“Why aren’t there more people here?” I posed rhetorically to the handful of other tasters at the recent presentation of Yves Cuilleron’s latest releases at Prince Wine Store’s Sydney shop. Once again “The Prince” had put on a great show and it seemed to me that anyone from the Sydney area interested in fine wine should have been there to take advantage of the free tasting.
Their tastings run between 12 noon and 3pm each Saturday. There will be a theme – a particular wine maker, a wine making area or some particular vintage – and it’s a fantastic opportunity to extend your wine knowledge and try a wine before you buy. Especially if you intend to spend a significant amount of money: the try before you buy adage is hard to beat.
And do buy something occasionally. Dedicated, independent wine merchants, like Prince Wine Store, are rare and deserve our support or we’ll simply be left with the enormous conglomerates. The chains have their place but for if are looking for anything unusual, interesting, different or some knowledgeable advice, developing a good relationship with a caring wine merchant is worth the time and effort.
Yves Cuilleron is one of the leading producers in the Northern Rhone and has played a driving role in the development of the Condrieu Appellation. Yves commenced buying vineyards when Condrieu was stagnating and in danger of becoming irrelevant and helped re-establish Condrieu’s place in the wine world. Although Yves is most famed for his Rhone whites, especially his Condrieu, he also has some enticing and improving reds.
The Cuilleron St Peray Les Poitiers 2013.
This is a blend of 50% Marsanne and 50% Roussane.. What an impressive start to the tasting. This is a lovely refreshing wine from the Southern Rhone, bright yellow, aromatic and appealing. Slightly minerally but subtle fruit flavours.
A fabulous summer aperitif. This wine in excellent value around the $40 – $50 mark.
Cuilleron Condrieu Petit Cote 2013.
Here we have a fantastic wine. 100% Viognier of course, it undergoes both alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation in barriques using native yeasts.
It is less forward than the previous wine but a short consideration reveals it to be fabulously elegant with beautiful acid and a strong finish. Its underlying power is clearly evident. This wine has many years in front of it and shows how exquisite the viognier grape can be when grown in the proper surroundings and in the hands of a master wine maker.
Not cheap at close to $100 but this is a world class wine.
Both these two wonderful wines are great in their own way, but were sadly followed by a couple of disappointing wines that really left you wondering “Why?”.
A rose was more crimson than a classic Provence pink. A bit too much candy/raspberry cordial on the palate and a slightly bitter finish. And then a gamay, which I felt was slightly oxidised. Regardless it was rather unappealing, nothing like a Beaujolais, the ultimate expression of the gamay grape.
The French worked out over many centuries where to grow a particular grape. So my advice, leave the rose to Provence and the gamay in Beaujolais and stick to your Rhone specials where you are a master.
This was certainly reinforced when we went onto his Rhone reds which were great expressions of terroir.
Cuilleron Crozes-Hermitage “Laya” 2012 has a typical spicy “Crozes” nose and moderate alcohol (13%). The spiciness is tempered by wonderful and some fine tannins and results in a drink that while satisfying now, will improve over the next few years to become smooth and delicious.
Cuilleron Cornas Les Villages 2012 was outstanding, my favourite wine of the day. One sniff lets you know this is a serious wine: rich and powerful it almost bowls you off your feet. The aroma is followed by lusciousness on the palate with a lingering finish that demands your attention. And all with a modest 12.5% alcohol! $80 – $90 but you’ll be stretched to find better value from this esteemed appellation.
And finally one of his Cote Roties: Cullerion Cote Rotie Mandinere 2012. Cote Rotie is the most celebrated part of the Rhone and the wines the most expensive.This was a lovely wine though not great, certainly not a blockbuster and at a bit over $100 overshadowed by the Cornas and some other makers’ “Cotes” I have tasted recently. Again 12.5% alcohol.
It is worth noting the slightly lower alcohol levels in these red wines. Refreshing in these days when the levels inch ever higher. Instructively, none of these wines lacked depth . . . or interest. They all had great flavour developed from great fruit by a caring wine maker.
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