The other day I attended a tasting of Rhône wines put on by Inter Rhône at Hambar (Old Montreal’s latest new hot spot). While unfortunately other work obligations kept me from tasting all the wines on offer, of what I did taste, the wines of one producer, Michel Gassier, particularly interested me.
I was immediately intrigued when I tasted Michel Gassier’s 2010 Syrah from Cosières de Nîmes. Among other things, I found it had an interesting floral quality. He explained that for the 2010 vintage, they macerated 25% of the wine with the stems, to add a fresh, vegetal note. It’s a delicate process – you have to be very careful to make sure the stems stay intact and don’t break, because they can otherwise add off flavours. Gassier said that he didn’t want to use the stems for any more than 25% of the wine, to keep it “user friendly,” and described this wine as the antithesis of Australian Shiraz. The result is smoky, mineral, and perfumed on the nose, and very fresh, fruity, and slightly floral on the palate, with a nice silky texture. The 2010 is a departure from the 2009 vintage, it being the first time they tried using stems. So while you may still find some 2009 at the SAQ, I recommend waiting a month or two for the 2010 to arrive on the shelves. At $16.20, it will be a bargain.
Château de Nages is in Costières de Nîmes, the southernmost AOC of the Rhône (though it actually used to be considered part of the Languedoc region). Michel Gassier is a fourth-generation winemaker from the area, with 70 hectares of vineyard that are farmed organically. He aims for minimal intervention, using low levels of SO2 and increasingly moving toward using only indigenous yeasts with his red wine. (He explained that he feels reds are more tolerant of native yeasts, and finds it too risky to use native years for his white or rosé wines.)
Château de Nages also makes a fresh and pleasant rosé that’s widely available at the SAQ ($15.20). I also tried the Château de Nages Cuvée JT 2009 ($20.85), which had a lovely green pepper and confit fruit nose. On the palate, it was more concentrated, rich, and structured than the Syrah, and needs at least 3-4 years in the bottle to reach its peak. Despite the concentration, it had a soft texture I really liked. But I would stick this one in the cellar and start with the Syrah.
All in all, some solid good value wines, not to mention a passionate winemaker who was a pleasure to speak with. I look forward to trying more of his wine in the future.