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Laura’s Region in Focus: Rhône

It’s Rhône tasting week in Majestic stores this week, and Laura from Majestic Stourbridge finds that she’s been missing out!

I have been working for Majestic for over 10 years and shamefully Rhône is the one area in France I have never really experimented with. After a recent wine tasting at the York Food and Drink Festival, I found out I had been missing out on some truly superb wines.
Dominated by the Rhône River and split into 2 distinct parts, with different climates and different grape varieties.

Northern Rhône

The vineyards lie between Vienne and Valence stretching 70kms, planted on steep western slopes, with hot summers and a major influence from the Mistral wind, (a strong cold northerly wind which provides a noticeable chill factor), but provides air circulation and therefore prevents disease.

Côte Rotie: the main grape variety is Syrah, and the most northerly vineyard in Rhône. The name translates as ‘roasted slopes’, and the area has lots of exposure to the sun.

Condrieu: one of few whites wines produced, made entirely from Viognier, it has characteristics of floral, apricot and peach.

 

Saint Joseph: made from the Syrah grape variety, often the lightest of the northern Rhône wines, new in to Majestic is:

Saint Joseph 2009/10, Vidal-Fleury: 100% Syrah, this wine has spent 12 months in large oak barrels, giving rich concentrated berry flavours on both the nose and palate, hints of black pepper and spice come through too. A great match to roasted lamb.

 

Crozes Hermitage: produced in fairly large quantities, the vineyards lie on mixed terrain around the hills of Hermitage, made predominantly from Syrah. New in to Majestic is:

Crozes Hermitage 2009, Domaine Les Hauts de Mercurol: an impressive bouquet and palate of floral aromas, black cherries, and liquorice, delightfully smooth tannins make this wine a perfect match to a hearty game stew.

Southern Rhône

The climate changes as we move south down the Rhône, less hilly, winters are milder and summers hotter. Instead of one or two varieties dominating, there are many, but Grenache leads the way for reds but is often blended with a dozen or more varieties, mainly Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault.

Côtes-du-Rhône: responsible for 80% of production in the South. Often light, easy drinking and a good match to pasta and meat pizzas.

Vacqueyras: half the grapes in a red Vacqueyras have to be Grenache, with the rest being Syrah and Mourvèdre. A favourite of mine is:

Vacqueyras 2009/10, Domaine de la Garrigue: this estate has been producing wine since 1850 and the production spans 6 generations. The wine has lots of complexity of black berries, hints of sweet spice and herbs. It is smooth and full bodied and a great match to tagine of Lamb.

Gigondas: a small appellation, made from Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah.

Châteauneuf du Pape: the famous and most well known appellation of southern Rhône. The pick of ours would have to be:

Châteauneuf du Pape 2005, Clos de L’Oratoire des Papes: a great wine for a special occasion, very complex palate of sweet cherry, liquorice, tobacco and leather. Great match to Venison.

To Find out more from Laura and the Majestic Stourbridge team, visit their website majestic.co.uk/stourbridge and follow them on twitter @majesticstr