August 8, 2011

I’m lucky enough to travel to the Southern Rhone Valley most summers and am always blown away by the quality, price and variety of the styles of wine produced. Red wines are in the majority and the most popular grape varieties used are Grenache, Syrah (Shiraz) and Mourvedre. You may in fact have seen new world wines simply named GSM with, of course, this same blend of grapes.

Basic Cotes-du-Rhone red wines had a bad reputation in the past simply because of a combination of their high alcohol, being cheaply available, and unfortunately not all examples were well produced. There has definitely been a Rhone renaissance and if you know where and what to look for you will not be disappointed. Yes they may be big and beefy but they are equally juicy and openly fruity…………..yummy.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the most famous wine of the Southern Rhone. It is so named as the popes lived in Avignon in the 14th Century and had a summer castle here. After the appellations of Gigondas and Vacqueyras there are 16 Cotes-du-Rhone villages who may append their name to the appellation such as Beaumes-de-Venise or Rasteau. They should offer superior quality. Unfortunately we don’t necessarily get that much variety in KL yet but look out for delicious wines from reputable producers such as Guigal, Chapoutier and Beaucastel. The Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel is one of the top producers of Chateauneuf and they also make a Cotes-du-Rhone called “Reserve Perrin” which I have frequently bought here; it is a fabulous example.

There are devotees to these wines all over the world, not just in France. The Rhone Rangers are such a group who promote American Rhone varietal wines.

Whilst I very rarely advocate drinking wines with pictures of animals on the label I do think you should try, if possible, the wines from South African producers “Goats do Roam” They do not reference it other than the obvious play on words but they use many Rhone grape varieties in their blends. Bon degustation!