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Rhone - where to start


#1

With the Rhone 2016 en primeur offer going strong, I can see how intimidating the discussion on Rhone wines could seem to those new to the region or infact to “fine” wine. I have been there 3-4 years ago and admittedly still on a learning curve. I thought it was a good idea to start a thread for the many.

You will have to bear with me, as I am not an expert, but will try and do my best to start up an introduction to the region, which hopefully be strengthened by others’ responses to my ramblings.

Why the Rhone? This region has grown on me in the last couple of years with its wonderful crowd pleasing wines and this is the French region where there is considerable value to be had for your money. Also there is a Rhone 2016 offer (NOT en primeur) currently out that came through the post recently.

Some unsolicited advise as to how to get to know the region:

  1. Read about the geograpical diversity the North / South divide. For the reds it means pure Syrah reds in the North and Grenache dominated reds in the South.

  2. Taste, taste , taste. Try and take any opportunity to taste the wines, if it is a TWS or other merchant organised thematic tasting or simply going for the enomatic machines at your local wine merchant (or those open bottles at your local Majestic). This is definitely the best way to broaden your understanding of the wines and find out what you like and what you dislike.

  3. Understand the grapes… REDS - syrah for spice, grenache for weight and mourvedre for freshness WHITES - viognier for fragrance, marsanne for opulence and roussanne for fine herby notes and many other…

  4. Don’t forget about the whites, they are great!

My introduction to the Rhone 6 bottle mixed case from wines that are currently available from TWS would be the following:

Grignan-les-Adhémar, Delas 2016 - Order and reorder this wine, IMHO this is the most outrageous value for money in the list that you can find. It is also consistent quality year on year. It is a delicious red grenache and syrah blend that would please the most discerning drinker. From Grignan les Adhemar a lesser known Southern Rhone appellation.
The Society’s Exhibition Vacqueyras 2015 - Take note of the Society’s Exhibition range, mostly very good wines that don’t break the bank. Another Grenache - Syrah blend from the South. This has more weight and concentrated fruit.
Lirac Rouge La Fermade, Domaine Maby 2015 - Anothern Southern red (promise the last) where Mourvedre makes an appearance. This is satisfying with more spice than the previous two.
Crozes-Hermitage Blanc, Domaine des Martinelles 2016 - A Marsanne from the North. Fresh and rich.
Laudun Blanc, Ferraton 2016 - A grenache blanc dominated white from the South from an ever reliable winegrower. The main varieties mentioned above also make an appearance. Pure fruit.
The Society’s Exhibition Hermitage Rouge 2010 - This is for you to get a glimpse of the quality that can be achieved with Syrah in the Northern Rhone. It is three times dearer than any of the other wines in this list, but most definitely delivers. I will keep coming back to this wine once a year until stocks last…

I am sure this list will draw critics, but never forget the Society’s Promise. If you do not like it report it.

Explore and share!


#2

Thanks Akos - a really useful intro to the Rhone. It’s an area I don’t know terribly well, so I’ve ended up placing an order for the Essentials En Primeur case, figuring this will be a good way to explore my preferences a bit more.

I’m completely with you on white Rhone. It tends to be overlooked as the area’s so famous for its reds, but a good white Rhone is a thing of beauty.

The Society’s guide to the Rhone is a really good read for those wanting a more in-depth look:


#3

This is great - thank you. I think i’ll order that selection. I did already order the hermitage for a friend, which hasn’t been shared with me (plan foiled), so i’ll get my own.

x


#4

Great advice @szaki1974

Totally agree about this gem (which I discovered thanks to this community in fact):

I will do some more Rhone exploring soon I think


#5

Thanks for adding this, always a good place to start. It is also good to read the vintage summaries in the current and past en primeur offers (even if you do not order) that are available on the TWS site.


#6

Excellent summary.

In addition to the Society Vacqueyras, the Cuvee des Templiers from Clos des Cazaux, who make the WS Vacqueyras, is an excellent wine, though it can be very Syrah dominant in some years, which might not suit all. It’s very dependable and good value I think. 4 vintages of it in my cellar at the moment…

I agree too regarding the Lirac and the Grignan les Adhemar.

