Ali’s adventures

Rhône Valley, France

October 2020

Join our host, Master of Wine and Jancis Robinson critic, Alistair Cooper on his En primeur adventure in Rhône. Daily he’ll be bringing you the inside scoop directly from the vineyards he is visiting. You’ll hear about the incredible number of tastings which are happening so that the future wines you’ll be drinking can be fantastic. Ali will walk you through the actual vineyards and take you inside the tasting rooms. You’ll see and hear things only a very exclusive crowd are fortunate enough to be a part of.

Day 0: Off to The Rhône!

Don’t be left behind as Ali gets ready for an amazing trip to Rhône where he’ll be tasting 700-800 wines over 10 days

By the end you will have a full understanding of the En primeur method, which includes purchasing wines early, sometimes while the wine is still in the barrel. There is a chance that by making the purchase early, you may score an amazing deal as the wines could be considerably cheaper during the en primeur period than they will be once bottled and released to the market. However, that is not guaranteed. It’s an especially good idea to buy En primeur when it’s a wine with limited quantity. That way you don’t miss out when the wine is released to the market.

Learn even more along with Ali on his visit during the Rhône En primeur.

Day 1: We Can’t Believe He Did That!

But we’re so happy he did. Shhhh... Amazing wines from Domaine de la Janasse

Ali pulls out all the stops and isn’t afraid to take that extra risk so he can bring the very best experience to you. He makes it feel like you are out in the vineyard walking alongside him. While we all wish we really could be there, this is the next best thing.

But you really won’t believe what happens in the vineyard today. Remember that “extra risk” we mentioned...Had you been there, would you have done it too?

Day 1: First stop, Château de Beaucastel

Join Ali at his first tasting of the trip to Rhône where he sips wine right from the barrel. Learn his initial thoughts on how good this 2019 vintage is going to be.

After being hand-picked, the grapes from Château de Beaucastel reach the cellar and only the best are kept for vinification. In order to keep their characteristics, aromas and originality, the 13 grape varieties harvested are vinified separately. It is only then, that multiple generations worth of knowledge can begin the art of blending.

Today the torch is being carried by the sons of Jacques Perrin, Jean Pierre and Francois. They have pioneered the approach to both organic farming and biodynamic farming. The family strongly believes that the grapes must have strong flavors to yield great wines. The reason they take such great care of the land is so they can yield the very best from each plot.

Day 2: Onto a Visit at Clos des Papes

See what’s got Ali excited at one of the oldest and most established vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Clos des Papes was started by a family with centuries of history in the village. In 1896, Paul Avril sold the first bottle and today it is run by the 3rd Paul Avril who trained at several other well known vineyards, such as Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Mount Mary before joining the family business.

Clos des Papes wine is best served with any and all types of classic meat dishes. So if you fancy a roasted, braised, barbequed or stewed style meal, Clos des Papes makes a great choice.

Clos des Papes is not only regarded as the benchmark producer of the appellation, but remains one of the top wines from this region.

Day 3: Just Another Day at the Vineyard

It’s hard to pass up a sunrise over the vineyard while en route to Domaine de la Vieille Julienne, located at the northern most limit of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

With its northern facing terroir of slopes and microclimate conditions, the vineyard has a special ability to adapt well to the extreme climate changes from the rest of southern Rhône Valley. These traits allow Domaine de la Vieille Julienne to produce singular, harmonious and balanced wines.

Harvests are done entirely by hand and allow for a careful first selection in the vineyard. A second quality selection still takes place when the grapes arrive at the winery to ensure only the finest grapes make it into the wine.

Find out what’s in store when Ali gets to this biodynamically farmed vineyard.

Day 4: Inside the Tasting Room

See the amazing number of wines sampled during a professional wine judging session.

Vacqueyras is a wine appellation located in the southern Rhône wine region of France, along the banks of the River Ouvèze. The backbone of the wine is Grenache, however more Syrah is used in the production of Vacqueyras wine than is used in Gigondas (Ali’s next stop), which can make the style seem cooler.

Unlike the neighbouring cru of Gigondas, the vineyards are predominantly located on wide flat terraces which were formed by the River Ouvéze. While the terrain is mostly the same the soils could not be more diverse which leads to the wines from this area being a unique and harmonious blend of qualities from different terroirs.

Join Ali at the Vacqueyras vineyard and see if you have what it takes to be a Master of Wines.

Day 5: An Exquisite View of the Gigondas Vineyard

Join Ali on his 5th day in the Rhône Valley. Making a stop at the quaint little village of Gigondas alongside the vineyards. See the amazing view and learn the wines he’ll be tasting today.

Gigondas is another stunning appellation just to the north of Vacqueyras. It is also primarily a red wine region, with a very small amount of rosé wine produced. From the 16th century, there is reference to white wines, but today no white wines are produced by law.

The wines from this area are rich, powerful and, made from Grenache-based blends as a mandated 50% Grenache is required in the wine. The wines are frequently compared to those from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but can sometimes be found to offer better value.

Day 6: Cheers from Ali!

A very special treat brought to you by Ali. Take a look at the beautiful countryside of Tain-l'Hermitage. It is located on the left bank of the Rhône River and it produces mostly red wine from the Syrah grape; however, small quantities of white wine are also produced from Roussanne and Marsanne grapes.

Tain-l'Hermitage is a small town of just over 5,700 inhabitants. If you are a Côtes du Rhone wine and gourmet chocolate enthusiast, then this would be the perfect destination for you. There are more than 45 wine caves in the area, offering ample opportunities for wine tasting.

