(2020) A family domaine that until 10 years ago sold its fruit to the co-operative cellars of Tain l'Herimitage. The current generation now bottle their estate wines, organically farmed and certified, made with natural yeasts, and with minimal use of sulphur. From vines with an average age of 20 years, this Crozes-Hermitage opens expressively, with juicy plum and blueberry, a lovely little lift of violet, and a subtle beetrooty earthiness. In the mouth it is substantial and serious without being heavy or ponderous; there's firm cherry and plum-skin acidity, quite thick and ripe tannins, but plenty of natural fruit concentration and mid-palate sweetness. It finishes dry and savoury, but maintaining that fruit. I suspect this will cellar well for up to 10 years.
(2020) Fondrèche selects the very best parcels of Syrah (90%) and Mourvèdre for this cuvée, grown on their rocky, limestone soils. It is matured for 12 months in a combination of smaller barriques and large foudres. It's white partner too, the Persia Blanc, is also outstandingly good, and also available from Cadman Fine Wines. It has a gorgeous amalgam of supple, elegant black fruit and earthiness, a sprinkle of pepper on the nose. In the mouth it's a very grown-up style of wine: plenty of bittersweet plum and cherry, but a stripe of meaty tannin and pert, bright acidity giving the overall balance of a structured but fruity wine. £17.99 as part of a mixed six. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2018) From the south of the Rhône Valley, this is predominantly Syrah, with just a few percent of Mourvèdre in the blend, and it is one of Fondreche's top red wines. It's a deep, dark and glossy wine with a blue-black fruit quality of damson plum, blueberry and a delightfully aromatic spice and floral top-note. It hints at a chocolaty depth, and that follows through to the palate, where firm but ripe and creamy tannins support that dense and dark fruit, fleshy and ripe, but finishing dry with excellent acidity leading to a savoury finish.
(2015) Last year I reviewed the 2009 vintage of this wine and absolutely loved it. It was a mature, soft and utterly seductive wine that I rated highly, but which sadly sold-out before many wine-pages' visitors had a chance to buy. Well, this 2012 is very different in that it is much more youthful, but I have to say it is another absolute beauty. A blend of 64% Grenache with Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault, as well as tiny percentages of four other varieties. Its colour is a solid crimson and it has a lovely nose of crushed red berries, a delightful floral top note, and background hints of cinnamon spice and vanilla. In the mouth it is full, rich and smooth, a fabulous fruit sweetness and fat texture, but real clarity with the refined, chocolaty tannins and pert cherry acidity. Just beautifully done.
(2015) A wine I absolutely loved I have to say. This is Châteauneuf at its maturing, softening, seductive best, where it has shaken of the brawn of youth to become something much more mellow and complex. A relatively pale hue with a tinge of brick on the rim, it has a soaring and soulful nose with game and truffle joining peppery spice-cupboard aromas, and a lovely weight of ripe berry fruits. On the palate everything is soft and luxurious, with a flood of fruit tinged with coffee and tobacco, a fine grip of tannin showing it has time ahead of it yet, and perfectly judged acidity. A very 'complete' wine and a delightful example of Châteauneuf at its most alluring - at a highly reasonable price. N.B Sadly this wine has now sold out.
(2015) This comes from a parcel of 50-year-old vines planted at more than 400 metres above sea level, and it was aged in all new oak barrels. It has a terrifically intense, glossy but tight nose, the sheer physicality of the wine tightly-furled and muscular, with some cedar and graphite and a core of savoury, liquorice-touched black fruit. There are gamy, earthy notes in the background and on the palate, although there is abundant sweetness of fruit, it is grippy concentration, that liquorice intensity, that drives this for now. Yes, the oak is prominent, it is slick and commanding, and it has 14.5% alcohol, but what prevents it from being over-bearing is the edge of clarity from mineral/steely acidity and the freshness of the fruit character. Superb stuff that they suggest will cellar for at least 10 years.
(2015) Mostly Grenache, with 10% each of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, only 30% of this was aged in oak, in old, large 600-litre barrels, and it was fermented with ambient yeasts. It has a herb-touched, cherry freshness on the nose, a similar alert and mineral tone to the bigger Les Hauts de Montmirail below, but perhaps without quite the layered complexity. On the palate it is softer and more forward, a really explosive juiciness to this, mouth-watering and fresh, the softer tannin structure and just a mellowing coating of smooth oak character giving a fresh but lively finish. A lovely wine to drink now whilst big brother matures.
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