Friday, April 25, 2008

Je Suis Gourmand's Night of Rhône Cuisine & Wine.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008, Je Suis Gourmand's Wines & Cuisine of the Rhône.

Robert Burroughes, myself and our wives, one table, 6 courses and a few wines. Though we brought a Guigal each (Robert a '98 Hermitage Blanc, and I, a '01 Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde) Robert, nontheless, opted to order the matching wine set with dinner and let us taste. At a certain point, Jérome Philippon, who was supplying the set pairing, started sending us glasses of his wines.

With Fried Frogs' Legs with Salad and Garlic Cream (precisely executed, not oily or greasy at all, a bit of crunch outside while perfectly moist and juicy inside, very clean, fresh flavors):

1998 E. Guigal Hermitage Blanc - After warming down a bit, this medium yellow-gold wine had generous breadth mid-palate that funneled down smoothly to the finish with beurre noisette/toasty nuttiness spearing mineral, honeysuckle and vanlilla laced, mildly-spiced fleshy/stoney fruit. We noted an ever so slight whisper of oxidation, but not enough to be bothersome.

2005 Domaine des Entrefaux Crozes Hermitage Blanc - Light, bright lemon yellow, a bit tight, lightly floral in the nose. On the palate, fresh, minerally, pure, clean, lean, precise, almost steely fruit. I suspect this will flesh out and expand mid-mouth with time in the glass. Nice to compare and contrast one with the other.

As regards the pairing, I preferred the Guigal Hermitage Blanc with the frogs' legs, but posit the Entrefaux Crozes Hermitage Blanc a better match with the 2nd Course of Steamed Rainbow Trout Fillet with Vegetables and White Wine. The Hermitage Blanc was a bit too big for the fish.

The 3rd Course was a rustic, earthy and comforting Mushroom & Bone Marrow Pot-au-feu which I had without wine.

After a palate-resuscitating Red Wine & Red Currant Sherbet, the 4th Course of Roasted Venison Rack with Galette Lyonnaise & Roasted Onion was served. This was my wife's favorite dish of the evening. Having finished every bit of my previous courses, I was already getting full and felt a bit guilty when Marc noted that I didn't quite finish off my rack while everyone else's plates lay bereft of food.

With the tender and juicy venison:

2001 E. Guigal Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde - I must say that I appreciated this properly refined, medium-bodied Rhône (none-too-alcoholic unlike many other modern Rhônes), such as it was: laced lightly with dried/roasted herbs/pepper; red berry-dominated (red currant (or was that the sherbet haunting my palate?)/raspberry/hint of strawberry, mild tobacco and dark spice, woodiness and just a dash of pepper. Very mild earthiness. Finely and delicately layered. If there is any criticism I can make, it would be that the middle is a bit weak. But that's about it.

2004 Domaine La Roubine Gigondas - An evidently riper, bigger-boned, more extracted wine with a well-rounded middle and lusher over-all feel to it - more immediately pleasing, seemingly designed to entertain - the type meant to stand out in blind tastings. This had comparatively more dark fruit/casis underlying the cherry and raspberry, with a permeating slight gaminess and attendant notes of cacao, black coffee and oak/vanilla.

A mental comparison to the 2001 E. Guigal Gigondas made me think that this wine is cut from a more modern cloth - smoother, sleeker, less rustic.

Be it as it may, I honestly think the 2004 Domaine La Roubine Gigondas paired better with the venison. Due to the Brune et Blonde's somewhat weak middle and medium-body, it somehow got lost in the venison and sauce, though its dominant red berry notes did indeed brighten up the earthy dish.

Note: this was supposed to pair with the pot-au-feu, but I had it with the venison. I imagine it would have over-powered the pot-au-feu.

With the Bleu de Bresse Salad Course:

2005 Domaine Chèze Ro Ree Rhône Nord St. Joseph - Rustic, earthy, peppery, spicy, brambly-raspberry-and-red-cherry-dominant somewhat smokey wine. Medium bodied, lighter-boned than the above-mentioned Gigondas. Pleasant, if not particularly distinctive.

With the Dessert Course of Blackberry Clafoutis Tart with Sauce:

2005 Jurançon Clos Lapeyre - Straightforward, tartly sweet lemon/citrus, bright and light on its feet. Healthy, bracing acidity. It was like drinking a glass of a liquid version of the tart citron served at Alliance Française de Manille. Sans the crust, of course.


