There is no other terroir that I am fonder of than that found in the wines of the Rhone valley. The wines of the Rhone Valley have always mesmerized me. These wines are food friendly, well-balanced and if you know where to look, they can represent some of the best values in the world. Most people are familiar with Cotes du Rhone reds, as they are balanced and earthy. The flavors will go with literally almost every dish. Southern Rhone reds typically have red fruit flavors like red cherry and raspberry, as well as nice herbal flavors. Some of the areas surrounding the Cotes du Rhone produce some of the best Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre in the world.
The recent vintages in the Southern Rhone have been outstanding. Essentially every vintage from 2003-2010 was a 90 plus vintage, based on recommendations from Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. Look for the 2010 and 2012 vintages in the stores. If you can find the 2009 vintage, be sure to check that out as well. In terms of the pricing, the most expensive wines in this region tend to be from Chateauneuf du Pape – esteemed wines that tend to be Grenache dominant and are more feminine than those found in the Cotes du Rhone.
Look for great values in the Cotes du Rhone Villages, Gigondas and Vacqueyras, which are all small towns near Chateauneuf du Pape that produce outstanding Grenache and Syrah dominant wines. Here are some of the best Southern Rhone Red wines that I have recently tasted.
2012 Domaine du la Presidente ‘Le Nonce’ Chateauneuf du Pape- Orange peel with raspberry, red cherry and figs on the nose. Palate is feminine but also concentrated in this 70% Grenache blend. Also comprised of 15% Cinsault, 10% Syrah and 5% Mouvedre. Red cherry, pomegranate, blood orange and nutmeg on the palate. Delicious now but should gain complexity with two years in the bottle. -91
2010 Dellas Chateauneuf du Pape- Complex nose with raspberry jam, Provençale herbs and blackberry. Palate is somewhat shut down right now but has complex blackberry and lavender as well as coffee flavors. This will need two plus years of cellaring. -91
2010 Domaine Albin Jacumin Chateauenuf du Pape- Comprised of 70% Grenache, 15% Mouvedre, 12% Syrah and 3% Cinsault. Nose has smoked meats and sage while the palate has boysenberry, figs and minerals. Tasty stuff but needs two more years of cellaring. -91
2010 Chateau Le Nerthe Chateaneuf du Pape- Cassis and ripe raspberry with dried herbs on the nose. Palate is medium weight with anise, blackberry and blueberry flavors. Delicious now but will improve in two plus years. Has the acid structure to cellar for 10. -92
2010 Comte de Lauze Chateauneuf du Pape- Classic CDP nose with Provençale herbs and smoked meats as well as red currant and black pepper. Palate has tons of fruit with red cherry, anise and boysenberry with dried herbs and some pepper edges. Impressive stuff, drink now or cellar for one year -93
2007 Caves St. Pierre ‘La Mitre’ Chateauneuf du Pape- This is a lighter style Chateauneuf, made of 60% Grenache, 15% Mouvedre, 15 % Cinsault and 10% Syrah. The nose has Provençale herbs and raspberry. Palate is light and smooth and has prune, fig, red cherry along light minerals. Drink now. -90
1999 Domaine Chaunte Perdrix Chateauneuf du Pape- This is an older vintage from the esteemed winery. Nose has a saline component and has smoked meats with sage. Palate has great richness with cran-cherry, boysenberry and dried herbs. Great minerality and balance. Drink now. -93
2011 Domaine du Grand Montral Vignes Vignes- This is old vine Grenache. Rich and dark color, with Provençale herbs and anise with nutmeg on the nose. Palate has medium concentration with raspberry, black tea, red cherry and anise. Nice balance. Drink now or cellar for 1-2 years. -91
2011 Domaine Fond Croze ‘La Croix du Coq’ Cotes du Rhone Villages- 100% Grenache from 40 year old vines. Nose has Provençale herbs and lavender with mulling spices. Palate has red currant, blackberry, red cherry and mushroom flavors. Great value and drink now. -90
2012 Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone- Classic Provençale herbs on the nose with figs. Palate is rich and viscous. Blackberry, anise and figs. Fruit forward and drink now. -90