Sunday, March 4, 2012

Le Canon Rosé 2010, Domaine de la Grande Colline

It's scary to think how much someone's view of natural wine must be moulded by the first wine they drink. If it was Le Canon Rosé I'm not sure they'd persist.

I was given it to try by one of the staff at the Kensington-based wine merchant Roberson who - all credit to them - have added a number of natural wines to their upmarket range. It's made by Hirotake Ooka, a Japanese winemaker in Saint Peray in the northern Rhone valley who Roberson's rather nicely describe as 'devoutly natural' and is made from Muscat d'Hambourg. It has no additions of sulphur whatever including at bottling.

We followed the site's advice to decant the wine but it was still pretty challenging on Day 1 with that cidery edge that just isn't that appealing - to me at any rate. My husband is much more tolerant of it. By Day 2 it was much improved with a delicate rose petal floweriness coming through and by Day 3 bordering on charming. But would most customers persist that long? I don't think so. They want a bottle, of rosé at least, they can open and drink immediately. (My husband thinks I'm a philistine.)

A 'red' wine*, definitely. I must get this traffic lights symbol system going.

* I have this idea you shouldn't score natural wines but flag up how challenging they are. Green = indistinguishable from a conventional wine, amber = might make you pause for thought if you've never tried natural wines before and red, only for hard-core enthusiasts. Like my OH.


  1. Interesting idea on the rating. My definition of a "red" natural wine would be something like Cornelissen's Contadino ... is that a fair benchmark?

    I quite like the sound of this ...

  2. I doubt whether many of the most convinced readers of THIS blog will be interested in my own taste, which is NOT relevant.
    However, I post this note in the hope they will question, in total sincerity, the whole purpose of this TYPE of wine. And so should your husband, by the way.
    What’s the point in making wine you have to force yourself to “learn to like”, for which you have to wait several days before it’s drinkable at all, if ever. I’m very respectful and tolerant of PEOPLE (in all their activities: philosophy, politics, religion, intimacy, hobbies, free-time, sports...). They are free to enjoy any type of experience. But I’m ferocely intolerant to IDEAS. Therefore: consumers who like those wines are right to drink them, but please, stop propagating (not you as an individual, Fiona, but their advocates in general) the idea this is the way to go. The natural end of grape juice that is left standing on its own is to become very poor vinegar indeed. And a piece of steack will never become Bundesfleisch on its own either, nor wheat decent pasta, nor Folle Blanche marvelous Armagnac, nor the best barley ... Ardbeg. Well .... “Ce n’est que mon avis!”.
    PS : in order to convince you it is no sectarism, visit

  3. Luc,
    There are a lot of things in life that you have to learn to like, are there not? It's not all instant gratification. Of course people are free to choose not to learn, and no-one will force them to do so! It may be a long and/or hard learning process, but the rewards at the end of the journey would seem to be worth it!

    I don't think anyone's propagating the idea that drinking natural wine is the only way to go! Different types of wines are not mutually exclusive, and each have their own place and moment. For example, I often drink cheap nasty table wine, which is so disgusting that it has to be mixed with lemonade, but hey, so what? That's the type of wine you get with a €10 set menu in a restaurant in Madrid!

    There's no 'point' at all in making these types of wines! It's just that they're interesting and different, and some people like some of them :)

  4. Fabio, there is a misunderstanding here. The “label” has got nothing to do with it.
    I was not in the slightest way suggesting that “natural wine” is at stake – even though the “defenders” of this trend always feel threatened -, this blog would not be the right place for that. What I do suggest is that THIS very type of natural wine, totally deviant – and Fiona hints at it herself – is likely to be interesting only to a very limited number of people, and will probably prevent many others to investigate further in that direction. Sorry if I made myself not clear at first.
    For your own information, here’s the list of my last 5 analyses (bottling due at the beginning of April, total SO2 followed by free): wine 1 = 44 and 8; wine 2 = 52 and < 5 (it’s a fortified wine) ; wine 3 = 21 and < 5; wine 4 = 37 and < 5; and then again wine 5 = 86 and 44. This last one is a simple syrah, fully dry but low in alcohol, that will be sold this summer on the Catalan beaches, stored at 30 ° Celsius by people with no knowledge whatsoever about wine, mostly served by the glass. I don’t want any trouble there. Still, I’ve been a bit “heavy-handed”, I confess with humility.
    For the rest, I agree with you, being a fan of elaborated food (an acquired taste), baroque music and post-1950 Jazz (including the so-called “free Jazz period”), definitely pleasures you have to learn to appreciate. Still, Alban Berg or Stockhausen are NOT my type. They are in the same league as the wine Fiona decribes.
    But free to people to listen to them, that’s for sure!
    It would be very comfortable for me just to read this blog – which I find interesting – without ever reacting. But I think it is my obligation to interfere now and again. I’ve been involved in politics, when I was young – very left wing, as you well imagine - and solidly think most people with a strong political view (whatever their preference) make the same mistake: they only keep convincing their own side, and rarely address the “opposition”. What’s the point then ?