A sightseeing day would include grabbing a magnificent bottle of wine, some delicious chocolate and then hiking up the hill through the vineyards, until you reach the top where you can look back and enjoy a panoramic view of the beautiful countryside below. Not a bad day in Rhone.

Day 8: A Taste of Côte-Rôtie

After a quick weekend interlude, Ali is back to tasting. Join him at the Côte-Rôtie vineyard which translates to “the roasted slope”, referring to the hours of sunlight that warms the steep slopes of the vineyard in Rhône. Its red Wines are made with Syrah grapes and the whites with Viognier. See what Ali thinks he is in store for at today’s tasting.

If you enjoy Syrah, then you will love the wines from Côte-Rôtie because in the world of wines it has been referred to as the “ultimate Syrah”. The fragrant notes of these wines often include green olives, raspberry, violets, and meaty bacon. Yes, the roasted slopes of Côte-Rôtie creates some of the most magnificent bacon aromas.

The climate of Côte-Rôtie is not the easiest of areas for growing with so many variables that can ruin a vintage. But thanks to the skill of some tremendously gifted winemakers, the wines that come from this area are nothing short of amazing. These wines are a fine example of how the best things in life really do come from hard work.

Day 9: A Big Day Down & Another Ahead

Discover the incredible wines Ali experienced yesterday including Côte-Rôtie which he describes as nothing short of “powerful”. It’s so incredible to get this insider info!

He also tasted the biodynamic and organic wines of Michel Chapoutier who is passionately focused on discovering the full potential of his terroirs and allowing the soils to express their true character. This fond attention to nature is what gives the wines their signature style.

Last but not least, Ali experienced the wine of one of the few small domaines with vineyards in plum, central sites at Hermitage; Marc Sorrel.

But he’s not done yet - not even close! Today you'll see he has over 120 additional wines to taste for us! Stay tuned as we expect to hear some rave reviews.

Day 9: Wish Ali Luck Smashing Out 120 Wines Today

It’s onto the next round of wines. This one starts with the wines from Saint Joseph which is an appellation also in the northern Rhône wine region of France. While the appellation covers the largest amount of land it comes in second as an area under vine.

St. Joseph is primarily a red wine region based on the Syrah grape but there may be up to 10% Marsanne and Roussanne included per AOC regulations. Originally it was a wine based on pure Syrah, but since 1979 it has been permitted to include as much as 10% white grapes.

In this clip you’ll also learn how the tasting process works so that the judges give an unbiased opinion. Very interesting indeed!

Day 10: Continued Snapshot into 2019 Rhône Vintages

Ali is tasting more new wines today including white wines from the Hermitage appellation. That’s right, white! As you already know from previous clips, Hermitage is an appellation known for producing red wines from the Syrah grape. However, today Ali will be tasting the white wines produced from the Roussanne and Marsanne grapes. Since this accounts for only 10% of grapes grown, he’ll have a smaller sampling of 12 wines.

Of course, he won’t be stopping there. Next, he’s sampling over 100 wines from Cornas, a French appellation just south of Lyon. Cornas is a red wine also made from the Syrah grape. No white wines are allowed to be produced so any wines designated Cornas AOC will be made from 100% Syrah by law.

Then it’s onto visiting Thierry Allemand and Chave where Ali is going to give us some sneak peeks at these very private and secretive vineyards.

Day 10: See What Has Taken Ali’s Breath Away

Ali is at Domaine Jean-Louis Chave. The Chave family (currently helmed by Gérard and son Jean-Louis) represents 16 generations of unbroken lineage committed to the production of some of the finest Syrah, Marsanne, and Roussanne on the planet.

Without spoiling things, we’ll provide the following clues as to what takes Ali’s breath away....

- He speaks to a family member
- It includes vintages from 2019, 2003 and 1999
- He describes it as “absolutely phenomenal” and “great moment”

Day 11: Want to know what wines are looking “very good” from Rhône? Find out in Ali’s latest update.

Ali has just finished up his tasting in Tain-l'Hermitage and has now tasted enough wines to be able to share his thoughts on how things are looking from the wines in the northern and southern Rhône. What’s great to hear is “when the wines are good, they are very good.”.

Ali also shares why some vineyards experienced an 80% loss of crop. But have no fear, the wines that remain are thankfully very, very, good.

He’s off to Côte-Rôtie next so stay tuned to hear what he thinks of the wines he meets there!

Day 11: “This is the stuff that dreams are made of” says Ali. Learn what is so special about today’s vineyard visit.

Château-Grillet has Ali grinning from ear to ear as he has never tasted better Viognier. This is a wine-growing appellation in the northern Rhône wine region of France, near Vienne and is known for producing the most prestigious Viognier wine in small batch quantities of around 1200 bottles of “liquid gold”. It owes a great deal of its fame to the fact that it is only one of two single Estate appellations in France.

Château-Grillet is a south-facing vineyard and covers a mere 3.5 hectares. It is situated in a natural amphitheatre nearly 500ft above the Rhône with 105 terraces which you can experience along with Ali as he walks you through directly.

HOME! Get the Incredible First Heard Highlights from Ali’s En Primeur trip to Rhone

Ali is spilling over with excitement about what he’s just experienced and tasted on his trip to Rhone. A few details about the 2019 vintage already start to come out as he just can’t keep it all to himself.

But that’s just the start. As a United Cellar’s valued member we are offering you the unique chance to join Ali and the team for an online guided tasting of Rhone whilst we talk through Ali’s thoughts and picks of the Rhone En Primeur for 2019.

This is an extremely limited access tasting as the wines on offer are so rare, there are only a few bottles available. This is a truly unique experience where you get to not only taste some divine wine, but also get to speak directly to a Master of Wine and Jancis Robinson critic about the wines of today and the future.





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