Having trained as a chemical engineer Marc Sorrel returned to the family vineyard at the request of his father Henri. When Henri passed away in 1984 Marc took over full control under the watchful eye of the estate’s wine-maker until he felt confident enough to go it alone. Sorrel owns or rents a total of four hectares of vineyard, primarily in and around the hill of Hermitage, with one hectare in Crozes-Hermitage which he completely replanted in 1989. The wines in general are built in a traditional style and will repay the patient, displaying great complexity and depth. The 2000 has a garnet core fading to a short bright pink rim. On the nose one is drawn into an enticing blend of mulberry, bramble and spice with a game character beneath. The palate has great elegance and refinement of fruit which leads through to a mineral finish. The tannins here are supple and the acidity balanced. At only 11.5% alcohol this is a truly elegant wine that has intrigue and development to ensure a bright future.
A confident wind is blowing through the Rhône valley; Syrah, Grenache and Viognier are the grapes of the moment, and the Mediterranean diet has been adopted around the world as the mark of a good life, further energising sales of Rhône wines. From Côte-Rôtie through to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, there is a sense of optimism and forward motion.
While united by the presence of the river, the two halves of the region couldn’t be more different. The northern Rhône consists of a narrow band of vineyards that follow the course of the river as it heads south. The vineyards are dramatically steep in parts, and the climate is continental, similar to that of the southern extremes of Burgundy. In terms of the wines produced, Syrah reigns supreme as the only red varietal, while white wines invariably consist of a proportion of both Marsanne and Roussanne.
Other than the river, the south shares very little with the north. Flatter and much more Mediterranean in climate, it is Grenache that features most heavily for red wine production, supported mainly by Syrah and Mourvèdre. White wine production is equally as varied; Grenache Blanc, Bourbelenc, Clairette, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne are all found here. With such a wide base of varieties, styles and wines can and do vary dramatically.
2000 - Rhône
Acknowledged as the third high-quality vintage in a row, in the south at least. A very hot and dry spell from mid-August until mid-September accelerated ripeness, and Grenache in particular was marked by a profound depth of red fruit characters and elevated alcohol. While some wines were affected by drought-stress and show angular tannins, where older vines were planted is easy to find wines of substantial depth and heady maturity. The conditions in the north were marginally less favourable, though few producers have made anything other than very good wines. Some wines attained sugar ripeness without skin ripeness and lack conviction, though conversely a small number of producers’ 2000s exceed the quality achieved in 1999.
One of France's noble red grape varieties, responsible for some of the Rhône Valley's best wines and a component in many others. A small-berried, thick-skinned grape which needs the warmth of the Midi sun to ripen fully, Syrah produces deep coloured, perfumed wines with refined tannins that permit long ageing. Notes of violets can be found in the best northern Rhône wines, together with dark berry fruits and frequently coal tar. With age secondary aromas suggest leather and game. Its depth and structure are frequently exploited to beef up the softer Grenache in southern Rhône and Languedoc blends.
Synonymous with Syrah, Shiraz has become hugely influential in Australia. Once regarded merely as a workhorse, the quality of old-vine productions has changed perceptions forever, and now it is Australia's most planted quality red variety. The 'Oz' version is richer and more muscular than its Rhône cousin, frequently attaining alcohol levels in excess of 15%. In the Barossa, the best Shiraz are fruit-laden and brimming with spice and toast with a rich, creamy palate. In South Africa, Chile and New Zealand too the variety has shown significant potential to cause excitement.