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Jeanne Gaillard Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah 2012

I'm taking another detour away from the Loire this week, but I plan to return to 2009 Chinon - to keep up the vague theme I started with the 2009 Croix Boissée from Bernard Baudry, and the 2009 Coteau de Noiré from Philippe Alliet - again very shortly. This week, I'm off to the Rhône Valley, and in particular to Collines Rhodaniennes.

The vineyards of the Collines Rhodaniennes will probably not be familiar to all, although they have around for a very long time, and were probably planted as long ago as Roman times. They remained active until destruction by phylloxera, and it was only in the 1990s that activity really kicked off again. They gained some renown and popularity when Pierre Gaillard, Yves Cuilleron and François Villard teamed up to produce wines under the Vins de Vienne label, the region immediately assuming the image of an affordable surrogate for increasingly pricy Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie. In truth, however, although this is no doubt true, the vin de pays designation (now renamed indication géographique protégée) allows for many other varieties beyond Syrah and Viognier, and there are wines made here based on Chardonnay, Merlot, Gamay and more besides.

Jeanne Gaillard Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah 2012

The wine I have here is Syrah (the label seems fairly clear on that!), and it comes from Jeanne Gaillard, Pierre Gaillard's daughter. The fruit is sourced from Malleval, on the west of the river, I assume just outside the Condrieu vineyards, and Marsaz, on the east side of the river, north-east of Tain-l'Hermitage, and just outside the Crozes-Hermitage appellation. These are two of the five districts eligible for the IGP, and it is often true of the Collines Rhodaniennes vines that they are 'just outside' some famous appellation or another! The wine is 100% Syrah, the fruit partly hand-picked, partly machine-harvested, destemmed, and then cold-macerated before alcoholic fermentation at 25ºC. The malolactic occurs in vat and barrel, where it rests for just six months before bottling. The emphasis is a little less on extraction, structure and oak, and more on the purity and expression of the fruit.

This wine, the 2012 Jeanne Gaillard Colline Rhodaniennes IGP Syrah is a sample drawn from cuve and sent over to the UK. In the glass it has a fresh, vibrant hue, with a little darkness at the core, reflecting the variety I think, but it does not cross into opacity and it certainly looks appealing for that. The nose has a wonderfully bright, fresh, smoky and crunchy fruit character, with no evident wood influence in keeping with that short élevage. There are raspberry and blackberry aromas and flavours too, the palate feeling gently creamed, very bright and defined, lightly grippy, with the succulence of the fruit dominating, although there is also a dark and grainy grip to the finish. It has such lovely purity and freshness, and without the bite of excessive alcohol, as this one comes in at just 12%. What a delightful and appealing wine. In view of the fact this is a sample drawn before bottling, I have kept my score as a range. 15-16/20 (13/5/12)

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