A quick look at the Southern Rhône Valley
The southern Rhône Valley is a very big wine region. To offer some perspective; 95% of the valley’s wine comes from the South. The wines produced here are generally more approachable, fruity, and more alcoholic than in the North. Owing to the hotter climate, the wines often do not need any ageing, and open up quickly.
Here, the influence of the Mediterranean creeps in, and a distinctly provencal vibe is detectable in many ways; in the restless Mistral wind which gathers in the Alps before spilling over the mountains and rushing down into the Rhône Valley, and in the scent of the ubiquitous garrigue — outcrops of aromatic herbs (rosemary, lavender, thyme) and scrub-bush which inhabit the windswept plateaus and small slopes of the area.
The Southern Rhône’s holy trinity of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre will dominate the blends. Each grape has a special role; Grenache brings a jammy fruitiness, Syrah provides deep colour and spice, while Mourvèdre adds a little depth and structure to the wine. Here, this grape combination works in tandem with the southern heat to create lush, jammy reds that are almost hedonistic in character — soft, fleshy fruit. supple tannins, and an altogether too-temptingly quaffable nature.
The largest appellation is Côtes du Rhône. Ascending from the CDR title, you might also spot the slightly more expensive Côtes du Rhône Villages which is usually of a greater intensity — more alcohol, and more full, complex flavours. These delimited small areas are little villages notable for their production of wines of an even higher quality than the simple Côtes du Rhône AOC. The blend here must be 50% Grenache and a minimum of 20% Syrah and Mourvèdre.
For a more extensive look at the Rhone Valley, please visit my recent article for thetaste.ie:
Wine of the Week:
Chemin des Papes Côtes du Rhône Villages 2015
Currently on sale in Tesco for €10. ABV 13.5%
This wine is a good value introduction to the character of Côtes du Rhône Villages. Chemin des Papes offers the deep colour, full body, and spice and berry flavours typical of the appellation. It is well balanced, fruity, and drinks well now. I found that the peppery spicy notes and soft tannins made this wine a perfect pairing for pizza. Overall this is a very pleasant, decent wine at a good price. Hit Tesco quick!