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Marcel Orford-Williams Marcel Orford-Williams

Rhône lovers, rejoice!

We are currently blessed by a series of lovely vintages where grapes were picked fully ripe. The lesser reds from both the 2017 and 2016 vintages taste delicious and are ready now, while the first 2018s are already on the bottling line and likely to be just as wonderful. In February, members in London and Leeds were treated to two Rhône tastings, where we were keen to open some more mature bottles. Adrien Laurent and Bertrand Michat came over to represent Paul Jaboulet Aîné. Everyone seemed to enjoy the quaffable 2017 red Ventoux. But the highlight from that table was the vertical tasting of their Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage. The 1990 was still youthful and delicious while the 2010 was outstanding, a sleeping giant of a wine, still needing a year or two. The 2012 Thalabert, on the other hand was perfect, proving this is a lovely vintage to drink now: the tannins have softened and there is plenty of fruit.

This has been a year for discovering areas on the fringes of the Rhône Valley. In the past, the wines were often badly made and from fruit that was barely ripe. Climate change is the factor that has made these lesser areas of real interest. This year, I've been on the right bank, exploring on the mostly arid limestones of the Gard and Ardèche. Two wines stand out already and won praise from wine writers. The first is a pure viognier that clearly takes advantage of the cool breezes and more continental climate. The other is a ripe tasting red 2017 Vivarais that was aged for a bit in caves close to the famous gorges.

The Duché d'Uzès is a relatively new appellation and covers a lot of the ground that is on the border with the Languedoc. Way inland from Nîmes or Avignon, it's quite an effort getting there. The wines of the Domaine du Camp Galhan made the trip fully worthwhile. There is a white that is viognier based and delicious and a red that has a lot of syrah. Both will be on stream soon.

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