Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Adventures in the Rhone Valley, France & a HOT TIP!!!

"This is one of the disadvantages of wine: it makes a man mistake words for thought."
                                                                                                                  -Samuel Johnson-

Having just returned from a three week visit to France, of which two weeks were spent in the Rhone Valley conducting research for a planned wine tour, I feel compelled to describe some of the experience.  Yes, I said compelled.

The Rhone Valley is quite long, from just below the center of France, near Lyon, down to the Mediterranean Sea.  The Valley is divided into two separate regions, each with its own distinct wines.  The Northern Rhone appellations permit the use of  only one red grape...Syrah.  The most notable region in the north is Hermitage.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, Hermitage Syrah was France’s most expensive wine, more costly than the best Bordeaux.

The Hermitage appellation is actually a single 1,000 foot-high granite hill.  There are only about 300 acres of vines, making the whole Hermitage smaller than some wine properties in California. 

We tasted wines in Hermitage and loved the deep red, peppery spice of the Syrah.  The wines that we tasted were of the 2007 vintage and we were told that these wines would age nicely over the next few years.  We shall test that suggestion, laying down three bottles that we shall drink in a couple of years.

We headed south in our rental car and stopped at several areas in the southern Rhone, which is distinct from the north in terms of wine, grapes, and styles.  The southern Rhone wines are all blends with Grenache being the predominant grape, followed by Syrah, and Mourvedre. They also use Cinsaut, and Counoise but to a lesser extent. 

We visited several southern Rhone appellations including Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and of course, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the most famous southern Rhone appellation.  It’s also the most southern appellation, just 15 minutes away from the historic walled city of Avignon, where the Pope first relocated from the Vatican before later adding a summer palace and then the Chateau in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (new castle of the Pope).

The wines in Chateauneuf-du-Pape are heartier and more tannic than most of the other southern Rhone blends...also much more expensive.  But all the southern blends were delicious and the Rhone blends have supplanted the Bordeaux wines as my French favorites, at least in the red wines.

We did carry three bottles from Chateauneuf-du-Pape home, also for storage and a couple of years aging as they are also from the 2007 vintage. 

We really enjoyed the Rhone Valley and we learned a lot on this trip.  Lyon is an exquisite city and the people were ultra-friendly, even forgiving my horrible attempts at speaking French.  They also saved us every time we got lost...which was often.  Lyon has a greater reputation for food than Paris, which was unknown to me before our visit, so what a treat that was!                                                          

To summarize...good wines, great food, perfect weather, delightful villages, and friendly French people to get you out of whatever jamb you find yourself. So what could be better? 

Check the French wine section at TJ’s for Cote d’ Rhone wines.  There are several.  Also, HOT TIP...I’m told that TJ’s will be receiving this month, November, a Chateaneuf-du-Pape that will sell for $9.99!!!  Sheesh, I shoulda waited and bought here, not in France.




      Tom da Wine Guy

"Compromises are for relationships, not wine."  -Sir Robert Scott Caywood-

1 Comments:

At July 29, 2012 at 6:18 PM , Blogger sbjenson said...

Loved, loved, loved the '09 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Bought 5 cases to cellar and sold cases and cases of the stuff while at the Washington DC Foggy Bottom store to buyers for cellaring though it was quite drinkable in the present, though young. I am over here in New Zealand for a time while my husband is on a Fullbright. I have been introduced to a great guy, Ash Ireland, and his young wine company, Haha and his Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. These are great, fun and affordable wines in the best Trader Joe's tradition. Terrific value for the money and very versatile with cuisine, especially spicy foods. I have been having fun doing some wine tastings around Wellington for Haha and the customer response and reviews from the wine industry really positive. Michael Cooper gives both 4 stars and Winestate magazine. says they are some of the best wines under 20$ in Australia and New Zealand. I am sending a few bottles to the wine category leader and if you are interested, maybe I can find a way to send some to you to try. Love the blog! We come back to the States in September through LA so I will have a few bottles on me for sure then. Do you follow Jason's wine blog at all? I like what he has to say, too.
Stephanie Jenson
formerly Trader Joe's of Clarendon & Foggy Bottom

 

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