2018 Saint-Joseph Blanc, Lieu-Dit, E. Guigal, Northern Rhône, France
Every so often a bottle of white Rhône sneaks up on my palate and completely blows me away. While white Graves always loiters with intent, never really hitting the high notes cleanly, and top Alsatians impress once every blue moon, it is the Rhônes that stick in my mind and make me wish I had bought a case and not a bottle.
I am not sure why marsanne and roussanne, in the right hands, have the ability to confound the senses. I handed a 19/20 score the other day to my featured wine. I had just tasted the always excellent 2017 Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc (£13.50, noblegreenwines.co.uk; £12, selected Tesco), which, on reflection, is the finest possible support act to my hero headliner. I once saw The Pogues support Manic Street Preachers at the Clapham Grand, and I reflect about this gig more than any other. These two wines are the vinous equivalent of that gig – they are that good!
The delicate, relatively inexpensive blend of 60% viognier, 15% roussanne, 10% marsanne, 8% clairette, 5% bourboulenc and 2% grenache blanc readied my senses for the main act. There is no oak involved in the CdR and so when Lieu-Dit careened into my taste buds, wearing 50% new barrels (drums in my laboured analogy) and sporting a massive riff of 95% marsanne on lead guitar and 5% roussanne on bass, I found myself in a cacophony of awesome flavour. This wine is a genuine “design for life”.
Matthew Jukes is a winner of the International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Communicator of the Year (matthewjukes.com)