Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Southern Rhone: Value Hunters Welcome

There is amazing value to be found in the Southern Rhone, especially in the categories of Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages and Gigondas. What's more, 2010 has turned out to be an amazing vintage in the region. Grenache is front and center in most of these wines with Syrah used as a likely blending partner. I've been having a great time exploring this region. There are wines for the hedonist as well as a lover of the austere.

My top wine, Les Garrigues from Domaine de la Janasse, may not exactly be considered a "value" to some, but it's certainly a relative value when you consider the quality of wine found in the bottle. It's essentially a baby Chateauneuf du Pape. The rest that follow are all amazing value wines that will thrill you with pure, focused fruit that is perfectly ripe yet never cloying. These are great wines to introduce someone to the Southern Rhone and the styles that are possible in the region.

On to the Wines:

Chateau de Saint Cosme is currently enjoying waves of praise from nearly every critic for their top-shelf Gigondas. However, you don't need to buy up to the top to enjoy this house’s style. Also well worth the hunt is their entry level Gigondas and Northern Rhone St. Joseph.

2010 Chateau de Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone - The nose seemed to sway between fruit and earth, at first showing intense red berry, then pepper, herbal notes with fresh turned soil and a hint of bacon fat. Each time I put this to my nose, I seemed to find something slightly different. On the palate, it was silky smooth yet juicy with dark cherry and black pepper. The finish was dry with palate-coating tannin and a hint of perceptible heat. I’m interested in seeing where this may go with a year or two in the cellar. (88 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

Some wines just want time to open up, and that was certainly the case with the Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone Brezeme. When I first opened this bottle, it seemed thin and diluted. However, two hours later, it revealed all of it's alluring personality which lasted into the following day. This was a very good bottle that will find fans of a more traditional style.

2010 Eric Texier Cote du Rhone Brezeme - The nose showed blackberry with savory spices, reminding me of mustard seed and pepper followed by mineral laden black stone. On the palate, it was light-to-medium bodied with zesty acidity, black fruits, grill char, herbs and orange peel. The finish was dry with cheek-puckering tannin, showing tart black fruits and pepper notes. (88 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

The Lavau Gigondas is a perfect introduction to Gigondas. It's interesting to think that this designation used to be part of the all-encompassing Cotes du Rhone Villages appellation, because the wines from Gigondas are so unique. I find them earthier, more floral and with elegant fruits.

2010 Lavau Gigondas - The nose showed fresh blackberries, violet floral tones, slate dust, pepper notes and a hint of spiced cookie. On the palate, it was at first rich, yet turned elegant and juicy with pure black fruits, licorice and hints of mountain herbs. The finish was lasting with blackberry fruit and violet candies lingering long after the close. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

A very good Cote du Rhone Villages wine comes Philippe Cambie. This bottle received huge critical acclaim, and although I wouldn't place it as high as some other critics, it's certainly worth tasting. This is a rich, intense, dare I say hedonistic wine that will impress for its ability to color within the lines.

2010 Calendal (Philippe Cambie) Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu - The nose showed black cherry and blackberry jam with lavender and rock dust. On the palate, it was medium-bodied, showing rich textures and a hint of sweetness to its rich, dark fruits and spices with an acid-driven core of minerals. A bit of alcohol was perceptible into the finish, which was slightly dry with palate-staining fruits. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

The Gassier Cercius is easily one of my top value wines of 2012. I've yet to put this in front of someone that didn't like it. Don't look for layers of depth here but you can certainly expect an excellent bottle of wine that thrills people with its balanced ripe flavors and juicy personality.

2010 Michel Gassier Cercius - The nose showed ripe mixed berries, sweet spicy cookie and chalky minerals. On the palate, it was soft like velvet yet juicy and it balanced its 14.5% alcohol very well, as blackberry jam and violet candies messaged the senses. The finish was long and enjoyable with ripe berries and herbs. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Domaine de la Janesse has been improving from vintage to vintage. Their Chateauneuf du Pape is one of my favorites from the region, and each wine I've tasted in the portfolio is well worth the tariff. The Terre d'Argile is a major step up from the Cotes du Rhone and with great structure that should keep in maturing through the next 5 - 8 years.

2010 Domaine de la Janasse Cotes du Rhone Villages Terre d’Argile - The nose showed a vibrant mix of ripe wild berries, blueberry jam, sweet spices, licorice, hints of vanilla and mountain herbs. On the palate, it was rich and full-bodied yet showed excellent acidity, which kept it in check and left a juicy sensation throughout. Crushed blackberry and spice saturated the senses, yet a hint of heat detracted ever so slightly. The finish was long and juicy, showing pure ripe blackberry fruit. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Domaine du Grapillon has been making one of my "go-to" bottles of Gigondas for the last five years. These are ripe but with beautiful focus and Gigondas character.

2010 Domaine du Grapillon d’Or Gigondas 1806 - The nose showed spicy blackberry fruit with lavender, black pepper, dried meats and crushed rocks. On the palate, it was like velvet over a stone structure yet juicy throughout with black fruits, spice and hints of black licorice. Berries, pepper and olive tapenade lingered on the medium-long finish with a tinge of heat. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

My top wine, Les Garrigues from Domaine de la Janasse, may not exactly be considered a "value" to some, but it's certainly a relative value when you consider the quality of wine found in this bottle. It's essentially a baby Chateauneuf du Pape.

2010 Domaine de la Janasse Cotes du Rhone Les Garrigues - The nose was plush with ripe blackberry fruits, violet candies, herbs and sweet spices. On the palate, it was velvety with intense concentration yet balanced with acidity that kept it fresh and juicy. Sweet blackberry, cola and violets from the bouquet filled the senses. The finish was remarkably long with lasting dark fruits that seemed to change from ripe to tart as they melted from the palate. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

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