Rhone/Syrah Wine Dinner

29 January 2013
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee


I don’t get to try nearly enough Rhone reds so when a friend asked me what wine theme we should have for a casual dinner among friends, I immediately suggested Rhone. On January 22, 2013, we enjoyed drinking (not tasting) a mix of both northern and southern Rhone reds as you can see below but what was impressive is how these wines changed so much in the glass! I fell in love with the 1983 Chave Hermitage, but it took 2 hours, and M. Chapoutier’s La Mordoree also moved me, though his L’Ermite in magnum was disappointing. We had three distinctive Australian Shiraz – Grange, Dead Arm and Greenock to see how they showed in this company and it was clear that the wine glasses most people left full was the Greenock with its monstrous size and 16.5% alcohol. Grange was uncharacteristically shy and seemed like a wall flower next to Beaucastel’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape while Dead Arm was the most attractive that night to drink among the Australian reds. It was a wonderful evening that made me admire the Syrah and Syrah-blends anew.


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1. 1983 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, Rhone, France

Gorgeous bouquet of sweet roses, violets and cinnamon. A lovely Hermitage by Chave that is at its peak and showing all that the wine has to offer – plenty of spicy, floral and tertiary flavours here with long finish. Impressive. (98)


2. 1999 E. Guigal Cote-Rotie La Landonne, Rhone, France

Savoury red with closed flavours with only hints of herbs, white pepper and nutmeg. After 2 hours of decanting, the wine really opened up. This is a classy wine that just kept getting better and better in the glass. Still youthful, you can lay this down for another decade or two without a problem. Just peaking. (96)


3. 1982 Domaines Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chappelle, Rhone, France

A very elegant La Chapelle with floral and lightly spicy aromatics. A wonderful Burgundian-like red that is at its peak right now. Soft, balanced and fairly long with silky tannins. This wine was better a few years ago but it is still at its peak. (95)


4. 1991 M. Chapoutier Cote-Rotie La Mordoree, Rhone, France

Very pretty aromatics with lovely flavours of dried flowers (violets and jasmine) with hint of white pepper and sweet ripe blackberries. A beautiful, elegant wine with long finish. (95)


5. 1998 Domaines Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chappelle, Rhone, France

A gorgeous La Chapelle that is showing beautifully right now. Tasted alongside the 1990, it was more exuberant, forward and complex. Layers of violets, sweet spices and meaty notes with a gun flint flavour in the finish. Beautiful wine. (94)


6. 1989 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France

A savoury, gamey Chateauneuf-du-Pape with firm tannins and a meaty, bacon fat character which is very appealing. Savoury, meaty and fairly long in the finish. This wine is at its peak. (93)


7. 1998 D’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz, South Australia, Australia

Wonderfully spicy flavours with blueberries, cloves, pepper and nutmeg. While the flavours are sweet and obviously ripe, the wine is not jammy nor heavy. Well crafted red with character from Chester Osborn. (93)


8. 1986 Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve des Celestins, Rhone, France

A pretty nose of sweet cinnamon and cooked fruits with firm, velvety tannins and generous palate. Lots of sweet dried fruit flavours coming through on the palate including dried prunes and figs. It was shy during the 1st hour but after a few hours in the decanter, this wine starting to sing. Fairly long finish and ready to drink now. (93)


9. 1976 Penfolds Wines Grange Shiraz, South Australia, France

This is the 25th commemorative release that is still fresh and spicy with earthy undertones. Lots of black pepper, cooked meats and firm tannins. Not one of the best Grange bottles I’ve had but all the elements are in balance and the finish is fairly long. In this company, the wine was good but not great from the time it was opened and even 2-3 hours later. (92)


10. 1990 Domaines Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chappelle, Rhone, France

Savoury, firm tannins with closed, spicy flavours that was not open at first. After a few hours in the decanter, the wine opened up more but was still disappointing compared to the 1982 and the 1998 tasted alongside it. (91)


11. 1998 M. Chapoutier Ermitage l’Ermite (Magnum), Rhone, France

Savoury, earthy flavours with a hint of garrigue. Lovely texture and good balance with fairly long finish. After decanting for a few hours, the wine did open up – tannins softened and the some spicy notes came through. However, overall, the wine was not expressive and the flavours were lacking in depth. (91)


12. 2003 Greenock Creek Alice’s Shiraz, South Australia, Australia

Full bodied, very intense red wine with pepper, cloves, ripe prunes and fig notes. There is much intensity, tannins and a lot of everything in this 16.5% alcohol red. However, after half a glass, one tires of its testosterone-filled style. (88)


13. 1961 Domaine de Mont Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France

Borders on being too evolved with dried leather, sweet pot pourri and silky tannins. This was probably best about 20 years ago but is now fading. (87)