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Rhone Valley – a host of hidden gems

france rhone wine

An Article by Andrew Coghlan:

As the summer tails away and we start to think about the Autumn, our tastes vary and change.

The desire for light and fruity roses, dry and crisp Sauvignon Blancs and light summertime reds such as Fleurie or Regnie from Beaujolais, pales to richer darker flavours that suit the cooler nights.

The desire for richer flavours takes us to darker red grape varieties, such as Syrah or Shiraz. Typically peppery with big red and black fruits, a hint of spice and a hint of tannin, that natural chemical which gives the texture to good red wines.

My favourites lie in the Rhone valley of France and my first port of call is the ultra spicy yet smooth Crozes Hermitage. The red fruits on the front of the palate give way to black fruits at the back, a spicy hint on the tongue lifted by ripe mature tannins on the back of the teeth and the roof of the mouth. This is a wine for drinking as the autumn nights come in, the chilly late evenings that invite you to sip rich red wine with a nibble of mature cheese or some crusty bread and pate.

This example from the grower Ferraton is grown bio-dynamically as well as organically. It is clean and ripe and at under £10 a bottle is not too much to pay for a really good glass of wine.

something lighter with a blend of 80% syrah and 20% Grenache Noir is the cotes du Rhone from the single site of Samorens. The tannins are not so prominent, the taste altogether lighter yet with plenty of flavour. Here the vines have not had the organic treatment which at the lower level often means that the grapes have a little help to get really ripe. This is not a bad thing as it offers a chance for the wine to open out in flavour and reach its full potential. Under £7 a bottle and you really cant complain with a great glass of wine.

Finally as we head towards October and the Autumn is upon us, reach for the really class act. A `glass of Chateauneuf du Pape, made from up to 13 grape varieties, based around Syrah, will give you power depth yet softness. a great wine to accompany spiced food, rich roasted meats and casseroles. Expect to pay around £15 for a good example. Domaine st Benoit Cuvee Elise is wonderful and aromatic, spiced with vanilla and cardamom and rounded and long on the finish.

The ultimate is a single site Ermitage such as the site of les Dionnieres. The 1999 vintage is just coming into its own and is power in a glass. Massive weight and distinctive aromas arise from very selective yields from the vineyard site. Only around 12 hectare-litres per hectare are produced so very little juice from the grapes and only the best will do. Ok it is going to cost you over £20 per bottle, but its worth every penny. Decant the wine about 2 hours before drinking to get the best from it. This will soften the tannin and open the fruit aroma channel.

Whatever you choose, keep enjoying a glass!

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