This afternoon (Thursday, 14 Aug 2008), I attended a tasting of several of the wines of Northern Rhone producer Domaine Georges Vernay, the tasting hosted by the importers, the Shaked brothers who own the Derekh HaYain (Wine Route) chain of stores. Leading the tasting was Christine Vernay, the winemaker of the estate and a member of the third generation of the winery which was founded in the mid 1940's. Even though Ms. Vernay speaks no Hebrew and precious little English, the tasting was an enormous success, not only because of her inescapable charm and vivacity but because the wines, living up to the best reputation of the region, ranged in quality from the merely excellent to the out-and-out sublime.
Because the question of value for money comes up not infrequently on our little forum, it should be noted that the wines are being offered locally at about the same prices as available in the USA and UK.
Domaine Georges Vernay, Condrieu, Chailees de l'Enfer, Rhone, 2006: Deep gold with an almost bronzed overtone, full-bodied enough to be thought of as viscous, fully dry but with honeyed hints, a wine of seeming contradictions but those evaporating as this simultaneously hedonistic and intellectual wine sits on the palate. Made entirely from Viognier grapes, a distinctly Old-World wine. Give this one a few minutes to open in the glass and it shows remarkably youthful and exuberant. On first attack rich apricot, peach and stony minerals, those opening to reveal hints of anise and licorice, all coming together in a long and mineral-rich finish. Drink now-2012 and perhaps a year or two beyond that. NIS 399 (US$ 110). Score 92. (Tasted 14 Aug 2008)
Domaine Georges Vernay, Condrieu, Coteau du Vernon, Rhone, 2006: No matter how you cut it, the very best Condrieu of the 2006 vintage and indeed Viognier at its very best. Deep gold, with orange and green reflections, a full-bodied wine that builds in power as it sits on the palate. Opens with summer fruits, those with a creamy overtone, goes on to reveal spring flowers and generous stony minerals, and finally notes of freshly baked croissants and melon. An unusual wine in that despite its power it almost floats on the palate, the flavors playing gently through and lingering long and comfortably. Approachable now but best 2010-2018. NIS 439 (US$ 122) Score 98. (Tasted 14 Aug 2008)
Domaine Georges Vernay, Syrah, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Rhone, 2006: I suppose some will call this a simple country-style wine but if that is true it shows just how delicious such wines can be. Medium-dark ruby towards garnet in color, with black fruits and spring flowers on the nose, opening to reveal raspberry, cherry and citrus peel notes, those supported nicely by hints of white pepper. Soft, round and, although easy to drink with just enough complexities to catch our attention. Drink now or in the next year or so. NIS 80 (US$ 22) Score 88. (Tasted 14 Aug 2008)
Domaine Georges Vernay, Cote Rotie, Blonde du Seigneur, Rhone, 2005: Oak-aged for 18 months, medium-dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely and showing fine balance between spicy wood, fruits and minerals. On first attack red berries and distinct notes of iron, those yielding comfortably to fig, olive and licorice notes and finally on the long finish the minerals and tannins rising along with a generous hint of vanilla. Drink now-2016. NIS 279. (US$ 77), Score 92. (Re-tasted 14 Aug 2008)
Domaine Georges Vernay, Cote Rotie, Maison Rouge, Rhone, 2005: Dark and youthful royal purple in color, full-bodied, with super-soft and gently caressing tannins. On the nose and palate a gorgeous array that seems to shift from moment to moment at first sip but then comes together very nicely indeed with black and red currants, black cherries, bitter-sweet chocolate, and stony-earthy minerals, all leading to a long and generous finish. Already elegant and complex but destined to show even better in a few years. Drink now if you must but best from 2012-2025, perhaps longer. NIS 479 (US$ 133). Score 95. (Tasted 14 Aug 2008)