Last weekend I attended an epic tasting in the Northern Rhone town of Ampuis just 30 minutes south of Lyon, where over 60 wineries and their winemakers gathered to share their wines from Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Saint-Joseph, Cornas, Hermitage, Saint-Péray and Crozes-Hermitage. The event which is appropriately called the Marche aux vins D’Ampuis (“Ampuis Wine Market”), which gives consumers the opportunity to taste though dozens of fabulous wines, speak with the winemakers, and even purchase bottles on the spot from the various domains. It’s the ultimate chance to taste and buy — allowing you to refill your cellar with a selection of your favorite Côte-Rôties from the most recent vintages, which happen to be of outstanding quality. I spotted several people pushing trolleys around the tasting, their purchases securely attached with bungee cords. Some others who were not as well-prepared nonetheless used their purchases as serve as tables while taking a break from the action.
This year’s tasting featured many well-known wineries such as Chapoutier, Delas, Jamet, Ogier and Voge. As you can imagine, these were the most difficult stands to access, with people lined up (or shall I say jammed packed) just to get a taste. It’s well worth the short wait to sip and chat with the staff and or winemaker, who are always happy to explain each of the wines, their vinification, and the type of terroir the grapes are grown on. Trying several of the Côte-Rôties side by side was extremely insightful, as the winemakers style, the type of vinification techniques employed, and the aging regimen have such profound effects on the expression of the wine. While I found some Côte-Rôties to be quite jammy and heavy, others expressed richness while being light, elegant, and even floral. Several new up and coming winemakers were also present at the tasting, such as Stephan Pichat and Jean Michel Gerin, who are doing incredible things with their wines – these are winemakers to keep your eyes on.
In terms of vintage quality I found that 2010 really showcased the different terroir’s of the region — the wines were ripe, rich and overall just delightful, especially the Condrieus. I found the 2011’s to be elegant and terroir-focused, with plenty of red fruit. Both 2010 and 2011 are beautiful vintages with plenty of aging potential.
Of course the tasting didn’t stop at just wine. A selection of gourmet food stands are set up just outside the main hall which offer up the usual fanfare of oysters, escargot, truffles dishes, and local meats and cheeses. After picking up a few local meats to take home and enjoy with my newly purchased bottles, I headed home with purple-stained teeth, a big smile, and a reminder to bring a trolley and really do some damage next year.