Chapoutier Coteaux du Tricastin 2009 – a wine to light up the darkness

Coteaux du Tricastin is an appellation of southern Rhône that produces red wines from Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, i.e., a rather typical southern Rhône blend. (White wines are also produced.) I would characterise this appellation as less known than Vacqueyras, Gigondas or Lirac, which have some more name recognition and a little wider acceptance as “budget Châteauneuf-du-Pape”. This is perhaps indicated by some common marketing efforts by Tricastin and the likewise lesser known Côtes du Ventoux, Costières de Nîmes and Côtes du Luberon. However, in July 2008, something happened that put the name Tricastin in the news headlines across France, but perhaps not in the positive way the vignerons had hoped for. What happened was that the Tricastin Nuclear Power Centre made an unplanned release of some 30 000 liters of uranium solution into the surroundings. (Possibly it is run by the same company as the nuclear power plant in Simpsons.) It is not an exaggeration to say that the wine became somewhat more difficult to sell in France after that small cockup. A bit like selling a wine named, say, Cuvée Sellafield, or why not Three Mile Island. That measurements showed now radioactivity in the vineyards was of little help, since many consumers assumed that you immediately would start glowing in the dark and get leukemia if you had a sip of this wine. The local producers quickly realised that the name of the appellation was so ruined that they wanted to change to something else without “Tricastin”. Already in June 2010, the French appellation body INAO accepted a name change to Grignan-Les Adhemar effective from the 2010 vintage.

At the low price supermarket Colruyt, which sometimes have some good wines at good prices (mixed with a lot of other stuff…), even from well known names,  som ibland har vissa bra viner till bra priser (uppblandat med en hel del annat), t.o.m. från kända namn, I found a 2009 Coteaux du Tricastin from Chapoutier. 2009 is supposed to be a very good vintage in Rhône and basically everywhere else. The weird thing was that the wine costed around € 6, more than a euro less than the “standard” 2008 Côte-du-Rône (= simpler appellation and less good vintage) from Chapoutier. My guess was that this is a sign of “uranophobia” having had its effect on pricing. Since I’m less easily scared off (at least when it comes to wine), I bought a bottle for evaluation.

Chapoutier Coteaux du Tricastin 2009

Deep red colour, slight blueish note. In the nose blueberries, some red berries, slight notes of tar and dried herb, some mint. Quite pleasant nose. Medium bodied, slightly alcoholic, blueberries and other dark and red berries, tannins not that obvious mid-palate but are noticable in the slightly dry finish. The finish also has some fruit but is a bit… disjointed, for lack of a better term. 85-86 p? Quite a good wine for its modest price. In the nose, it reminds me of a simpler, either discretly oaked or non-oaked, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. On the palate it is lighter than what I expect from a well made Châteauneuf (or Châteauneuf neighbour) of that type, and the disjointed aftertaste makes me think that it isn’t an outright bargain.

Chapoutier also produces another Coteaux du Tricastin (Château Estubiers) that is more expensive than this one, and that was scored 88 points by Parker in the 2009 vintage. I can’t find anything about the wine I tried on Chapoutier’s website, so I don’t know anything about the blend or vinification. Perhaps they took the opportunity to buy in grapes or base wine when prices were depressed in order to produce a cheaper cuvée that they could market to supermarkets and the like? Perhaps they thought that the name Chapoutier would be sufficient to overcome consumers’ reluctance to buy wines that glow in the dark?

I end today’s post with some refined culture, recorded in France 1978.

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

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