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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

5 November 2012

Rain again, again

1st November 2012

It’s raining again. Possibly France is trying to get rid of us. That’s okay, that just means more wine tasting. I’m not sure I’m entirely the best qualified wine taster right now, having a stinking cold with a blocked nose and a foul taste in the back of my throat that won’t go away. The wine certainly helps, even if I can’t spot its finer qualities.


Our first stop before the rain came was Tain l’Hermitage, home of the Hermitage AOC, but apart from one big maker whose wines I’m already familiar with from supermarket shelves back home there appeared to be no caves open. We were somewhat expecting this, as today is a public holiday in France and everything else was closed too. So we went next up to Croze-Hermitage, a village amidst the vineyards above Tain which has its own AOC. Quite unlike Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas this village didn’t have winemakers offering wares from their own caveau every few yards, in fact it seemed to have pretty much none.

Dry so far, we drove on up the Rhone and stopped at random when we spotted a wine cave by the roadside offering the St Joseph AOC. This is a bigger and less prestigious AOC than Hermitage across the river, but we tasted some really good (and really much cheaper) whites and reds, the owner, Mr Jamet, sparing us a whole hour of his day to explain the wines, his vineyards, the various styles and appellations in the area and what he’s trying to do. It would have been rude not to buy some! By an odd coincidence Tanners, the big Shrewsbury wine merchant, has also visited recently and bought some cases.

More driving took us right out of the Rhone valley and across to the Jura, and as dusk settled over the rain-soaked landscape we crept into the village of Château-Chalon. Astonished to find some winemakers still open on this stinking eve, we tried out some local plonk. The terroir of the Jura seems to impart a quite unique tang to the wines made here, perhaps why they’re not more widely enjoyed. Eventually we settled on a sticky, and a bottle of the powerful and sherry-like Vin Jaune bought from a truly gnarled old fellow in a tattered blue boiler suit with skin the colour and shine of a rosy apple.

One of those absolutely perfect characters you wish you’d got a photograph of, ten minutes after you’ve walked on.

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