished in the last tank harvest was soon over for another year.
REVIVING OLD VARIETALS: Ten months earlier 2012 started with an icy spell in Cairanne but with the arrival of Spring we were able to continue with our project to revive old Rhône varietals.
Our Mourvèdre plot at Font Crozes, planted in 2011, is doing well. On the 3rd April 2012 we started to plant 250 Carignan Noir vines at Saint Andeol, our oldest Grenache Noir vineyard, where some vines date back to 1946.
Carignan Noir has been misunderstood and unfairly maligned: when produced from low yields its grapes have the potential to produce wine of incredible structure and acidity, a perfect counterfoil to rich, heady Grenache Noir.
Planted close to Grenache Noir (and in the old days probably intermingled) Carignan Noir gives a backbone and freshness to the final assemblage.
A small but vital component of Carignan Noir has always been included in Boutinot Rhône ‘La Côte Sauvage’ Cairanne and we will continue to value the gifts of complexity and longevity this old grape variety can bring.
These newly planted vines won’t be harvested for another two years, but by late September the tiny vines were growing well (see below) and we are confident our new planting of Carignan Noir will bear great fruit.
2009 UNLEASHED: Later in the Spring, after staying patiently true to our philosophy of ‘“we let the wine decide” (meaning that wine is only released when ready, rather than responding to market demand) our red 2009’s were released.
2009 was the first vintage we were able to show, side by side, four Boutinot Rhône reds – a Sablet, Séguret, Cairanne and a Côtes du Rhône Villages. Winemaker Eric Monnin and Kim Tidy held a horizontal 2009 Masterclass at the London Wine Trade Fair to show the the difference in styles within this one vintage; the effect of careful part maturation of the ‘Les Coteaux’ Côtes du Rhône Villages, the silk of ‘La Citadelle’ Sablet, the purity and almost tenderness of the Grenache Noir in the ‘Les Coteaux Schisteux’ Séguret and the complexity of the ‘La Côte Sauvage’ Cairanne.
Kim Tidy later said that “the Séguret has an extrodinary delicacy, softness and purity of flavour, while the Cairanne shows an interesting tension between finesse and elegance and the opulence of the 2009 vintage. There was much excitement about the 2007 vintage but for us 2009 was even better and (as it’s too early to finally judge our 2010 wines which are still in barrel) we think it’s our best yet”.
90+ POINTS The reputation of our 2009 vintage then spread stateside. Rhône Report author Jeb Dunnuck awarded our Séguret 2009 91 points, commenting that he found it ‘balanced, elegant, with a light, seamless texture and fantastic length‘ and ”beautifully constructed‘. 90 points were also awarded to La Côte Sauvage, Cairanne 2009 in his Rhône Report (issue 13).
90 points were awarded to Les Coteaux, Côtes du Rhône Villages ’09 in the same edition and selected as a Smart Buy. Later in the year Les Coteaux was listed in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Outstanding Value wines (December 31st 2012). James Molesworth, the Wine Spectators Rhône expert, commented:-
“This broad, gutsy red delivers lots of mouthfilling plum, blackberry, roasted fig, bramble, smouldering tobacco and warm stone notes. Dark and dense through the finish, but well-delineated. Drink now through 2016. 90 points” James Molesworth.
In the UK respected sommeliers also recognised the outstanding value of Les Coteaux 2009 awarding it a Gold in the 2012 Sommelier Wine Awards . The judging panel commented that it was “unfussy and flavoursome – and excellent value left our panel in no doubt, this was Gold material“. Judge Sarah Jane Evans MW also said “a textbook wine. You could eat anything with this“.
Gold was also given to Les Coteaux 2009 in the China Wine & Spirit Awards Best Value category.
Back in mainland Europe our La Côte Sauvage Cairanne 2009 became a TV star, as a panel of Dutch experts and consumers chose it as their number one wine from Southern Rhône appellations.
SPANISH TOUR: Our wine also travelled to Spain as part of the NorthxNorthWest tour which brought together the world’s leading chefs based in Northern Spain with four distinguished chefs from the North of England.
During the tour the English chefs – Paul Askew (The London Carriage Works), Aiden Byrne (The Church Green), Andrew Nutter (Nutters) and Simon Rimmer (Earle) – met the culianry forces behind the world’s most eminent restaurants – Daniel Garcia (Zortziko) , Victor Arguinzoniz (Asador Etxebarri), Andoni Luis (Mugariz), Martin Berastegui (Martin Berastegui Restaurante) and Eneko Atxa (Azurmendi). In thanks for the inspirational menu’s and warm Basque welcome shown to the English chef contingent a limited edition magnum of Boutinot Rhône ‘Les Deux Barriques’ Cairanne 2005 was presented to each Spanish chef.
As 2013 begins we look forward to another harvest and the release of our 2010 vintage. According to John Livingstone-Learmonth of Decanter magazine 2010 is considered a fine vintage and one which ‘I place 2010 in the top three of my 40 years covering the Rhône, alongside the 1978 and the 1990′ (John Livingstone-Learmonth, Decanter, April 2012).
But we have once again to be patient and ‘let the wine decide’ when our 2010 vintage it is ready to be released…..