The Bastard Cork (brief and angry)

After a week in France, the main purpose of which was to taste some 2008 Rhones, I settle down to lay some drabble on what I have divined.  You can learn a lot in a few days spent visiting winemakers and tasting their offerings.  The various themes were, and will be: throw away your vintage charts (again), critics who can’t taste (again), marketeering (the Rhone has to be the best and/or most “marketed” French wine region), Rhone’s Mugnier (probably Rene Rostaing, Jean-Louis Chave a younger version) and Ch. de Beaucastel, a producer that I’ve never really “got” but do now.  Indeed I’d go so far to say that Beaucastel is what Chateauneuf is all about.

One of my discoveries was Domaine Coursodon.  Seriously good St Joseph.  St Joseph is the largest appellation in France, and Jerome Coursodon’s vines are, significantly, in the heart of the appellation: the good bits.  The appellation is probably at least five times the size that it should be.  It’s a bit like Dulwich.  If you know Dulwich, you ‘ll know that Dulwich proper stretches from Half Moon Lane at the southern border to about 300 yards north of Sydenham Hill Station at the northern edge, and if you’re more than half a mile east or west of College Road then you’re in the wrong bit.  But there are plenty of people in Peckham who like to say that they live in “East Dulwich” and, I kid not, British Rail have been lobbied in the past to rename the Sydenham Hill train station “South Dulwich”.

Back to the point, and more of the exceptional Coursodon later, but here is the anger: I open a bottle of 2005 St Joseph “Silice” to drink as I write.  I’ve been looking forward to it all day.  And the bastard is corked.  Even worse: only partially.  I can taste the class underneath the taint; it’s not completely “foutu”, just slightly wrong.  A beautiful woman wearing the wrong perfume.  I can see the class, the beauty, but someone (well, a faulty cork) has daubed “BAD DAY” all over my painting.  Someone has keyed my Porsche.  Someone (well, a cork) has pissed on my chips.

The bottle will be replaced tomorrow.  Notes on the brilliant domaines Coursodon, Jean-Michel Gerin, Jean-Louis Chave, Rene Rostaing and Ch. de Beaucastel will hopefully follow, along with some positive words on the 2008 vintage in both the southern and northern Rhone.  No geeky debate on screwcaps, though.