Some of the best wines to look out for in the week ahead

The factors that made a wine historically famous and desired were often as much to do with geography as flavour.

The port of Bordeaux was a major factor in popularising the wines of that region, while it took until the latter part of the 20th century before the equally fine wines of the Rhone became similarly sought after.

The Rhone river rises in the Swiss Alps but it is the section south of Lyon that interests us this week. 

The Southern Rhone around Avignon is a gentler beast while in the North it is significantly more dramatic. 

The river flows fast as it leaves the outer suburbs of Lyon and its violence created the hills of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage which produce some of the world’s most intense and complex red wines. 

The winters are cold, the Mistral wind blows strong here but has a positive effect on the vines by clearing the air, blowing off rain and fungus and improving sunshine hours.

Whites here are from the grapes Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier but this is mainly Syrah country. 

Syrah is most likely to have originated in the Rhone region as a spontaneous crossing of two little known grapes — Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza. 

Further DNA research has shown strong connections with Pinot Noir and Teroldego from Italy (respectively a grandparent and a niece).

Stéphane Montez and Yann Chave both grew up in wine making families in the Northern Rhone and are in the vanguard of the younger generation of French winemakers that have built on the past (and treasure it) but have also kept a clear eye on the future. 

Montez has 24 hectares and Chave just over 20ha and as keen rugby fans they were over for the recent Ireland-France international.

In addition to the wines below I got the chance to taste Chave’s supple complex Hermitage 2009 which had dense cherry infused fruits and an earthy frame. 

Meanwhile Montez’s Fortes Côte-Rôtie also from ’09 was perhaps a little more silky but it too had earthy liquorice tones and beautiful balance. 

Montez’s Condrieu isn’t quite cheap at €50 but the value lies in the sheer depth of floral honeysuckle and orange peel scents, the lush fruit and the tense, poised palate — a death-bed wine.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Simone Joseph ‘La Petit Moe’ Chardonnay, Vin de France — €14.95

Stockists: Bradleys, Ardkeen Stores, One Pery Square, Drink Store, Jus de Vine Portmarnock

Grown in the hills around Montpellier this is from the same importer Simon Tyrell and has fine zingy lemon and bright fruit aromas including melons and sweet pears and on the palate has good elegance and subtlety with a pleasing fresh finish. Try with baked fish or perhaps some ripe Comté.

Emiliana Eco Syrah, Rapel Valley, Chile — €13.95

Stockists: Bradleys, Mortons Galway, Fallon & Byrne, Donnybrook Fair, Martins, Drink Store

Keep an eye on Syrah from Chile as more and more are appearing on our shelves and they can be excellent. This is from an organic and biodynamic producer who pays close attention to sustainability and the environment.

Emiliana Eco Viognier, Rapel Valley, Chile — €13.95

Stockists: Bradleys, Mortons Galway, Fallon & Byrne, Donnybrook Fair, Martins, Drink Store

I’ve mentioned Viognier a lot recently so I promise this will be my last for a while. This has fine blossom aromas mixed with lemon peel and good acidity.

Viognier goes well with spicy foods — Thai green curry, lighter Indian dishes etc. but also with cheese and even creamy pasta likes it.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Les Hauts du Monteillet Blanc 2014, Stephan Montez, Rhone, France — €24.95

Stockists: McCambridges Galway, Castle Tralee, Baggot St. Wines, Searsons Monkstown www.searsons.com 

From a great year for white wine in the region this is a blend of Clairette, Marsanne and Rousanne — the latter two being the classic grapes of the Northern Rhone. Fragrant floral aromas (lime blossoms?) and ripe yellow peach and stone fruits.

Crozes-Hermitage ‘Tradition’ 2015, Yann Chave, Rhone, France — €28.95

Stockists: One Pery Square Wine Shop, Donnybrook Fair, Mortons Ranelagh, La Touche Greystones, Searsons www.searsons.com 

Chave’s Crozes-Hermitage is a bit of a benchmark for the region — I tasted both the 2003 and the 2015 and in youth this has a riper spicier character with blackberry and a hint of smoke, while with fourteen years age on it the (very hot) ’03 vintage had softened considerably.

Crozes-Hermitage ‘Le Rouvre’ 2014, Yann Chave, Rhone France — €36.75

Stockists: Martins Fairview, Searsons www.searsons.com 

From vines at least 50 years old and a stony soil this is a more savoury wine than the ‘Tradition’ with red currant, blackberry and plum fruits mixed with hints of mocha and a smoky freshness. With age the wine softens and more of the terroir seems to show through along with more mineral edges.



Lifestyle

The Meghan effect: Keep your sparkle, just buy less

The creative arm of Cork solicitor Catherine Kirwan

New cheap classic will be right within your gaming budget

Director Adam McKay's bizarre case of life imitating art following filming of Vice

More From The Irish Examiner