Best Syrah in 2011 – 2008 Cornas by Thierry Allemand, Cornas, Northern Rhone

March 12, 2012

Human memory is anything but perfect. In fact it is one of the most fallible of human organs there is. In hindsight we clear out memories we do not like any more. We add and subtract from it, we construct stories which never happened in the first place; we make sense where there was none before. Our memory seems to possess an independent creativity that bears only a passing resemblance to actual events.

That’s why wine geeks keep tasting notes, isn’t it? But even if we do, aren’t we deceiving ourselves, mixing up things, are influenced by the circumstances, the sympathy we have for the people we tasted the wine with, the location and the situation when we finally write it down as in a blog entry?

We humans like a narrative. We love to connect the dots even if there is little connectivity, no correlation not to speak of causation in the first place.

Please join me while reminiscing about the past year. What was the best Syrah I drank in 2011?

Well, this is not an easy task. 365 days of wine-drinking gone bye, need to be scrutinised. Pages of tasting notes need to be mastered. I’ll make it short for you

Please allow me to take you to my “winner”. It’s a wine by Thierry Allemand from Cornas village, a small wine region in the Northern Rhone, northwest of Valence, the charming small French town at the Rhone river.

I guess you have heard about the vintener and wine-maker Thierry Allemand.

The best piece on the internet about Thierry Allemand, I found on http://www.wineterroir.com. Thierry Allemand is one of my favourite French wine-makers.

Here you can indulge yourself, see the man, learn about his vision, his vineyards and his wines.

The first Cornas by Thierry Allemand which was served to me was by my good friend Timo Mayer at his home in the Yarra Valley. It was the 1996 Syrah Reynard cuvee from Cornas. The wine tasted like burned rubber which is sometimes labelled as a fault. But I liked this funky wine. It was wonderful complex and full in the mouth, with thr right spicyness. One feels like in paradise while the wine slowly winds it way down the throat.

Timo Mayer presented me with the 2008 vintage of this wine (last Christmas while at his house). It is difficult to describe this awasome drop. In comparison with the 1996 vintage, I would call this wine “domesticated”.

It is not wild as the 1996 vintage. It caters to the more mainstream taste, of what Syrah should taste like. I was not disappointed, not at all. However, I prefer the funkyness of the older vintage.

How can I get access to this wine in Bangkok? Does anybody have an idea?


At the winemakers home – Timo Mayer, Yarra Valley

April 30, 2010

Timo Mayer and his Mayer Vineyard are well known among the wine fraternity in Australia, Germany and the UK. Timo is wine maker at Gembrook Hills and he has his own vineyard in the Yarra Valley. The Mayer Vineyard is what is called a boutique vineyard. Timo is also member of The South Pack, a group of innovative and independent winemakers in Victoria.

We know each other since many years. In fact Timo made the second vintage of our Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc (2002), which won a bronze medal at the Singapore Wine Show. Since many years our two families have been together, usually for skiing on Mount Buller, eating and drinking, either at our vineyard in Glenburn or at Timo and Ronda’s place, the Mayer Vineyard.

Also this time Timo and Ronda invited us for a gourmet dinner after an afternoon of ice skating and a visit of the Victoria market in Melbourne. The latter program was only attended by our two daughters; the old folks were only in for the eating and drinking part. Needless to say, Timo is not just an excellent wine maker but also an excellent cook.

Timo Mayer in the kitchen

My pictures of the event were somehow heavily affected by the enthusiasm of our re-union, and maybe, maybe, the alcohol of the many wines we tasted. Anyway, I do not have excellent pictures to show you. The longer the evening went on, the more terrible my pictures became. Bear with me. It was a great evening.

But let us start with the food. Out of this fine piece of tuna below, Timo made a delicious sashimi (second picture below). After that we ha another entrée, garlic prawns. The fist main dish was mussels with chorizo sausage chunks followed by some fish (white-head for the kids, and tuna). We were not in the position to eat another main course, although there was beef and various other meats waiting for us. What a wonderful feast that was. Delicious stuff.

