The vintage conditions
It was a dry year, one of the driest – far drier than 2003 in fact, but with only seven days where the temperature exceeded thirty-five degrees. Fine conditions lasted late into the year allowing Grenache, Syrah and the late ripening Mourvèdre to be harvested at perfect ripeness. When the rains did return in September, they were welcome and unproblematic, alleviating the dry conditions. It should also be noted that the Mistral blew strongly through the summer months, ensuring a healthy crop. Ripeness was no issue, given the higher than average number of sunshine hours, and was aided by a fine spell leading up to harvest.
Growers in the South had the confident smile of success when talking of their 2007s. Great vintages such as 1990 are quite quickly brought up in conversation, and with some justification. The year was characterised by a very hot onset of summer, which gave rise to fears of a replica of 2003, only for conditions to ease and the summer to continue without extremes of heat.
Years like 2007 are relatively straight-forward and natural balance is easily translated from fruit in the vineyard to wine in the cellar. It is vintages such as this that are able to excel over time. There is more than a grain of truth in the cliché that a great wine tastes like a great wine at an early stage – harmony is nearly always evident from the outset. That balance is there in 2007, with the structural components veiled by copious ripe fruits. The freshness that the vintage has captured is most welcome and is attributable to the fact that temperatures never became excessive and cool evenings allowed the vine some respite, retaining a fine aromatic profile for Grenache that is often lost in hotter vintages.
The Rhône has so much to offer in every respect: diversity, value and interest. In a vintage like 2007, these virtues are showcased for all to see. I will be fascinated to see how these great wines evolve in bottle. Greatness is a word that bandied about with little consideration these days and I hope its over-usage does not lead anyone to miss out on this exceptional vintage.
The wines – Southern Rhône
To be honest, I cannot recall having had such a pleasurable set of tastings. Each of the domaines included in our offer produced memorable wines, wines that rank highly in their appellations and in each domaine’s own individual roll-call of great vintages. In short we could have purchased many more wines, as the overall quality was so high. Naturally we had to curb our obvious enthusiasm!
A brief word on the whites - I am pleased to report that the whites of the Southern Rhône show impressive delineation and poise, in fact they are far more linear in style than the plump, more forward 2006s and look like strong candidates for ageing in many instances. The minerality also comes to the fore and varieties such as Clairette and Roussanne have performed remarkably well.
The wines – Northern Rhône
The vintage does not achieve such awe-inspiring quality as the South, yet this is clearly a very good vintage – the wines have an appealing ripeness and are supple and forward, with a fine tannic grip and good freshness. There will be no need to lock 2007 Côte-Rôtie or Hermitage in the cellar for years, but the balance and winemaking know-how ensures that these wines will age and evolve well over the mid-term. The most employed word in our tastings struggles for an English translation -‘gourmand’ is used to describe a wine that you wish to keep on tasting. Though hardly OED usage, 'more-ish' is possibly as close as we may come, but still seems to fall short of conveying the impression of the wines.
As far as the Northern Rhône whites are concerned, Condrieu has performed remarkably well, easily the most streamlined vintage in many a year, with good acidities, and alcohol levels that have allowed a fine balance to be achieved without any suggestion of headiness. Marsanne and Roussanne have also produced wines with taut structures and prominent acidity, which have potential for some longevity.