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Friday, February 17, 2012

The Winter of Rhone

Like I mentioned a few weeks back, it never really got very cold this winter (fortunately!), so I didn’t open my usual winter go-to wines, which would be bold spicy Shiraz, big Piemonte reds like Barolo and Barbaresco, and of course Napa and Sonoma Cabernet, Bordeaux blends, and Spanish reds.  Sure, a few got opened and thoroughly enjoyed, but admittedly, this was the winter of Rhone.

2009 Domaine Brusset Gigondas Tradition Le Grand Montmirail

I’ve always had an affinity for what I believe to be an ideal blend of fruit, spice, and earth, with that hint of wildness and funk and some animal characteristics, and that’s what I tend to look for in most Southern Rhone wines.  Something about the personality of a Southern Rhone I find very compelling - it’s like a person with a free spirit trying to keep it tame and reserved, but once poured, it gets wild and borderline aggressive in the glass, with aromas bursting and beckoning, and the outdoorsy characteristics reminding the drinker both on the nose and the palate that many Rhone blends are anything but tame.  They are, to me, free spirits - a team of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre bringing out the wine drinker’s appreciation for something less well-behaved, less tame, less reserved.

2010 Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone

In short, Rhone wines make me feel differently than Burgundy, Bordeaux, Toscane, or Piemonte do, and I believe it’s because a very different personality is unleashed whenever a bottle of Rhone is opened, decanted, poured, and enjoyed.

2008 M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rousillon Villages Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

I’ll include perennial favorites from Southern Rhone - Domaine de l’Harmas Chateauneuf du Pape (the red served at my sister’s wedding in 2010) and of course the dependable, inexpensive, and easy-to-find E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone.  New Rhone favorite blends from this winter are Chapelle St. Arnoux Vacqueyras, M. Chapoutier Cotes du Roussillon Villages Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, Domaine Brusset Gigondas Tradition Le Grand Montmirail, and a straight Syrah, Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone.  The Southern Rhone wines tend to show characteristics of wild fruit, dark berry, plum, chocolate, dark flowers, spice, black pepper, lots of earth, leather, and roasted meat, and sometimes “animal” characteristics.  If it sounds kind of different, that’s because it is.  There’s nothing quite like a good Rhone.  And I can’t seem to get enough of them.

2006 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone

2009 Chapelle St. Arnoux Vacqueyras

2006 Domaine de l’Harmas Chateauneuf du Pape

This spring and summer I hope to hunt down some good white Rhone blends, made up of mostly Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc, and Grenache Blanc.  The E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc is always enjoyable and dependable, and recently I tried the Ogier Caves des Papes Cotes du Rhone Heritages Blanc that was fascinating for sure.  I’d also like to locate more Rhone dry rose.  Last spring I tried the E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rose as it’s very easy to find in wine shops, and I’d like to try some more.

2009 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc

2008 Ogier Caves des Papes Cotes du Rhone Heritages Blanc

2010 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rose


  1. My wife loves the red Rhone, recently just got a 100% viognier Rhone off a website which I am uber excited for. But yes, the Rhones are incredibly delicious, affordable reds that deliver on all levels. Awesome picks for your blog!

  2. Thanks! It’s funny, I seem to love Rhone more and more each time I open another one. What’s the Rhone Viognier you picked up? I’m curious to hear how you enjoy it. I just got the 2010 Domaine Massiac Viognier from Lake Side Emotions but it’s not a Rhone Viognier, it’s a Languedoc. Haven’t tasted it yet!