By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 23 Sept 2017
This week’s column will appeal to those who love rich flavoured whites and lush herby red wines. Our ten best Rhones under £25 show what superb value you can get if you pick from the best producers and avoid well known appellations like Chateauneuf du Pape.
LAUDUN, COTES DU RHONE VILLAGES 2015 Pierre Henri Morel ***STAR VALUE***
(14%; £9.99/£11.99 Majestic Wine)
Ten years ago Michel Chapoutier and Pierre Henri Morel bought 20 acres of old vines around Chateauneuf du Pape and we are now seeing the fruits of their joint venture with this very appealing blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc (three grapes you find in white Chateauneuf du Pape). An enchanting rich full bodied white with hints of peach, lime and even liquorice. Suit anyone who likes full flavoured leesy whites.
VACQUEYRAS BLANC, LES CLEFS D’OR 2015 Domaine le Clos des Cazaux
(13.5%; £12.95 The Wine Society)
Vacqueyras whites are rare (just 3% of the appellation), but for this domaine it is one of its best wines from a south facing suntrap of a vineyard with clay limestone soils. The key is the grip and freshness from the Clairette grape, softened with Grenache Blanc and the aromatic Roussanne – and 2015 was a particularly ripe generous vintage. A lush unoaked white from southern Rhone.
COTEAUX DU PONT DU GARD 2016 Cave d’Estezargues ***STAR VALUE***
(14%; £9.50 Oddbins)
A big hit with our tasters who loved its taste, its price and organic status. This soft smooth blend of Grenache and Syrah comes from stony clay south facing organic vineyard within the Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages, although the label has just IGP status (equivalent to Vin de Pays) it tastes as good if not better than Cotes du Rhones at the same price.
BREZEME, COTES DU RHONE 2015 Charles Helfenbein
(13.5%; £16.75 www.greatwesternwine.co.uk)
Brezeme is a small forgotten appellation at the most southerly vineyard of the northern Rhone overlooking the Drome Valley. In the C19 Brezeme wines rivalled Hermitage but by the early 1960s only one hectare of vineyards remained. Now replanted and revitalised, Brezeme’s 100% Syrah is bold, gutsy, violet and raspberry scented with a fine elegant finish.
CAIRANNE LES HAUTES VIGNES, COTES DU RHONE VILLAGES 2014 Jubain
(14%; £11.99/£13.99 Majestic Wine)
Cairanne is a Cotes du Rhone Villages on the east side of the Rhone with poor stony soils where Jubains owns 40 hectares. Tastewise, this is a bit like a baby Chateauneuf du Pape – and it certainly offers better value than a cheap Chateauneuf - with its plummy sweetness, herby lush palate and hefty alcohol. Still a bit young if you like your Rhones with a meaty undertone.
COTES DU RHONE LES FOROTS 2015 Jean-Luc Colombo ***STAR BUY***
(13.5%; £16.45 Luvians, St Andrews & Cupar; Oxford Wine Co; Harrods)
Colombo’s wines are never for the faint hearted. This might be a simple Cotes du Rhone, but it is actually a single vineyard wine which is a declassified Cornas from 60 year old vines. Made from 51% Grenache and 49% Syrah, although I thought the Syrah really dominated the palate with its dense colour, brambly fruits, liquorice and spicy notes.
CROZES HERMITAGE FLEUR DE SYRAHNE 2016 Domaine Michelas St Jemms
(13.5%; £17 Oddbins)
From one of the rare remaining independent estates in Crozes Hermitage now experimenting with ancient techniques like terracotta amphorae. This Syrah comes from the Chassis terroir with its chalky clay soils in the most southerly warmest part of Crozes where grapes get very ripe. A lush concentrated richly powerful Syrah.
COTES DU RHONE LA GRIFFE 2011 Domaine de Villeneuve ***STAR BUY***
(15%; £20.99 Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh)
It might have a simple Cotes du Rhone appellation, but this hefty dense 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre blend is way out of that league. The secret lies in its location, the extreme northern limit of AC Chateauneuf du Pape, its biodynamically-grown 50 year old vines, its red clay and stony soils and low yields at 25 hectolitres per hectare. A really interesting ‘natural’ wine with forest fruit scents, earthy, savoury and complex layers of wild flavours – a touch cloudy, but it was made with zero sulphur, wild yeasts, bottled unfiltered and unfined.
ST JOSEPH OFFERUS 2011 JL Chave Selection
(13.5%; £20.99 Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh)
My benchmark for Northern Rhone Syrah at this price point. Jean Louis makes this blend from his own Mauves and Clos Florentin vineyards bolstered with 25% of bought-in Syrah grapes from other growers. Hints of meaty, well hung game, rich brambley fruits, smooth lush from 15 months in seasoned old barrels.
GIGONDAS LES RACINES 2012 Domaine les Pallieres
(14.5%; £25 Berry Bros & Rudd; The Wine Society; Fortnum & Mason)
This old C15 Gigondas domaine was bought by the famous Chateauneuf du Pape family, Frederic & Daniel Brunier of Vieux Telegraphe and US wine importer and author Kermit Lynch in 1998. Having revitalised the estate and its 60 year old vines, they are now producing really refined dense herby toned blends of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah & Cinsault co-planted with 5% Clairette.
Join Rose Murray Brown MW at her Spain v Portugal Wine & Charcuterie Tasting on Thursday 19 October in Edinburgh £45 www.rosemurraybrown.com