Whites can be excellent too as you say, but some quite wide style variations, so important to know these, and the grapes used. I have had two very different styles of St Peray and Condrieu, which have tended to provoke ‘marmite’ reactions from some.


#7

Sadly due to price I did not include any of those two appellations - I cannot say I had great exposure to St Peray, but completely see what you mean re Condrieu there is a fresher “modern” style and an opulent, viscous “traditional” style. You have to taste both and decide which rocks your boat. Also Condrieu is probably is the most hideously expensive wine in the Rhone due to the minuscule production and challenging growing environment.


#8

I agree re. price. I had some St, Peray from Domaine du Tunnel about 5/6 years ago, and it was great, very refreshing and singular in style, but the price wasn’t that cheap then and it’s a fair bit more now. Condrieu is as you say, and the last ones I got were in the more viscous, slightly sweeter style which didn’t quite do it for me. I kept one bottle back to see if it would develop at all. Need to try it soon though. Probably won’t go in that direction again though.


#9

I stumbled upon this wine a few years ago, really easy drinking and a great introduction to red Rhone.


#10

A long-time member gave me advice to always keep some of the Exhibition Crozes Hermitage in the cellar as it was a great value wine and always benefitted from a couple extra years cellaring before drinking

I followed his advice for a while and really enjoyed it - but then forgot to replenish and got out of the habit

Has anyone tried the more recent vintages (last I had was 2009 I think)


#11

Another safe bet, I was told… is the Guigal Cote du Rhone. Go to press reviews for Richard Hemming’s most entertaining description of the wine and in particular of the 2014 vintage now out there:


#12

I haven’t had the 2014 yet, but previous vintages have been good. Apparently the 2014 needs either a lot of air (possibly 2 days) or longer in the bottle.

I’ve enjoyed the last couple of vintages of this Grenache-based blend too, and will definitely pick up some of the 2016:


#13

I would generally agree based on every other vintage I’ve tasted, but the 2014 didn’t impress me at the recent tasting. Maybe a bad bottle? Apparently others loved it, but those who tasted immediately before and after us were underwhelmed too I think.

I would agree that it would benefit from some air, and maybe another 6 months in bottle.


#14

Great post.

God I love me some Condrieu but it don’t come cheap. :confused:


#15

I can recommend this vintage and all from the Ventoux area that I have purchased from the TWS and elsewhere, from a trip to the area three years back I brought some Chateau Pesquie Artemia from the Ventoux an absolute bargain for the quality.
This is a happy hunting ground for value and quality at the moment, for how long ?


#16

As a good primer, and something easy to read, I would recommend this article that focuses on the Cru regions of Rhône,

The great thing also is that TWS pretty much has all these regions represented in their selection, so if you wanted to take a lazy day at home with friends touring the Rhône river you need look no further than their site :+1:


#17

Not sure if its bottle variation or personal taste, but I bought two bottles of the 2015 and really didn’t get on with either of them. Even used half the second one for cooking. I realise I’m a lone voice here but it I guess it’s one of the joys of wine how we experience them differently. On the other hand, I’m a big fan of the Guigal (although haven’t tried the 2014 yet) and the Rhone in general.


#18

I totally endorse the mentions of Maby Lirac and Delas Grignan.


#19

One piece of learning from one beginner to another… if tempted to buy en primeur, the mixed white cases are excellent because you can try them within 12 months or so of the offer. The mixed reds are more frustrating (if you want to learn) as you have to wait five years or so to taste them - so, for learning purposes, it might be better to try and buy reds from some of the excellent offers made by TWS of older vintages.

Ps discovered from a mixed white case the joys of St Peray. Not cheap, but beautifully complex.


#21

@szaki1974, I have purchased your suggested selection, arriving tomorrow. I will report back at some point to let you know what i think. I might recruit some friends and make a night of it.