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The Rhône Valley - Top Producers of the Southern Rhône

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Cellar at Château la Nerthe © Provided by DKBooks Cellar at Château la Nerthe

Clos des Papes

Cellar at Château la Nerthe

Château de Beaucastel

Top Producers of the Southern Rhône

Domaine Raspail-Ay - Gigondas

location: Gigondas
telephone number: 04 90 65 83 01
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, rosé
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995
recommended wines: Gigondas

Dominique AY is a down-to-earth, no-nonsense vigneron who makes a traditional, ageworthy Gigondas at his 18-ha domaine. There is no artifice here, just good fruit, careful vinification, and aging in the classic large oak foudres. The wines have a firm tannic frame and need a minimum of four or five years’ bottle age. There is also a small amount of excellent rosé.


Domaine de la Monardière - Vacqueyras

location: Quartier les Grès, Vacqueyras
telephone number: 04 90 65 87 20
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996
recommended wines: Vacqueyras Réserve des 2 Monardes, Vieilles Vignes

Martine and Christian Vache demonstrate the different expressions of Vacqueyras with a selection of cuvées from three soil types. All are Grenache-based, with a percentage of Syrah and Mouvèdre. Les Calades from clay soils is warm and generous and drinks well young. Réserve des 2 Monardes shows the freshness and finesse gained from sandier soils, while the Vieilles Vignes, produced from 60-year-old Grenache grown on the stony clay-and-limestone plateau, is richer, firmer, and suitable for longer aging.


Château de Beaucastel - Châteauneuf-du-Pape

location: Courthézon
telephone number: 04 90 70 41 00
website: www.beaucastel.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990
recommended wines: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red), Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Hommage à Jacques Perrin, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Roussanne Vieilles Vignes

This Château’s unique wine is simply one of the greatest in France. Rich, firm, concen-trated, it has notes of dark fruits, spice, and game, and with age can reveal a tobacco-like complexity. The originality comes in the blend, where Grenache is reduced to 30 percent and more prominence is given to Mourvèdre (30 percent) and Counoise (10 percent); the other 30 percent is made up of a mix of varieties depending on the vintage. All 13 permitted grape varieties are cultivated at the 100-ha estate. In exceptional years, the tannic Cuvée Hommage à Jacques Perrin, (Jacques Perrin is the father of present owners François and Jean-Pierre), is produced from 60 to 70 percent Mourvèdre. There are also two excellent white Châteauneufs, including the sumptuous Roussanne Vieilles Vignes, as well as red and white Côtes du Rhônes produced under the label Coudoulet de Beaucastel.


Château la Nerthe - Châteauneuf-du-Pape

location: rte de Sorgues, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
telephone number: 04 90 83 70 11
website: www.chateau-la-nerthe.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990
recommended wines: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red, white), Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée des Cadettes

This magnificent estate is one of the oldest in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and was bottling its own wines as far back as 1784. The modern era dates from 1985 when the property was bought by the Richard family, Parisian coffee and wine merchants, and Alain Dugas was installed as manager. The vineyard has been completely overhauled, yields reduced, and wines given a more contemporary approach. Both red and white wines are ripe, elegant, and polished. In exceptional vintages the longer-aging special selections, red Cuvée des Cadettes and white Clos de Beauvenir, are produced.


Château Rayas - Châteauneuf-du-Pape

location: Châteauneuf-du-Pape
telephone number: 04 90 83 73 09
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red), Châteauneuf-du-Pape Pignan, Côtes du Rhône Château de Fonsalette (red)

An idiosyncratic domaine, Rayas is known for the eccentric manner of its former owner, Jacques Reynaud, and the quality and originality of its wines. Jacques’s nephew, Emmanuel, has introduced a little more order and consistency, but the 100 percent Grenache wine essentially remains the same: rich, sweet, and powerful, with the flavor of summer fruits. There is also an impressive second wine, Pignan, and a full, fresh white Rayas. Some delicious, concentrated red and white Côtes du Rhône is bottled under the label Château de Fonsalette.


Clos des Papes - Châteauneuf-du-Pape

location: 13 ave Pierre de Luxembourg, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
telephone number: 04 90 83 70 13
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990
recommended wines: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red, white)

A deceptively vigorous wine, Clos des Papes is one of the most consistent in the appellation. Owner Paul Avril started his search for the perfect blend back in 1976 and cultivates all 13 Châteauneuf varieties in parcels around the district. He and son Vincent have reduced the Grenache to 60 percent in the blend and added a generous amount of Mourvèdre and Syrah to produce a wine of elegant, cherry-raspberry ripeness with persistence and length. The white Châteauneuf is also very fine.


