Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Geographical neighbours; poles apart in style

The Rhone Valley has always been on my top list wine regions to visit whilst studying in Burgundy, yet with all the travels in the past 8 months I didn’t have the time or the budget to travel to this wine region. As soon as my studies were over both the regions of Rhone and Loire pop in my mind and after having a quick look at my bank account, it always needs to be a quick look or else my heart stops beating, I decided to rent a car, drive down to Beaujolais, further down to Tain-l'Hermitage and then up to the Loire Valley.

Within a few hours’ drive south of the Cote d’Or the landscape changes from the soft hills protecting fertile valleys nourishing short vines of Chardonnay and Gamay to the steep garrigues of the Rhone covered in tall Syrah, Marsanne and Roussanne vines. I had the luck to visit the picturesque towns of Solutré, Pouilly and Fuissé on previous occasions but this time I took the time to book a tasting at one of the Domaines which struck my interest during a tasting at L’Atrium, a hub which brings the 5 different terriors of Pouilly- Fuissé under one roof. http://www.burgundyeye.com/wine/latrium-du-pouilly-fuisse

Greeted by the Madame Desroches who put my French language to test, my visit to Domaine Grand Pre Philippe Desroches was exactly what I was looking for. Their prestige cuvee wine coming for their vineyards in Solutré, the town shadowed by the Solutré Rock, has citric nose with undertones of exotic fruit yet on the palate the refreshing acidity and minerality give it a lovely balance. A wine as dainty as the land it grows in.

After a surprise thunderstorm at night which brought with it a very welcome cool breeze yet which skimmed off parts of the top soils of the vineyards of the Beaujolais I drove off towards the land of Syrah. With no GPS and relying only on google maps indications and my own instinct, I punctually made it to immersed village of Tain-l'Hermitage. Bathed by the Saone River on one side and the vineyards blessed by the Chapel dedicated to Saint Christophe, patron saint of drivers, this town is all about wine. The haunting domination of the vineyards on the right bank clearly portraying the Jaboulet and Chapoutier families evoked in me a desire to start my Masters once over this time in Tain-l'Hermitage. The wines? Powerful, intense and impressive, a perfect expression of the land grows their vines.

A distance of just over 159 km gave me an experience ranging from the charming delicate flavours of the Mâconnais and the Beaujolais to the structured untamed character of the Northern Rhone. Such is the beauty of diversity in French wine. As I drive away I know one thing for certain; I will be back sooner other than later! :)

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