Tuna

Sashimi Timo style

Garlic prawns

Mussles with chorizo sausages and herbs

The wines we tasted before, during and after the meal were:

• 2006 Vintage Yarra Burn Sparkling, Yarra Valley

• 2009 Bloody Hill Chardonnay, Mayer Vineyard, Yarra Valley

• 2008 Bloody Hill Rose, Mayer Vineyard, Yarra Valley

• Grande Signature de Rapatel, Roussanne-Bourboulenc, by Gérard Eyraud, France

• 2008 Bloody Hill Pinot Noir, Mayer Vineyard (and we had the 2009 vintage as cleanskin)

• 2008 Les Griottes, Beaujolais, by Pierre-Marie Chermente, France

• 2007 Syrah, Domaine des Rapatel, Gérard Eyraud, France

• 2006 Big Betty Shiraz, Mayer Vineyard, Yarra Valley

• 1996 Cornas, by Thierry Allemand, France

I did not take tasting notes, this was a social event and not a formal wine tasting. Below you will find photos of some the bottles. The two bottles from Domaine de Rapatel are not represented. You can find reviews in my earlier blog entries.

Vintage Yarra Burn Sparkling

This Yarra Burn is a wonderful cool climate sparkling wine, a classical blend of Pinot Noir (58%), Chardonnay (35%) and Pinot Meunier (7%), from the Yarra Valley. The price is about A$ 22/bottle, great price-value relationship.

2009 Bloody Hill Chardonnay, Mayer Vineyard

Just released, this young white wine from the Mayer Vineyard, although low in alcohol, is an easy drinking but very fine and delicate specimen of a modern Yarra Valley Chardonnay. It has funk, is zesty and very harmonious.

2008 Bloody Hill Rose, Mayer Vineyard

Great wine for hot days and not so hot days. We compared the Bloody Hill Rose with the Grand Signature de Rapatel and found to our amazement that both wines, despite being of such different origins, go well with the garlic prawns.

2008 Les Griottes, Beaujolais, France

Ha, this fine wine from Beaujolais by Marcel Lapierre of Domaine du Vissoux, is just a very seductive drink. Made of Gamay grapes it represents the traditional style of a truly grand Beaujolais. It is not as fruity (among them strawberry) as the “nouveau” wines but has the structure and depth we treasure so much. The carbonic maceration gives it some banana flavours. It is low in alcohol but rich in flavour. Get a bottle of it, if you can. The wine is young and you can enjoy it for some time to come.

The 1996 Cornas by Thiery Allemand

This wine is very powerful and just amazing. Thierry Allemand, the son of a factory worker and not blessed with a family history of wine making, is producing two blends, Les Chaillots and Reynard both from Cornas. The wines are made from low yielding, old vines. Thierry is one of the “wine gods”, the masters and spin doctors, producing “cult” wines. It has the “burned rubber” taste which needs some time to get used to in the beginning.

The Shiraz pannel

From left to right, we drank the Syrah by Domaine de Rapatel, 2008 and 2009 Big Betty Shiraz by the Mayer Vineyard and the 1996 Cornas by Thierry Allemand. Whereas the Domaine de Rapatel Syrah is “raisin” wine, made from very ripe fruit, heavy and full of fruit flavour, the Mayer wines try to be less of that style.

Timo sees the Cornas as a benchmark for his own Shiraz wines. Both Big Betty Shiraz vintages follow the traditional wine making of Burgundy. The Cornas has the “burnt rubber” taste, which is rejected by many wine lovers and seen by some as a fault (which is nonsense). It is also full of stalks and tannins on the palate resulting from the whole bunch fermented grapes. The range of different tastes, just from one grape variety, is amazing. I ended loving the Thierry Allemand style wines best.

The morning after a successful battle with delicious wines

The evening ended with coffee and water. We stayed over. It was just a wonderful evening, a great re-union and the sharing of experiences. We had to get up the next morning fairly early because Lucy and Charlotte were going horse riding. Getting up was not the slightest problem, we were still enchanted by the magical evening. Thanks folks.

PS: The Bloody Hill Pinot Noir wines I have not mentioned above but will do so in a separate entry.