Domaine Bois de Boursan - Châteauneuf-du-Pape

location: Quartier St-Pierre, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
telephone number: 04 90 83 73 60
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red), Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée des Félix

The family-owned business Bois de Boursan has burst onto the scene in recent years under the direction of Jean-Paul Versino. The domaine has 27 parcels of vines dotted all over the district, some 40 to 100 years old. The quality of the fruit can be seen in the wines, which explode with purity of flavor. The more intense Cuvée des Félix comes from the best low-yielding parcels of vines and is aged in small barrels, rather than the larger oak foudres.


Domaine Bosquet des Papes - Châteauneuf-du-Pape

location: 18 rte d’Orange, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
telephone number: 04 90 83 72 33
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990
recommended wines: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red), Châteauneuf-du-Pape Chante le Merle

This is a great location for Châteauneuf-du-Pape made in a classic mold. It comes mainly from Grenache, is vinified by the father-and-son team of Maurice and Nicolas Boiron, and is aged in large oak foudres. The regular cuvée has a cherry-raspberry fragrance, generous fruit, and a minerally freshness. There is greater intensity in the cuvée Chante le Merle, which exudes old vine depth and concentration, while La Gloire de Mon Grand-Père, introduced in 1998, has elegance and freshness of fruit. The small percentage of white wine is round, fruity, and for early drinking.


Domaine de la Janasse - Châteauneuf-du-Pape

location: 27 Chemin du Moulin, Courthézon
telephone number: 04 90 70 86 29
website: www.lajanasse.com
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990
recommended wines: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red), Châteauneuf-du-Pape Chaupin, Côtes du Rhône Les Garrigues

Aimé Sabon created this domaine in 1973, but the wines really took off in 1991 when Sabon teamed up with his son Christophe (who had completed viticultural studies in Burgundy). A different approach to winemaking has given the essentially Grenache-based wines more finesse while retaining a soft, round, plummy fruit character. There are three cuvées of varying intensity: Tradition, Chaupin (100 percent Grenache, some planted in 1921), and Vieilles Vignes (60 to 100 years). Additionally, there is some good-value Côtes du Rhône, particularly Les Garrigues. The white Châteauneufs are also of interest, especially the fleshy Roussanne-based Prestige.


The Rhône rule-makers: France’s first AOC system

At the beginning of the 20th century, following the devastation of vineyards by phylloxera and mildew, the problem of fraudulent wine imitations was rife. As a means of protection against this commercial plague, Châteauneuf-du-Pape introduced a set of rules governing the production of wine. Devised by Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarié, owner of Château Fortia and a prominent lawyer, these were introduced in 1923. They later became the prototype for the French system of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), the first classification of its kind in the world, introduced in 1935. The essential elements included the geographical delimitation of the district, permitted grape varieties and methods of cultivation, and the minimum alcohol content. Châteauneuf-du-Pape also insists on a mandatory sorting of the grapes with a rejection of between 5 and 20 percent of the crop according to the year.


Château d’Aquéria - Tavel

location: Tavel
telephone number: 04 66 50 04 56
website: www.aqueria.com
wine styles: red, white, rosé
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998
recommended wines: Tavel

This large, rambling estate of over 60 ha has been a regular source of good fruity Tavel rosé for a number of years. There is a freshness in Château d’Aquéria’s wines that is not always evident elsewhere. The estate also produces Lirac; the red is firmly structured and the white fresh and fragrant.


Domaine La Réméjeanne - Côtes du Rhône Villages

location: Cadignac, Sabran
telephone number: 04 66 89 44 51
wine styles: red, white, rosé
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996
recommended wines: Côtes du Rhône: Les Eglantiers, Villages Les Genevrières

Away from the Rhône Valley’s viticultural hub in a remote village in the Gard département, Rémy Klein and his wife Ouahi provide a wonderful source of richly textured, vibrant, fruit-driven wines. Syrah provides the base for most of the reds and is the sole variety used in the intense, spicy top-of-the-range Côtes du Rhône Les Eglantiers. The Côtes du Rhône Villages Les Genevrières has weight and power, and like Les Eglantiers, needs two or three years’ bottle age. The fruity Les Chèvrefeuilles and Les Arbousiers are for earlier consumption. The white Arbousiers is clean and fruity and also for early drinking.


Domaine Marcel Richaud - Côtes du Rhône Villages

location: rte de Rasteau, Cairanne
telephone number: 04 90 30 85 25
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995
recommended wines: Côtes du Rhône Garrigues, Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne, Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne l’Ebrescade

The bustling Marcel Richaud is a master at producing succulent, thirst-quenching wines that are bursting with ripe fruit flavors. The best are his good-value red Côtes du Rhône Garrigues, the firmer Cairanne, and the exemplary Cairanne l’Ebrescade, made from a parcel of old-vine Grenache that has greater intensity and finer tannins, and can be aged for five or six years. The lightly oaked white Cairanne is full, fat, and creamy.

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