M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Rouge Belleruche 2006 – Southern Rhone Valley, France

We singled out the Chapoutier Belleruche Rouge 2005 as BBQ red wine of the year in 2007. And while you will no doubt still come across this vintage, the 2006 is now widely available in the Asia market, and is right on the money again. Notwithstanding the exceptional quality-price rapport, this unpretentious yet authentic red is full of character and the sort of wine you don't tire of. With no oak whatsoever coupled with plenty of succulent red berry fruit, it also accommodates an agreeable level of chilling, which is imperative in the summer heat. Yes, it is summer in East Asia for those in tropical zones who barbecue the year round and are oblivious to the four seasons. Winery Profile Michel Chapoutier is one of France's most dynamic wine producers, championing biodynamic viticulture and producing a consistent, impeccably high-quality range of wines from the prominent northern and southern Rhône Valley appellations, as well as Languedoc-Roussillon. He also owns vineyards in Australia and has a joint venture with fellow biodynamic producer Ron Laughton at Jasper Hill Vineyard in Heathcote, Victoria, involving a vineyard at Jasper Hill called La Plelade and a vineyard in the Côtes du Rousillon called Agly Brothers. Chapoutier spends as much time and energy assiduously educating the trade and consumers around the world on every precise detail of wine service and the nuances of his wines as he does growing and making them. I have never encountered someone so meticulous in detail when it comes to the serving and enjoyment of wine, yet he is never boring or wearisome, to the contrary jovial and amplified with an engaging intellectual magnetism.

Terroir (= total vineyard environment) & Vintage Synopsis The radiant, dry Mediterranean climate of the Southern Rhone is echoed in this wine with a distinctive earthiness known as garrigue, an infusion of baked earth and Provencal herbs that transposes in the wine. The vineyards for Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche are spread over the communes of Sablet and Séguret, with silty and stony subsoils that were once the ancient riverbed of the Rhône. 2006 continues a remarkable run of excellent vintages in the Southern Rhone, indeed 8 out 9 with only aberration being the rain deluged 2002. While the weather was cooler than in 2005, the 2006 vintage was considerably long and the ripeness very even but more importantly, acidities were higher and there is a marked freshness and crunchy fruit in the wines, particularly at this entry level. You will however, find Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône remarkably consistent in quality year to year, in no small part due to biodynamic viticulture and meticulous winemaking. Winemaking The polarity of winemaking in the new and old worlds is exemplified here with no oak maturation whatsoever, something that more winemakers in Australia and USA should grasp when it comes to succulent and eminently drinkable red wines. Fermented and matured in stainless steel, this wine relies on the natural flavenoids and phenolics from maceration for 15 days on the grape skins to give it the requisite tannin structure, enhanced by the characteristic fullness and spiciness of Grenache (80 percent) and Syrah (20 percent). The minimal handling and absence of oak allows it to fully express its fruit qualities and terroir. Tasting Note No apologies for the similar tasting note to 2005, frankly everything is here that was there last year... only there seems to be added vibrant fruit and crunchy acidity and slightly more definition of terroir, I would suggest from the cooler conditions. A strong perfume of red cherry, blackcurrant and stewed plum amongst grilled meats and smoky, fireside charcoals, lots of garrigue - the effusion of Provence with scents of dried herbs -oregano-thyme-lavender-aniseed, backed earth, warm granite rocks, pronounced black olive tapenade and five-spice in the background. Racy, tart palate entry, engulfing the mouth with sour raspberry and cherry with a surge of crunchy acidity accelerating the piquant flavours across the palate - then running in to black earthy, peat-like coolness, lots of black olive and oolong tea as the wine twists to savoury with herbal tannins and abundant fresh rosemary with a tangy farewell. Serving & Food Pairing Needless to say, extremely versatile red with barbequed poultry, game and meats and likewise, roasted meats and lighter casseroles. I also find it a very good all rounder with congenial Asian fare, lighter curries, Chinese roast duck or pork and the ubiquitous Indian and Thai takeaway. Serve at around 15C, chilling it down just enough to take the edge off it, making it more refreshing. There is nothing worse than warm red wine on a hot day and apart from unpleasantness in taste; the accentuated alcohol will go to your head. Keep the bottle in a bucket or vessel of water, popping in a few lumps of ice in from time to time to maintain coolness. Longevity & Price Point While predestined for early consumption, Côtes du Rhône reds of this quality and structure will benefit from two to five years' bottle aging, particularly in good vintages such as 2005 & 06. It is remarkably well priced given its hedonistic qualities, for example HK$100 per bottle if purchased by the dozen direct from the importer in Hong Kong, a quantity that I would suggest is the absolute minimum at any BBQ, unless you're aiming for a dry argument. Importer/Agent China: Torres China - Shanghai, Tel: 86 (21) 6267 7979 www.torreschina.com Hong Kong: Connoisseur Wines, Tel: 852 2772 3670 www.connoisseur-wines.com.hk Philippines: Titania Wine Cellar, Tel: 632 894 1371 74 titaniawinecellar@yahoo.com Indonesia: VIN PLUS, Tel: 62 21 7179 2577 www.vinplus.biz India: FineWinenMore, Mumbai, Tel: 91 22 4033 0000 www.finewinesnmore.com Japan: Nippon Liquor, www.nlwine.com Malaysia: Asiaeuro, www.asiaeurowines.com.my Singapore: Culina, www.culina.com.sg South Korea: Daeyoo, Tel: 82-2-2632-7028, www.winenara.com Vineyard website/Travel www.chapoutier.com and www.mchapoutieraustralia.com The Southern Rhone villages of Sablet, Seguret, Gigondas, Vaison-la-Romaine are resplendent with Provencal joie de vivre and delightful for holidaying in self-contained villas where one can forage for food and wines and cook up wonderful feasts. A visit to restaurant Le Beaugraviere in Mondragon is must-do, indeed one of the most memorable dining experiences I have ever had, and you will not find a larger list of older Rhone Valley vintages anywhere. www.beaugraviere.com "Life is filling in time between meals... and a meal without wine could only be breakfast" Curtis Marsh