Wine of The Month – October 2012

In a recent post, Will Lowe says that the start of autumn is marked by one’s first opening of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape .

I think this is spot-on and as the evenings get darker, the weather more blustery and the leaves russet and golden, the idea of a wine with more southern warmth and spice becomes ever more appealing.

This month we have two classics and one curve ball from our Cambridge merchants; interestingly, they all come from within a fairly narrow north-south band: two from the Rhône in southern France and one from Rioja in northern Spain.

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2011, Noel Young Wines £11.35

The most northerly of our wines this month, this is 100% Syrah from the classic northern Rhône region.

Dark purple in the glass, blackberry and black cherry fruit on the nose, some spice. The palate shows lots of ripe, sweet black cherry fruit, soft yet mouthfilling texture.

Good fruit expression, acidity and savouriness. Lovely balance, elegance and finesse. Lovely finish with a touch of spiced prune or baked fig – very accomplished and showing well despite its youth.

Mas de Libian, Vin de Petanque 2011, Vin de France, Joseph Barnes Wines £10

Our next French wine is a whole lot funkier – unfilitered and unfined, this needs to be allowed to settle for a few minutes before serving.

Labelled as a humble Vin de France, it comes from the Ardeche in the southern Rhône and is mostly Grenache with some Syrah in the blend.

A dark ruby garnet in the glass, there is some elderberry and black cherry on the nose. The palate shows pure, quite primary, black cherry fruit on first opening with a prominent, almost Italian-style acidity – with aeration it all rounds out a little more into elderberry and prune.

Good savoury depth, clean acidity and lovely balance with soft tannins and a persistent finish.

Rioja Navajas Crianza 2008, Cambridge Wine Merchants £9.50

(reduced to £7.12 during October)

Rioja, from northern Spain, is another classic and a staple of autumnal evenings.

This 2008 Crianza from Cambridge Wine Merchants spends over 12 months in American oak and has a textbook “Rioja nose” of sweet vanilla with cedar, woodsiness, spice and cherry fruit.

A deep cherry red in colour, it is not quite as bright and youthful as the other two youngsters and shows a slight paleness around the rim.

On the palate, there is more sweet vanilla and mellow oakiness, with cherry fruit and meatiness. The texture is soft, supple and mellow. Long on the palate, a touch of pepperiness and eucalyptus develops.

Good, savoury and well-balanced finish, held together by well-integrated tannins. This is a very classy – as well as classic – wine and a textbook example both of what a Rioja should be, but also of the harmonious mellowness that comes with a bit of age.

And if Rioja is your thing, Cambridge Wine Merchants will be having wine and tapas tastings every weekend, masterclasses and some fine dining menus with restaurants.

All three wines have a distinctly autumnal, warming feel to them matched a European elegance and food-friendliness.

Match with stews such as beef and root vegetables or chicken, tomato and rosemary.

Recommended Wine

All three are very lovely wines and improve with a bit of air Рhowever, my personal favourite here is the classy, elegant and complete C̫tes du Rh̫ne from St Cosme.


Cambridge Wine Merchants –

Joseph Barnes Wines –

Noel Young Wines –

This article also appears on my blog.

© Tom Lewis 2012

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About Tom Lewis

Tom Lewis is a wine writer and educator from Cambridge with a particular interest in Austria and France. His comments have been published on, Local Wine Events, as well as in the local press in his hometown of Cambridge, UK. When it comes to buying wine, Tom’s philosophy is to buy as close as possible to where it comes from. He writes a regular blog, the Cambridge Wine Blogger which launched in 2009 and is a presenter for the Cambridge Food and Wine Society. To read more of Tom’s work, please check out
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