Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Les Trois Couronnes Cotes du Rhone, 2007

The label says 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah, but the wine has a tannic presence that would lead you to believe the percentage of Syrah is much higher. It's a deep, purplish color, and the tannins are apparent even from the opening sniff--peels, stems, dark berries, pepper and spice. Those carry through on the flavors, but again there are stern tannins that augur well for the future.

This bottle of Les Trois Couronnes confirms what I found in the first bottle I tried (September, 2008). A later bottle (December 17, 2008) was more foward with none of the tannic sternness. I described it as ripe, almost to a fault. Are there two lots of this wine? Or bottle variation? I have several more bottles--all purchased at D&W Parkview in Kalamazoo for $6.99. It's a great value; I've seen it priced at $13 to $15 elsewhere in the country.


  1. Fred, are stem tannins somehow different than those resulting from barrel aging? If so, how? I always thought tannins were necessaryfor a wine to this the case?

  2. A very good winemaker, Trevor Mast of Mount Langi Ghiran in Australia, once told me emphatically that it's not tannin but acid that allows a wine to age. Trevor studied winemaking at Geisenheim in Germany, where white wines have a remarkable capacity for aging. Although German wines are perceived by Americans to be "sweet," they are really very high in acid; that's why a little residual sugar is needed to attain good balance. White wines from the Loire and from Chablis also are very ageworthy because of the high level of natural acid in the grapes. Until recently, wines from these areas have not been aged in wood; and those that see wood are generally less ageworthy.

    Aging in barrels exposes the wine to air, eventually leading to the stale, oxidized flavors and aromas. This may take decades, of course, and with red wines some exposure to oxygen is desired to soften the acid and bring the aromas and flavors out sooner. That, in my opinion, is the principal advantage of barrel aging--controlled oxidation. That can be accomplished with concrete vats as well--although with a different aroma and flavor profile.

    As for stem tannins, most wines don't have them. In a few areas such as the Southern Rhone, stems were traditionally included as part of whole bunch fermentation. Stems can add substance and flavor, but they can sometimes lead to an undesirable stemmy, bitter quality. Many winemakers today have started de-stemming; others, like Guy Steinmaier of Domaine Sainte Anne, use stems only when they have matured properly and are in good condition. Stemming vs de-stemming has become a major argument in the Southern Rhone, and I'm usually in the camp of those who don't de-stem.

    I'm not sure about Les Trois Couronne. The tannins may come from stems, or they may come from barrel aging. For a wine at this price level, I suspect it's the former. I find this wine slightly bitter--not as smooth or elegant as Grand Prieur or Sainte Anne--but that will probably pass with a few months' aging. In bottle No. 2, for some reason, the tannins and bitterness were non-existent.

  3. Fred
    I just finished my first bottle of Les Trois Couronnes 2007, sold to me by my friend Pete Eizel at Martha's Vineyard in Grand Rapids. I found the wine to be very full bodied, with a slight taste of tannin's. There was no bitterness. You mention the Domaine Sainte Anne, which is similiar in value to the Les Trois Couronnes. Can you make the same statement for the 2007 vintages? How long do you think the Vacqueyras be held in the cellar? Many times I will purchase a larger quanity of this style of wine, hoping to use it for large dinner party's. I am not sure if it will hold up for a few years. Thoughts?

  4. Is the 2007 Sainte Anne available at Martha's Vineyard? At a similar price to Les Trois Couronnes? I bought Les Trois Couronnes for $6.99 and would be very pleased to find the Sainte Anne for a similar price. I haven't seen or tasted the Sainte Anne 2007 but have been looking for it. For me, it's a much better wine, although it usually does require a few years to show its best.

    As for aging window for Vacqueyras, it depends a lot on the individual wine. Most do well over six to eight years, but some wines in some vintages are capable of going a decade or longer. I have some 1998 Le Sang de Caillou that I'm embarrassed to say I haven't tried. I really should do so soon, but when it was young, it gave all indications of being a long keeper.

    The 1985 and 1986 Couroulu were still going strong from 1995-1997, but the 1998 seems a bit tired. As a general rule, I try to drink a good Vacqueyras at about six to eight years of age but often miss the mark and rarely kick myself for doing so. Hope that doesn't happen with Le Sang de Caillou.

  5. Has anyone tried the village specific Les Trois Couronnes wines available at D&W, ie. Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, and Vaqueras? Today I saw the CNF Pape for $8.00 discount at $26+-.

    Jim Z

  6. Eizel couldn't taste his way oput of a paper bag. Actually, he hasn't had an original wine though in his whole life.

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