Wine with Leslie Williams: Rhône Wine Week

I was supposed to be writing a different column this week but then Rhône Wine Week happened.

Every year in November there is an annual celebration of all the amazing wines that are made between Lyon and Provence and given that I forgot to warn you about it in advance I thought I would go through some of the better wines I tasted.

I’m not sure I tasted a bad wine all week — you would expect Yves Cuilleron’s Côtes Rôtie ‘Bassenon’ to taste good at €60 (Baggot St. Wines, GreenMan, LeCaveau) but I wasn’t expecting such gorgeous tension and elegance mixed in with the powerful dark fruits.

I presented this along with some other wines at a talk in Green Man wines in Terenure.

By contrast the generous opulence of the Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape (€40) was also a delight (Green Man, WorldWideWines, Corkscrew etc) and the current vintage of ‘Les Deux Cols’ is as good as ever — this is made by Irish Importers and winemakers Simon Tyrrell and Charles Derain — available in places like Bradleys and Ardkeen Stores.

But let’s not forget that the Rhône does simplicity brilliantly and I loved the Toffeau Pét-Nat sparkler which has gorgeous delicate fizz, floral and bruised apple aromas and lingering tart fruits.

This is bottled before the full alcoholic ferment has finished (hence the fizz) so is slightly cloudy and is a style of wine I would feature more if there were more of them around.

Also at the Green Man talk I adored their Éric Texier’s ‘Adèle’ €20), a natural wine made from the Clairette grape, peaches and cream on the nose and textured pear fruits on the palate.

This is also in 64 Wines in Glasthule and in selected wine bars and restaurants more than in wine shops.

As usual I found some good Vinostito wines from their organic producers’ Montirius and Roche-Audran and it was great to see that the wines of Paul Jaboulet are still on form — the Petit Chappelle Hermitage is now called ‘ la Maison Bleue’ and it is textured, darkly luxurious, and one for the long haul.

So do go out and explore the Rhône a bit in the coming weeks as they suit this kind of weather.

I’ve mentioned a couple of whites below also as they are rather neglected and deserve more attention.

DIARY DATE: French Connection Gourmet Wine Weekend, Renvyle House Nov 23-25, 095 46100.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

André Brunel Côte Est Côtes du Rhóne, France - €14.95-15.95

Stockists: Cinnamon Cottage, JJ O’Driscolls, Selected Carry-Outs, Karwigs Carrigaline, www.karwigwines.ie

I mentioned the Brunel Châteauneuf-du-Pape earlier this year and it is a bit of a classic with textured opulence and good finesse (€46).

Their entry level Rhône is also typical — ripe and fruit-focused with supple dark fruits and a touch of spice, a fine example of what makes the region accessible.

Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhóne, France - €12.95 (was €16)

Stockist: O’Briens

Chapoutier is one of the best known Rhône producers and since the 1990s and their conversion to organic/biodynamic production (in their own vineyards), quality has continued to improve.

This is from bought in grapes and a steal at this price, bright, juicy and fresh with lingering textured berry fruits and spice tinges.

Le Petit Courselles ‘Les Copains’ Rouge, Vin de France - €14.95

Stockists: Wines Direct Arnotts, www.winesdirect.ie

For a century or two the Rhône sent wine to Bordeaux to beef up underripe Merlot-Cabernet blends.

This is from the Gironde but contains a portion of (locally grown) Syrah so can’t be called Bordeaux.

Bright red fruit aromas, darker plum and blackberry fruits on the palate, juicy and fresh.

I implore more petit Château Bordeaux producers to add a bit of Syrah.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Yves Cuilleron Marsanne, Rhone, France - €19.95

Stockists: L’Attitude 51 Cork, Le Caveau Kilkenny, Green Man, Corkscrew, Redmonds, 64 Wines.

Yves Cuilleron is one of the most interesting wine makers in the Rhône and famous for his Condrieu and St. Peray whites as well as his sublime Côte Rôtie.

This is from the same soils as Condrieu but is classified IGP — fragrant honey and honeysuckle on the nose, textured and packed with soft white fruits and lingering melon and honey flavours.

Domaine Roche-Audran Côtes du Rhóne Sans Sulfites, France - €18.95

Stockists: World Wide Wines, Wicklow Wine Co, Lilac, Clontarf Wines, Blackrock Cellars, Green Man Wines.

From a young winery with big ambitions and fair pricing, this is “natural”, organic, with no added sulphur and remarkably fresh and clean.

Bright plum and cherry fruits jump out of the glass, pure and briskly fruity on the palate with soft tannins and lingering freshness.

Fruit-focused and perfect for warming up a winter evening.

Réserve Mont Redon Côtes du Rhóne Blanc, France - €19.95

Stockists: O’Donovans, Vintry, Redmonds, 1601, World Wide Wines, Cashel Wine Cellar.

Less than 5% of the Southern Rhône is white wine and it is generally overlooked despite the fact that it can be excellent.

This is packed with baked apples, peaches and cream with textured complex white fruits on the palate — perfect for autumn/winter.


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