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Gilles Barge Condrieu 2000

Tartrate crystalsThis week, it is the turn of the Northern Rhône, and Gilles Barge. Gilles has earned himself a very good reputation as a producer of Côte-Rôtie, but his Condrieu, although undoubtedly less well known, can apparently also be good. Prior to these bottles, from the 2000 vintage, however, I had no worthwhile experience of Barge's efforts with Viognier.

These bottles came my way by virtue of a Spring sale from the cellars of a well known English university. The sale is advertised to alumni only (which doesn't include me), but through a friend I managed to procure a few bottles. The price was just £5, perhaps a quarter of what would be expected, the reason being sediment. As the list stated, this wine throws a sediment, but is quite correct. I figured it was probably potassium tartrate crystals, and on purchasing and subsequently opening a few bottles, I think I have been proved correct. Although the sediment has a rather wispy appearance in the wine, once the bottle has been drained they are quite clearly tartrates (illustrated above) and therefore nothing to be concerned about at all. The asking price, however, clearly reflected concern, perhaps at top table at college dinners!

Gilles Barge bottlesDespite this, the first bottle of this wine, the Gilles Barge Condrieu 2000, I opened, just a few weeks ago, was not really up to scratch, and I rated it rather low. My experience with older Condrieu is almost non-existent, however, as the wines of this Northern Rhône appellation, 100% Viognier, are usually thought of as best drunk young. I've usually finished mine by about four years of age, although I do have a bottle of Perret Condrieu Chéry 2001 in the cellar, the last of a six-pack, which I have left as an experiment to see how it fares. I did wonder whether I had paid this wine sufficient attention, and so it seemed prudent to open another, on a leisurely Sunday evening. The colour gives nothing away, a middle-of-the-road pale straw gold. But the nose is very interesting, offering up all sorts of aromas that I don't think I latched onto last time; very organic, woolly, honey and straw aromas, offset by an eye-opening, zesty, lemony current. If anything it resembles ageing Chenin Blanc (loosely), and it certainly keeps me coming back for more. On the palate it has a firm, lemony style with rather upright acidity, perhaps lacking a little in substance and flavour through the midpalate, but very well structured nevertheless. Good length on the finish, although it does seem a little disjointed here, and I do wonder if this won't just fall apart rather than ageing gracefully.

This thought lasts for just a fleeting moment, however, as the wine shows a delightful, honeyed, palate-coating texture towards the endpalate which more than makes up for any deficiencies. Little moments of this wine are excellent; it is just unfortunate that this doesn't extend to the whole package. Nevertheless, it's a good wine, but I think I should advise drinking soon, probably over the next year or two. Ignore my previous score; I'm happy to admit I misjudged this wine. 16.5/20. (31/7/06)

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