I like completeness. As a taster I strive to get a complete picture of any area I taste. In a country like Croatia, for example, I’ll normally spend a lot of time tasting the second and third division of wine estates, most which are unexciting, but if you just stick to the dozen or so usual suspects, you’ll never get a proper idea of what’s really going on.
In established wine areas, on the other hand, it’s easier to be up-to-date with latest developments – newcomers get into the limelight quicker – but there is another phenomenon: fine producers that keep themselves to themselves and out of the general circuit. I’m not an expert in the Rhône wines but one estate that somehow has always eluded me is Gourt de Mautens. Highly rated in all the possible reference guides, it’s just one of those that never show up at any organised tastings, and I’ve failed to secure a visit during my occasional stays in the Rhône too.
Eventually I purchased this lone bottle from the Aux Fins Gourmets shop in Germany for 42€ (and a fine shop it is). It’s the Domaine Gourt de Mautens Rasteau Rouge 2006, classified as a Côtes du Rhône-Villages. An ambitious Rhône with long ageing in oak and a blend focusing on 70% Grenache, some critics say it’s on the level of good Châteauneufs. I’m excited even before I pull the cork out.
It’s an example of a very serious wine that I don’t enjoy so much. The problem is style. It’s made in a very ripe, late-harvesty style with high(ish) alcohol and plenty of oak. There’s also quite some extract too. It’s not really excessive: many wines are far oakier and/or far more extractive. And it would be unfair to say it’s overly alcoholic: the 14% here are reasonably well assembled and I can think of many Châteauneufs with more obtrusive alcohol.
Yet somehow this doesn’t really turn me on. The richness of fruit is lovely – it’s really a broad, voluminous wine with plenty of presence and persistence of flavour – but I’m missing freshness. Good Côtes du Rhône, courtesy of the love-or-hate Grenache grape, sometimes manages to be exhilaratingly fresh and vibrant at pretty high ripeness. Here, there is so much ambition and low yield and oak ageing that freshness is forgotten. I’ve drunk this bottle over two evenings and it increasingly tasted like an Italian Amarone: thick, dense, broad, mouthfilling, textured, almost syrupy. Plus it ends with showstopping tannins that are as much grape- as wood-derived. Actually it’s good of a 2006 to show so young and tight, but I wonder whether it will ever really resolve. I’m happy to have tasted this to complete my picture of the Rhône, and I’ll be happy to retaste this, but it’s not a wine I’ll personally pursue.
Source of wine: own purchase.