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Ogier Côte-Rôtie 2000

This week I am bringing my fleeting fascination with the Northern Rhône vineyards to an end with another Côte-Rôtie, what must be one of the best value appellations of the Rhône Valley. In a way we bring things full circle here, as in this region we see again a practice which I first described when discussing Hermitage, early on in this look at the Northern Rhône. That practise is the blending of white grapes in with the red, in this case Viognier - best known as the variety responsible for much of the character of Condrieu - may be blended in with the Syrah, to a maximum of 20% in any wine. In the vineyard, however, the proportion of Viognier suggests it may play a smaller role than appellations regulations would allow; it accounts for just 5% of the planted vineyard area, Syrah alone covering the remaining 95%. In those wines where Viognier plays a role, which is not all of them, the percentage of this aromatic white variety varies between 3% and 5%, with a very few wines exceeding this upper boundary.

Ogier Cote-Rotie 2000Much of the Viognier is planted in the more southerly of the Côte-Rôtie vineyards; this may at first seem strange when one considers the reason for permitting the inclusion of the variety - that white varieties accidentally mixed in with a red vineyard could be harvested and included - but it is not so strange when we realise that those vineyards to the south, near Condrieu, have soils of loose granite best suited to the variety. The vineyards of the appellation are many and varied, but perhaps the two most renowned are Côte Brune and Côte Blonde which lie fairly central to the appellation, just behind Ampuis. These two vineyards take the lead roles in an apocryphal Rhône Valley tale which I can not resist repeating; the two slopes are alleged named for two daughters - one with blond hair, the other a brunette - of the Maugiron family, and the wines perhaps, just perhaps, in some way reflect the characteristics of these two mademoiselles. At least that is what every text on the wines of the Rhône Valley will tell you. I remain doubtful about the veracity of this tale, and also to some extent about the veracity of some wines that declare these two famous vineyards as origin. The classic example is of course the Brune et Blonde from Guigal, a leading négociant that is widely known to purchase Côte-Rôtie fruit from vineyards all over the appellation. Enough said, I think.

There are no doubts about the source of this week's wine, as the Ogier family, who in the 1970s were selling all their produce to Guigal, own vines principally in the Côte Rozier and Lancement vineyards although there are others, some coming into the fold as a source of négoce wines, others in the vin de pays vineyards that lie all around Côte-Rôtie. The wine, the 2000 Côte-Rôtie from Domaine Ogier, has an attractive hue, dark and a touch glossy, although it peters out to a fairly pale, rather wide rim. The nose has some very attractive components; black pepper and spices, a rather savage tinge of animal fur and horse hair. There are soft black fruits, freshly ripened blackberries, with a little sweet, slightly jammy note. There is also a rather light note to it, a little peachiness. On the palate it has a cool style at first, in impact it is rather light, showing only a gentle substance through the middle, with fairly spicy, firm band of tannins around the edge. The acidity is rather low, and although not very prominent there is a little soft, jammy character. This has a very fresh, cool vintage feel to it. But that isn't to say that it isn't pretty and indeed it is fairly tasty. There is not a lot of very typical Côte-Rôtie character showing through on the palate at the moment, but this wine has time on its side. An attractive, good wine, although last week's Burgaud has the edge I think. 16.5+/20 (18/2/08)

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