Hidden Strength: Imbibe’s Vacqueyras wine tasting

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Drinks: Wines
Location: Europe, France, Rhone

Vacqueyras has a long wine growing history, producing wines known for their power.  Our panel of tasters found plenty of pedigree at must-have prices


Vacqueyras may not be quite as well known as some other Côtes du Rhône appellations, but the wines themselves are certainly up to scratch. And the lack of hype certainly has its upsides – it means that Vacqueyras offers particularly good value for money. Stylistically, the region is capable of producing a range of styles, as our panel experienced
for themselves.

First recognised as a Côtes du Rhône Villages in 1937, it was made into a local appellation in 1990. Vacqueyras’s history as a winemaking region goes back to at least 1448, however. The vineyards of this AC span two communes located at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail. It is the only left bank Rhône appellation that produces white, rosé and red wines, although the latter accounts for the vast majority of its production. These big and bold reds are based on a minimum of 50% Grenache, and at least 20% Syrah and Mourvèdre. Up to 10% of the wine can include other Côtes du Rhône varieties such as Cinsault. 

Within the scope of these regulations, winemakers in Vacqueyras are capable of producing a range of styles. While some are elegant and restrained, the reds from this region are really defined by their power and intensity, as well as their suitability for pairing with food.

As these muscular wines clearly have a capacity for ageing, the majority were at least three years old, from 2005, if not older than that, with only a few from the 2006 vintage (which incidentally all scored highly). This most recent vintage endured a heat wave followed by rain, which winemakers predicted would result in more restrained, refined wines than usual. The 2005 vintage was a more classic one, with moderate temperatures contributing towards a freshness in the wines.

Offering more affordable, high-quality wines, in a range of styles, Vacqueyras is certainly worthy of attention.


TASTING

86 Vieilles Vignes 2005, Domaine le Couroulu

‘Typical of region: rich and ripe fruit. Very expressive wine.’ DV

‘Deep red, black fruits and oregano. Will be nice in two years.’ GC

£11.33, Thorman Hunt


83 Grand Montmirail 2005, Pascal Frères

‘Intense. Full of blackcurrants.’ GC

‘Well balanced and very well priced as well.’ DV

‘Good harmony on palate and well-balanced finish.’ KC

£9.95, Yapp Brothers (through special order only)


83 Les Deux Monardes 2005, Domaine La Monardes

‘New World style, vibrant fruitiness. Very fun and exciting.’ GC

‘Very clean, candied berry nose, with nice savoury palate and excellent subtle oak integration. Maybe the best here.’ LV

£9.95, Genesis Wines


82 Les Christins 2006, Perrin & Fils

‘Rich and ripe, chocolate, spice – a modern, full bodied wine and a very good price.’ DV

‘A decent, well rounded wine with a great finish.’ KC

£9.90, Fields, Morris & Verdin


81 Cuvée Spéciale 1999, Pascal Frères

‘“Old timer” of the tasting. Proves that Vacqueyras has to be a good appellation.’ GC

‘Lovely developed flavours of stewed black fruit, cinnamon and coffee too. Excellent.’ KC

£8.75, Yapp Brothers


81 Pierrelongue 2006, Maison Bouachon

‘This wine is well balanced and not too full, a good structure to it and a very pleasant finish.’ DV

‘Violets and soft fine tannins, with noticeable acidity that picks up the palate. My preferred style.’ KC

£10.16, Les Vins Skalli/Maison Bouachon


79 Domaine La Garrigue 2004

‘Pronounced prune and plums with some garrigue and smoke.’ KC

‘Spicy and rich. Well balanced with good acidity.’ DV

£10.80, Les Caves de Pyrène


78 Domaine le Clos des Cazaux Vacqueyras Reserve 2005

‘One of the most authentic. Old World, and a terroir wine.’ GC

‘Very meaty nose. Spice and black pepper too. Multi-staged palate with different things going on throughout, and a liquorice finish.’ LV

