A wine that surprised me

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone rouge 2009

So, this wine, which I have drunk so often in the last 30 years that I have never recorded a formal tasting note on it, is the most interesting wine I have had this month: mostly for general wine style reasons, and perhaps because of global warming.

It's a large production wine (at 3, 1/2 million bottles: many large family owned Australian wineries [eg D'Arenberg, McLaren Vale as my personal guestimate] might make 3 million bottles annually).  I make 10,000 bottles total for all my production.  When I have traveled to the region, I might find an old couple fishing for their dinner in a stream next to a plot of vines: let's say a quarter acre within the triangle a road, a stone wall and the stream makes.  I normally go and talk to people like that and they tell me the vines are theirs and they are Cotes du Rhone which go to Guigal or Jabloulet or Chapoutier, but tell me to stop asking so many questions when I ask what variety they are.   For the record, the main varieties are grenache, shiraz and mourvedre with a large number of "similar" vartieties allowed.  At Guigal, the published figures list shiraz and grenache as about 30 - 40 % each depending on vintage (some years the weather affects varieties differently because they may flower or ripen at slightly different times and may be slightly differently affected by those conditions.)

Previously, I had always thought of this as a "lighter" red wine, and pretty simple.  Typically, it was poured by the glass in restaurants because it was inexpensive, French and shiraz/grenache: a combination that Joe Average was pretty happy with.  I bought a mixed box of lighter reds last week because people in my household prefer that style on an everyday drinking basis.  So I thought I was pretty safe with a wine I have known since 1990 to be a light-ish, berry-ish, uncomplicated drink.

However, this wine is medium bodied and firm.  The underlying shiraz has a bit of depth, the grenache is subtle and adds a fruit layer and mouvedre seems to add body and finish to the middle and back palate.  I would like to suggest a new classification for describing wines as full bodied, light bodied, etc.
I think this wine should be regarded as "standard bodied".  What on Earth "full bodied" etc meant previously is almost unknown anyway.  Does it refer to the alcohol level, the extraction, the tannin, the fruit weight or the depth?   Of particular note, this vintage has 14.5% alcohol and has 45% shiraz and 50% grenache (the two most flavoursome and premier varieties in the allowable blend).  It has body and  certain a firmness from grape tannins rather than oak, and a subtle, gourmet-friendly level of flavour.

No fruit bomb then, and good value at $23.  It's a nice introduction to subtle, firm French reds: probably in a similar way that it used to be a nice introduction to light, simple French reds 20 years ago.  (Climate change anyone?)


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