The Vancouver International Wine Festival is coming up in a couple of weeks, an event which I always look forward to! But this year, it is going to be a particularly special event – because the feature country is France!
For many people, that may seem like a no-brainer, as France is so often associated with wine. And for wine lovers, it may also be no surprise given that two French wine regions – Bordeaux and Burgundy – are arguably the most famous and popular sources of wine in the world.
But it might seem odd to some of you that my excitement over France being the feature country has nothing to do with Bordeaux or Burgundy. Instead, it is about one of their other major wine regions – the Cotes du Rhone. And so the goal of this blog is to convert people to the fabulous wines from both the north and southern Rhone!
Why? Well, aside from the fact they are my favourite wines – and make up a good quarter of my cellar – I think they have way more to offer than their more famous cousins. And they can also be much better values.
The grapes used are part of the reason for this. While there is a mix in the region, for red wines it is mostly Syrah in the north, which accounts for such famous names as Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie. The flavour profile is instantly recognizable to any wine lover – earthy black cherries, black and white pepper, licorice and little or no oak or wood. They are the polar opposites of their Shiraz cousins from Australia, which are jammy and super fruity. And many of these northern Rhones can develop for years and years in the cellar.
In the south, of course, it is mostly Grenache blends. Chateauneuf du Pape is the most famous wine, followed by Gigondas and then a variety of Cotes du Rhone appellations. Flavour wise, there is the unique herbal aroma that the French call garrigue – once you have smelled it, you won’t forget it! In terms of taste, there are more dried red and black cherries, earth and no wood at all. And some of them can age just as long as their northern cousins.
The key attraction from the above descriptions – for me, anyway – is almost no wood flavours, and ripe but not jammy fruit. Unlike most Bordeaux and Burgundy, you don’t have to worry about a mouthful of cedar or oak, or stringent tannins.
Another factor in Rhone’s favour is quality! Many of the producers of the wines listed above make “90 pt wines”, often more regularly than for their more high profile cousins.
Finally, the overwhelming argument for Rhone wines is – value! There are incredible bargains out there in all price ranges, from under $15 to $40 wines that are worth twice that much money (and rated higher than their Bordeaux and Burgundy brethren).
So if you are in Vancouver – or coming here for the Wine Festival – make sure you check out the Rhone offerings. And if you aren’t, do the same thing at your local wine store. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!