£7.74, Laytons


77 Classique 2005, Domaine le Couroulu

‘Very pleasant. Spicy, rich, full-bodied finish. Very good.’ DV

‘Leathery and bramble. Big and aggressive – could probably could do with some time.’ KC

£9.18, Thorman Hunt


75 Cuvée des Templiers 2005, Domaine Le Clos des Cazaux

‘Good harmony among flavour, acidity and tannin. Very good wine.’ GC

‘Bowlful of dark fruits, with hints of crispy bacon, and a healthy dollop of tannin.’ KC

£8.79, Justerini & Brooks


75 J Vidal-Fleury 2005

‘Friendly nose and palate – well balanced and good value.’ DV

‘Blueberry, blackberry, mulberry.’ CC

£8.61, Louis Latour Agencies


75 Vacqueyras Pavane 2006, Bastide St Vincent

‘It is intense. Fruity, well structured and very good value.’ DV

‘Nice minerality.’ GC

£8.65, Fields, Morris & Verdin


73 Clos Montirius 2004, Domaine Montirius

‘Classic nose, explosive taste and very long finish.’ DV

‘Ripe cherry and preserves, with clean fruit character.’ CC

£13.60, Les Caves de Pyrène


71 Domaine de l’Espigouette 2005

‘Very individual and attractive aromas of stewed plums, raisins and fig. Very good!’ KC

‘Good value for money.’ DV

£8.63, Thorman Hunt


71 Vacqueyras Tradition 2006, Domaine de la Brunely

‘Deep mineral spice on the nose. Very drinkable.’ GC

‘Bramble, leather and spice. Some coffee and liquorice, too.’ KC

£7.78, HBJ Wines & Spirits


68 Domaine des Amouriers 2005

‘Peppermint, spice, and a bit of earthiness – complex on the nose,’ CC

‘Fragrant Grenache with Syrah spice and smoky on the palate. Meaty,
with coffee, tar and liquorice. A very nice wine,’ LV

£8.64, Ellis of Richmond


52 Domaine de la Soleiade 2004

‘Powerful, fruity and good acidity.’ GC

‘Dark fruit on the nose – some eucalyptus… Very approachable.’ CC

£7.90, Matthew Clark


SCORING SYSTEM

Wines for both tastings were scored using a pure 100-point scale, which

means that, unlike a Parker-style system, scores below 50 were entirely possible.

90-100 astounding

80-89 excellent

70-79 very good

60-69 good

50-59 acceptable


‘There was an interesting thread that connected these, in terms of style. Rusticity’s a big thing, and can work – it depends on how you present it. Some were quite punchy, while others were relatively softer. There were a few nice hearty reds for winter. Some of these would really work with a stew or with venison.’

Kyri Christodoulou, The East Room

‘It was a delight to rediscover Vacqueyras. The tasting was like a football match: with two teams. There was the delicate team, captained by Les Deux Monardes, and the full-bodied team, whose captain was Les Christins. The quality of the wines was impressive. This region provides good value for money.’

David Vareille, Bleeding Heart

‘Vacqueyras really does the job – the ones with aromatic fruit balanced with acidity were the ones I preferred. And these are fantastic value for money for the Rhône. Along with Gigondas, it’s the best value.
And these will age for years.’

Xavier Rousset MS, Texture

www.vacqueyras.tm.fr

Prices quoted are on-trade single bottle, ex-VAT


CONCLUSIONS

  • Average total wine score was an exceptional 76, with half the wines scoring 75 and above.
  • The group was split between preferring the classic, big, savoury, meaty style and the more fruit-forward modern wines.
  • The majority of the panel agreed that Vacqueyras should not change its style, but should remain as the savoury red option from southern Rhône.
  • Although very food-friendly wine, no one from the panel would have Vacqueyras by the glass, as it is too individual and almost requires ‘hand-selling’.
  • Food-matching suggestions were hearty stew, venison and mushroom dishes.
  • The panel all agreed that Vacqueyras was a great value for money option for a list.

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – January / February 2009

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