Rafael Ongpin said...

When I lived in France 12 years ago, Gigondas was very trendy, to the point of being hard to find. I remember frequenting a bar in the Place des Vosges just because they had it. You're quite right about it being a modern wine, in fact it falls slightly outside Jerome's traditional wine preferences. But it really is good enough that he brought it in, albeit in a small quantity.
Today, Gigondas remains unheralded, but I don't think that's going to last. I suspect you hit the nail on the head when you described it as "a wine designed to do well in blind tastings". It sure is, and at its price point, from my point of view, it is more interesting than many of its Aussie and Calif competitors. In fact, I had a bottle last night at CAV. By the way, I liked the 2001 Guigal more than the 2005 you had, but not a huge difference.

Noel said...

It sure is, and at its price point, from my point of view, it is more interesting than many of its Aussie and Calif competitors.

As are many things, I think. Agree with you, of course.

By the way, I liked the 2001 Guigal more than the 2005 you had, but not a huge difference.

The Gigondas of Jérome was 2004, not 2005. I do like the 2001 Gigondas of Guigal as well and suspect it would have paired with the venison better than the 2001 Brune et Blonde, but feel that Jérome's would still have edged out the former, again, in terms of pairing with said dish. In non-pairing terms, let's just say I'm not a great fan of modern styled wine - though can and do appreciate them from time to time.

I had that 2001 Guigal Gigondas with Mamou's steak and even with Cantonese beef and pork dishes. Very nice and very well-priced.

Thanks for writing, pare. We should get together with Ed soon, now that he's back.

Rafael Ongpin said...

Yes, we should. By the way, when I drink the La Roubine Gigondas at home, I find that decanting really helps it. The gamey undertones settle into a coherent note and the tannic attck softens. I use a captain's decanter, the one that maximizes air surface, then I pour it back into the bottle to serve. Not everyone likes decanting, but this is one case i would recommend it.

Noel said...

Oh, I decant, especially young Rhones. I also use captain's decanters, I actually have one for magnums, and usually bring my own along to restaurants unless I know for a fact they have acceptable decanters on premises. Even the '01 Guigal Gigondas benefits from a bit of aeration.

Save for decanting to remove sediment, I am reluctant to aerate older wine (say 18-20 years and up) as the risk of losing the bouquet is too great.

In any event, I expect Jerome decanted the Roubin Gigondas before serving it. I believe he would know and is particular about proper service of his wines (as well he should, being in the business).


chinkee said...

Hi Noel! I'm quite clueless when it comes to the business of decanting. All along I thought it was only done to older wines to separate the sediment. Why do you dencant young Rhones? What characteristics in some young reds call for the need to decant?

Noel said...

Hi, Chinkee.

Sorry for my delayed reply, I just got back from Vinexpo in HK.

All along I thought it was only done to older wines to separate the sediment.

Not onlyonly for old wines, but, yes, decanting old wines is recommended for removing sediment. Just be sure to stand the bottle upright for several hours (I do it for 12 hours or more) to let the sediment settle before decannting.

I don't really decant old wines for aeration as they tend to be more delicate and you will, most likely, the bouquet of old wines with material aeration. I decant old wines to rid them of sediment and then pour in glass. Any aeration old wine may need will take place in my glass, with me checking on it every minute or so to ensure catch ing the wine it at its peak.

Why do you de(n)cant young Rhones? What characteristics in some young reds call for the need to decant?

I decant young reds (not only Rhônes) to let them open up and release their aromas/flavors. Many young wines are tight/closed. Decanting for aeration purposes can never substitute proper ageing, but it is helpful when trying a young wine.

thebluefrog said...

Hi Noel,

Who is the merchant for CDR Guigal here ? i am in search for the 2005 and i wonder how much it is?

Thank you.


Noel said...


I've not had Guigal's Côte du Rhône, actually. What I had and wrote about here was Guigal's Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde.

Anyway, Bacchus has been the official local distributor of Guigal for many years, and still is as far as I know. I'm not sure Bacchus carries the basic Côte du Rhône or what vintage thereof. They might and I'd imagine it would be around P1000-P1200/bottle or maybe less.

If you meant Guigal's Côte Rotie, the Brune et Blonde is around P3500+/bottle.



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