Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Domaine Henry Vertical Piss-up

December is the time of Christmas fairs, vineyard open houses and lots of fun and jolly japes.

I went to one such last Sunday with pal B. Domaine Henry was having a vertical tasting. Hands up those who know what a vertical tasting is as opposed to a horizontal one... My hand would have been firmly stuffed in my pocket before this weekend, rest assured, but I can now speak with confidence about such winey events...

If a vineyard is holding a horizontal tasting, you'll be offered all the bottles from their different production lines for one year. A vertical one is the same line over several years. See?

So we were tasting the Chaille range from 1998 to 2006. It is considered their 'tête de cuvée'. Chaille is silex (slate?) and the particular quality of the wine derives directly from the quality of the land as well as the cépages (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre). The vendange is done manually and its matured in casks and cuves over 24 months.

We started with the youngest and worked our way chronologically backwards. These wines have the most incredibly fragrant 'nose', full of blackcurrant and other red fruits. If the quality is not considered sufficiently high, no Chaille wine is produced and the wine just goes into the Domaine Henry normal range. For this reason years 2002-2004 were absent.

The 2005 was an exceptional year and the wine was full-bodied, silky with a whole range of in-mouth sensations. I also particularly enjoyed the 1999 although the first bottle we tried tasted corked. We drew our host's attention to this sorry state of affairs and while much tasting and smelling went on, eventually it was conceded that perhaps it wasn't quite right, but it wasn't corked... Bottle two was exquisite...

We accompanied our wine tasting with bread tasting. A local artisan baker/chocolatier had come along with various breads to try, soak up the alcohol and hopefully sell along with a selection of chocolates one of which had been created to go especially with the Passerille late harvest wine.
It's a sweet wine, uncut by alcohol, fabricated along the lines of a Sauterne. It costs a bomb but is one of the most delicious liquids you could ever hope to make it past your lips. Goes marvellously with chocolate and Christmas pudding.

Because it's so difficult to make, it's very rare, hence its price, but if you ever get the chance, do try it. You certainly won't regret it and the sumptuousness of the sensations you'll experience will stay with you for a long time!

M Henry, besides being a dedicated vigneron, is also a keen historian. He has also developed the renowned Mailhol wine which "is a reconstitution of St Georges d'Orques wine in the 18th century, made from the grape varieties of this period (which have been forgotten since the phylloxera epidemic). In 1710 this "Cru" was often compared to the Cote de Nuits wines... After patiently searching the archives, in 1998 we planted a vineyard with these forgotten grape varieties such as 'œillades' and 'aspiran'. All work was done exactly as in the past (crowded planting, harvest time, vinification, ageing of the wine)."

The result is an amazing, fresh, fruity wine which is totally different to traditionally made wines of the present. I love the stuff. Unfortunately, it's 35Eur a bottle... We were lucky enough to try straight from the cuve a sip of the 2007 millésime. It promises to be an absolute stunner because it already sends your taste buds jumping for joy...

Last of the big spenders me, I just bought a loaf of pain aux lardons and said a sad good-bye to both the Mailhol and the Passerille. Times are hard...


  1. That was very very interesting -- thanks a lot. I'm a bit of a piss.... er, wine enthusiast, and I've often noticed the huge coopé at St. G d'O. I'll make it a point to visit Domaine Henry next time I'm in the region. Chaille is flint, not slate.

  2. Oh thanks, Expat... someone was too lazy to look it up... :D

  3. Vertical wine tasting? Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron? (Well, it woud be in my case...;-))


Comments are bienvenue.