Saturday, March 19, 2011

Coteaux du Tricastin: Does It Glow?

No one will ever believe this post is coincidental to the news from Fukushima, but here goes anyway:

One of the great bargains of the last 12 months has been the 2007 Domaine des Rozets Coteaux du Tricastin, a nifty little Rhone blend (65% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 5% Cinsault) that went for $9.99. Dominique Bernard is the winemaker; her property is in Donzere, a village about 20 miles north of Chateauneuf du Pape. She vinifies using stainless steel only.

The appellation is situated on eastern bank of the Rhône, between Montélimar and Saint Paul Trois Châteaux. It's the northernmost part of the southern Rhone. In general, the vineyards are at slightly higher elevations than elsewhere in the Rhone, resulting in wines of somewhat lighter character. Although not well-known in the U.S., it's big, with 6,500 acres planted. Only 9% is exported, mostly to Belgium. In France, most of the wine is sold through supermarkets. The U.S. importer is Seattle-based Chloè.

The connection to current events is that beginning with the 2010 vintage, Coteaux du Tricastin will be offered under a new appellation name, Grignan-Les Adhemar. The reason for the switch: an accident at the Tricastin nuclear power plant. In July 2008, 4,755 gallons of Uranium solution containing natural uranium were accidentally released. You can read the details at wikipedia. Needless to say, this did not help sales. I have not seen any bottles from the 2008 or later vintages, but my understanding is they do not glow in the dark. The '09s, like '09s from elsewhere in the Rhone, are highly regarded. Here's a Jancis Robinson review, complete with nuke plant photo.

On the nose, lots of red and black berry character, with notes of brown spice, licorice, and vanilla. On the palate, pleasantly rich cherry/berry fruit and a little herbal character. These are meant to be drunk young: I bought a case of the '07 last September, and while the wine is still lively upon opening, a half-bottle with the cork re-inserted was already flattening out after 24 hours. I don't use Vacu-Vin or gas; either might be a good idea.

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