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Delhi Wine Club
Joëlle Javelle from Gigondas

Posted: Friday, 14 September 2012 11:52

Passing By: Joëlle Javelle from Gigondas

September 14 : Joëlle Marty Javelle, the winemaker of the Gigondas-based Château de Saint Cosme, was in India this week to promote their Cote du Rhone wines being imported by the Wine Park, when Subhash Arora met her for a chat at a small, exclusive dinner organised on Wednesday at the Chamber, Taj Mansingh where she shared the philosophy of their wines from the famous valleys in this world-famous region in South of France.

Click For Large ViewChâteau de Saint Cosme is located in the heart of the appellation Gigondas (the name of the small town as well) and has been in the same family since 1490. The 22 hA estate with average vine age of 60 years, is being run by the 15th generation of Barruol family with Louis Barruol being the current owner and her boss. ‘Our fantastic historical site gives a good idea about how our ancestors, the Gallo-Romans lived’, says Joelle, who is the winemaker and second-in-command at this exceptional estate. She had come to Delhi only the previous night but managed to look very cheerful despite a whole day of meetings earlier in the day.

Joelle, who has been with the company for 10 years, came to India three years ago when UB France had organised a tasting at the French embassy. Nothing much happened except a lady at UB France passed on a few bottles to some importers including Vishal Kadakia, she says. He started importing a couple of years ago and has been consistently re-ordering. While the ‘Little James’ and the Cote du Rhone have been quite popular, Cote-Rôtie and Gigondas are rather expensive for the Indian market, she concedes. ‘The volumes sold in India are small but we are happy and like to move one step at a time,’ she said as we started the evening with the aperitif wine - Little James Basket Press White.

‘Little James’ is a fun wine - ‘a concerto in white grapes’ says the funky label displaying six sketches including one that says ‘giving Louis a helping hand with the press.’ As Joelle explains, ‘ an artiste friend of Louis was over one day and playing with his son James. He was drawing sketches which looked so good that we decided to use them on the bottle.’

Made from Viognier, Sauvignon and now Muscat d’Alexandria added in the blend, it’s a good value-for-money proposition. Selling at the Taj for the last couple of years, earlier at Rs.750 and now at Rs.800 a glass, it is selling very well . I was told by the hotel that all of their 16 wines-by-the-glass (8 red and 8 white) are extremely popular. The screw-capped wine is quite mineral and citrus. Although I missed the melon and citrus fruits that the tasting notes mentioned and I could feel a bit of oak (it has none, the whole process is in concrete vats) I realized from the notes that it was the ‘boxwood’ I was tasting. I would rather not serve this wine as an aperitif but the medium-bodied wine would be a good match with most vegetarian dishes having mushroom and asparagus and also fish and chicken with sauces or even tandoori.

Little James Basket Press Red is an interesting wine made from 100% Grenache. Explaining the Solera system, Joelle explains that this was born thanks to the Japanese consumers who loved the wine so much that they could not produce enough. ‘Since we don’t filter our wines, we left the bottom 20% of our Grenache in 1999 and added to it similar wine from other sources. We had become Negociant-Vigneron a couple of years earlier, in 1997, buying grapes from outside and vinifying in various appellations in the Rhone Valley; my boss Louis wanted to experiment with various terroirs in the Valley which he felt were under-exploited. We bottled half of it and kept the other half of it for next year. ‘

This process continues and every vintage has a bit of wine from 1999 onwards in it. The Wine of Freedom as the label says, this Vin de France (the new appellation with a much wider spectrum of wines, more or less the equivalent of earlier Vin du Pays wines) is very spicy with notes of cherry. It has the balance and elegance of wines that are much more expensive.

It was also interesting to note the strict laws in appellations of Rhone Valley, like Cote Rôtie. ‘We must buy the grapes and vinify there only. Then we bring them in casks to our estate for bottling and aging.' It was rather shocking when she said, ‘Cote Rôtie is a very small appellation and the wines are consequently very expensive. The grapes there cost € 15 for a liter of wine. ‘

Somehow that made the Cote Rôtie 2010 (made from Shiraz and aged in oak barrels for 12 months, she says) that we were drinking with dinner seem even more delicious. But there were others on the table who preferred the Chateau de Saint Cosme, Gigondas 2010, which is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre with a touch of Cinsault.  With flavours of black pepper, it had notes of cherries as well as other dark fruits. Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone 2010, a 100% Syrah, was somehow overshadowed.

Click For Large ViewWhen you think of Gigondas, you think of Guigal (E. Guigal is an estate in Côte-Rôtie appellation that makes several Cote du Rhone wines), I asked Joelle. She replied very diplomatically and respectfully, ‘ Mr. Guigal is the man who brought Gigondas and the wines of Cotes du Rhone to the world and made them popular.’

Taj Mansingh did a superb job of hosting the evening. Chef Nilesh deserves applause for the menu he created this evening. Service at this venue is always of excellent standard - nothing short of world class. This enhances the wine experience and makes an evening memorable rather than just an enjoyable evening.  One only wishes that wines like the Little James freedom red were available in retail at affordable prices. But that requires freedom from the duties and the archaic excise policy of Delhi and one can only hope that today’s infants would have better luck in future when they turn adult/25 years.

Subhash Arora


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