  5. @Thamuhacha I haven't tasted that particular wine but would say a number of Cornelissen's wines fall into my 'red' category, yes!

    Interesting debate, Fabio and Luc. I see both of your points (craftily sitting on the fence). There are many drinks you have to learn to like - even basic English bitter, not to mention beers like gueuze. Espresso coffee being another example let no-one expects the producers to cater for the tastes of those who are unaccustomed to the drink.

    On the other hand, yes, there is sometimes a zealotry that accompanies discussions of natural wine, particularly where sulphur is involved, as if only those who use no additions at all are true believers.

    What I'm personally looking for is a rational approach to wine - one where the winemaker carefully considers how little intervention he/she can get away with to end up with a wine that most consumers will enjoy and which will do the least harm to the environment. And I think more and more winemakers are taking that approach.

  6. Thank you, Fiona. This time I do believe I sit on the same fence, and you painted it: modern Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are we. Full marks to you last §.
    By the way, I toured GB on an old two-stroke motorcycle when the “real ale” campaign was on (mid-seventies ?). In so doing I learned to appreciate the “best bitter” of most pubs I called at. And of course, I’m a native of the Senne-valley, where Gueuze is made.
    As for espresso, UK has still NOT discovered it. Long live the Italian restretto, the Austrian “kleine braune” (with cream this time) and the Portuguese bica!

  7. @Luc,
    I’m sorry, I completely misunderstood you! I didn’t realize that you were talking about the wine in Fiona’s post. In that case, then of course, it wouldn’t be a good choice of wine for someone who’s never tasted any natural wines before! Definitely a red light! Unfortunately, it’s probably the type of wine that certain writers and bloggers do try first, and then they go on to post about how awful and faulty all natural wines are!

    And for your information, here’s the results of my sans soufre wine analyses (I have others ‘avec soufre’ too!) Wine 1 (29, 6); Wine 2 (19, 12), Wine 3 (19, 9), Wine 4 (22, 12), Wine 5 (16, 6).

    It’s not ‘interference’ – it’s ‘participation’ ? And you’re absolutely right about addressing the opposition. In fact, only a few weeks ago I read an awful, awful post about natural wine (full of the usual stereotypical nonsense), and I started corresponding with the author. We agreed that I’d send him a bottle of my wine through the post, and that he’d review it honestly!

  8. Fabio, it is 3 of us sitting on the same fence, now !
    We shall overcome, some day (we = all people who love GOOD wine).

  9. Hi Fiona
    I recently purchased a bottle of this wine. I then happened across your review before drinking it...which did make me a little nervous. While I'm an out-and-out natural wine convert, I'm not so naive as to fall for the numerous 'emperor's new clothes' wines, as I like to call them, that are out there (I firmly believe that if all you taste is cider, then you might as well drink cider!). My wife is NOT such a convert, and so acts as a good yardstick in these matters. Anyway...we both tried the wine (after letting the sediment settle in the bottle, decanting, and then letting it breathe for an hour) and, lo and behold...we BOTH agreed it was the freshest, purest rose that we'd ever tasted...there wasn't even a hint of acetaldehyde around. So..I'm guessing you got a bad bottle. I really think you should give it another go. It is worth it, believe me.

  10. Good to hear, Martin. Could well be a different vintage or simply that Hirotake has got more assured. I'll revisit it!