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The Sun-Drenched Southern Rhone

October 9th, 2012 by Alan A. Barone

Because we have chosen to begin our Autumn Wine Series in October with the wines from the Southern Rhone (we will have the perfect food to pair with them, as well),  I thought it would be particularly  noteworthy to discuss this scenic wine region of France. 

Since the Middle Ages when the pope gave the order to begin the grape harvest, the Rhone Valley in France has continued a rich and colorful wine heritage.  The town of Valence is the dividing point between the Northern and Southern valley. The sunny vineyards and the dry “Mistral” winds that are present for 200 days during the year assist in keeping the grapes dry and healthful. Red wines are dominant in the Southern Rhone led by the famous (and generally more expensive) wine of the popes, Chateauneuf du Pape. 

But, there also are some wonderful, value-driven red wines available from the vast area known as the Cotes du Rhone, as well as the wines that are labeled Cotes du Rhone Villages. This district produces wines based primarily on fruity Grenache blended with Syrah and other red grapes along with an admirable rosé is grown, as well.  As one of the world’s most widely cultivated grapes, Grenache suits a variety of styles and uses.  The grape ranges from light and fruity, generally an easy-drinking and inexpensive wine to the barrel-aged, often pricy, deep and intense style like the wines from the villages of Gigondas and Vacqueyras.

From a region of great beauty and sunshine, the rich, red wines of the Southern Rhone are equally appealing in character and  food friendliness.  Here are a few recommendations and I hope to see you at one of our Thursday evening Wine Series:

2010 Laurent Brusset Cotes du Rhone Rouge

A light, floral tinged style with flavor notes of dark red fruit, black tea and a peppery edge on the finish. $12

2009 Chapoutier Luberon Rouge “La Ciboise”

Approachable yet structured with hints of cherries and black pepper on the nose that carry through the palate with ripe, juicy black fruit. $15

2008 Pierre Amadieu Gigondas, Romane Machotte

Red fruits and aromatic herb fragrances lead the way to a forward, spicy palate with blueberries, white pepper, rosemary and vanilla notes. $25

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