Enter a wine bar in Tain l’Hermitage, in the northern parts of the Rhône Valley. The Cave du Taurobole for example. Ask for the wine list. The charming and enthusiastic owner Nathalie Monterastelli and her husband will of course help you to chose if asked, but as a true fan of Raveneau you know there is no way you won’t order that bottle of 2007 Butteaux once spotted. Especially not when the price tag says 85 euros.
Ok, so we’re in Rhône. Yes, we should have white Hermitage, white Saint-Joseph or white Chateauneuf-du-Pape if Blanc is the preference. We did. A magnificent 2005 Hermitage Blanc from Jean Louis Chave was shared, a splendid more modern 2011 Saint-Joseph Blanc Les Oliviers from Pierre Gonon and an awesome 2010 Vieilles Vignes Rousanne from Chateau de Beaucastel. The solution was simple; return the next day for lunch at Cave du Taurobole and have the Butteaux. Choice of sparring partner? Jean François Ganevat’s 2008 Cuvée Florine.
There’s Chablis and then there’s Raveneau
Raveneau of today are run by Jean-Marie and Bernard Raveneau, continuing where their father François left off. The Butteaux is a Premier Cru, totally different in style from the more powerful but also great Montée de Tonnere which is the biggest 1er Cru the Raveneau’s own. Butteaux is elegance. Butteaux is precision. Butteaux is love at first sip. Pretty old vines, almost 50 years. Long aging in old oak, up to 18 months. The Ganevat bottle impresses with even older Chardonnay vines and spends 24 months in barriques. Jean François Ganevat had his training in Bourgogne and applies that knowledge on his Jura sites.
Six passionate wine people around the table. The owner, Nathalie, is asked to join us for a glass of the Raveneau. Great wines are to be shared. Memories that last for years. I feel a bit sorry for the Cuvée Florine at first because it’s a tremendous wine but Raveneau simply is a tough one to beat. I have to remind myself, that every wine is to be treated for its own prerequisites. Wine battles don’t exist. Wine comparisons only, in order to learn.
They somehow share a similarity, the two wines – elegance. The Butteaux has that bouquet which comes in two layers. First a whiff of oozing wet rocks, then the apples, the wool, the hazelnuts, the herbs. Starting complexity, this is still young although delicious. Subtle taste, such precision on the palate, intensity yet restrained. Purity in the long finale. It’s just a treat to drink Raveneau – the DRC of Chablis. Yes, it’s a bit of a lame comparison but you’re a smart reader and knows I’m struggling here, to find words to describe the Raveneau greatness.
The Cuvée Florine then. I’d drink this again and again and again. Same herbal feel, same apples. A creamier touch, more tropical scents although gentle. Amiable balance, wet earth taste, peaches and pure fruit on the palate. Fine length. 55 euros at the restaurant – nothing but a must buy when in Tain l’Hermitage! If there’s any left….