2009 marks a real return to form for the Rhône Valley. The 2008 wines were, to my mind, slightly undervalued, giving, as they do, and will continue to do, genuine pleasure in the short to medium term.
- 2009 Wine Offer Overview
- Vintage Reviews by J. Robinson MW, R. Parker
- Vintage Report Southern Rhône by Decanter
- Berrys' Wine Recommendations
But the 2009 wine vintage is an altogether different beast, although the pleasure principle has in no way been compromised; the quality of the wines is such that the vintage is being hailed (without any hail of course) as excellent in the South and great in the North.
As always, the two areas must be treated separately, with almost everything about them different in character, apart from their mutual ability to engender smiles of satisfaction from the vignerons across the region. ‘Facile’ was the far from facile descriptor of both Réné Rostaing and Florent Viale in the North, whilst the words that cropped up repeatedly south of Montelimar were slightly more evocative beyond their initial intimations of contradiction; ‘finesse et puissance’.
Indeed it may be inferred that his tension between the power and the elegance has underwritten the personality of the vintage in the South, which is neither as tannic as 2005, nor as generously rich as 2007, but which captures qualities of both. Commercially the growers have been sensible, lacking the hubris of cousins further west perhaps, and the prices have been consistently, in deference more to the global economy rather than the quality of the vintage which is fine beyond peradventure.
Simon Field MW BBR Buyer
Vintage Report - Northern Rhône (rating 9/10)
If the 2007 Rhône wine vintage took the plaudits in the South of the valley, it is only fair that the 2009 wine vintage should be the turn of the North.
A wet winter and patchy flowering were not the most immediately obvious harbingers of greatness, yet the former provided reserves to counter the heat of August and the latter ensured that the yields were relatively small and the berries brimming with potential. Autumnal rain was timed to perfection to avoid loss of acidity and to counter the very dry summer.
The tensions rehearsed above (belied by the term ‘facile’) have produced whites with texture and richness and reds with wonderful fruit and almost perfect structures. The gallery of superlatives is lengthy; let us restrict ourselves to a few comments; Yves Cuilleron praises the red wines’ ‘beautiful ample, rich structure’, while Jean-Louis Chave, poetically advises that ‘the sun is within the wine’, while Emmanuel Darnaud praises the silky, rounded nature of the tannins and Stéphane Robert at Domaine du Tunnel is proud to describe 2009 as the best vintage that he has hitherto produced.
All in all, a wine vintage of very high quality, some say of the highest quality, pairing more concentration than even 1999 and more finesse and linearity than 1990. In other words, very promising indeed.
Vintage Report - Southern Rhône (rating 8/10)
In a hot vintage such as 2009 the usual anxieties about extravagant alcohol levels int he wines and undisciplined hedonism come to the fore. The stress experienced in August was such that in Châteauneuf-du-Pape the rainfall was the second lowest for 46 years. The rains in September provided, as so often, salvation, but it was modest in its intensity and still left many vignerons with a tough decision to make in terms of harvest date.
Although the harvest was far more protected than in the North, the general consensus was to pick relatively early, but not too early, and then to ensure tannin management by the length of cuvaison and the selection of appropriate extraction methods. 2009 was not without the Mistral, generally benevolent, although not always feeling that way, and yields, partly as a result of 2008’s mildew, were relatively low. The differing terroirs of Châteauneuf brought, unsurprisingly, heterogeneous results, with those blending across parcels as well as grapes generally achieving the best results.
Villages with high percentages of water-retaining clay, such as Gigondas and Vacqueyras, or those situated at altitude, such as Vinsobres, were more uniformly successful. The best wines are, it should be underlined, very good indeed and we are very proud of this selection. Didier Negron at Roger Sabon is probably in a minority in detecting more opulence than 2007, but Stéphane Usseglio echos many when he describes a vintage of great concentration and power that will, if anything, get even better and take on more weight with time. In short, a very fine year, somewhere stylistically between 2007 and 2005 and certainly providing some superb wines to keep in the long-term.