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Southern Rhône

The Southern Rhône is dominated by two contrasting appellations: Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes-du-Rhône.  The former is weighty and expensive, an esoteric blend of up to 13 grapes that is amongst the most famous and finest wines in the world (however spurious its papal connections).  The latter is a vast area of 40,000ha where cheerful everyday wine is pumped out for the masses.

The Southern Rhône is dominated by two contrasting appellations: Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes-du-Rhône.  The former is weighty and expensive, an esoteric blend of up to 13 grapes that is amongst the most famous and finest wines in the world (however spurious its papal connections).  The latter is a vast area of 40,000ha where cheerful everyday wine is pumped out for the masses.

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Their coexistence sums up the variety on offer in this large and important winemaking area, where whites, reds, rosés and vins doux naturels (fortified sweet wines) are all produced for both quantity and quality. Gigondas, Lirac and Côtes du Lubéron are other notable appellations.

Vines and Styles

The 13 grapes permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and still all used by the Château de Beaucastel estate, are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Counoise, Vaccarèse, Terret Noir, Muscardin (all red), Bourboulenc, Clairette, Roussanne, Picardin and Picpoul (all white).  Grenache will usually be dominant.  Elsewhere in the district Carignan, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Viognier, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Chardonnay, Aligoté, Ugni Blanc and Vermentino all crop up as well.

It is impossible to generalise about such a large and diverse district, but the top reds do not usually need to be aged for as long as those of the Northern Rhône and the whites should be drunk young.

Climate and Terroir

It has a Mediterranean climate, and the heat is ideal for some of the grapes, but vineyards rise to 450m above sea level where the cooler conditions are more suited to others.  Hence the vast array of vines that are cultivated on land that is much flatter than the steep slopes of the Northern Rhône.  Summers are dry, winters are wet and cold, and soils are very varied.

Key Vintages

At the turn of the century - 2001, 2000 and 1999 - the Southern Rhône was producing superb wines and since then (with the exception of the poor 2002) the vintages have been very good.  1990 and 1989 were excellent years.

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  1. Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Chateau la Nerthe

    Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Chateau la Nerthe, 2014 75cl

    Delightful aromas of flowers and granny smith apples are joined on the palate by minerality and a slight saltiness. Full in the mouth with a strong finish this has great complexity and elegance.

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  2. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château la Nerthe

    Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château la Nerthe, 2013 75cl

    An elegant wine with a silky texture of raspberries and plums. This 2009 vintage is just about starting to open up. Its full bodied character is rich and seductive and is one to watch evolve over the next few years.

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  3. Cotes du Rhone Villages, Plan de Dieu, Frederick Reverdy

    Côtes du Rhône Villages, Plan de Dieu, Frederick Reverdy, 2014 75cl

    A lovely medium bodied expression from the Southern Rhone.  The nose is reminiscent of the surrounding garrigue (scrubland), with scents of thyme and bay laurel. These aromas continue on to the palate and are joined by deep black fruits.

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  4. Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Font de Michelle

    Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Font de Michelle, 2015 75cl

    This is a full and voluptuous wine packed full of richness. Herbs and spices show on the nose intermingled with ripe black raspberries. Textured on the palate with a full rounded spicy finish.

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  5. Gigondas, Cuvée Prestige Domaine Grand Romane

    Gigondas, Cuvée Prestige Domaine Grand Romane, 2015 75cl

    Ruby purple in colour with ground pepper, black currant, cherries and loamy soil aromatic undertones. It is a deeply full-bodied and powerful Gigondas.

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  6. Arbouse Jean-Henri Fabre, Massif d'Uchaux Cotes du Rhone

    Arbouse Jean-Henri Fabre, Massif d'Uchaux Cotes du Rhone, 2016 75cl

    This is a cracking Côtes du Rhone. The aroma is crammed full of raspberry and strawberry fruit. On the palate the wine is spicier with firm structure that has a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. A very well made wine.

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  7. Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Galets de la Berthaude

    Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Galets de la Berthaude, 2016 75cl

    Classic full bodied red wine which typifies the style of this prestigious Southern Rhone appellation. dark, ripe cassis and black stone fruit combine exquisitely with notes of smoke, leather and forest floor to give this wine penetrating depth and complexity.

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  8. Vacqueyras, Domaine Grandy, 2014

    Vacqueyras, Domaine Grandy, 2016 75cl

    Full bodied and intensely rich wine which exhibits aromas of violets and small red fruits. Full in the mouth with a spicy character which leads to a powerfull finish. Given a couple of years of bottle aging this wine will develop aromas of liquorice, woodland and pepper.   

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  9. Côtes du Rhône, Vieilles Vignes Les Corteaux du Rhone

    Côtes du Rhône, Vieilles Vignes Les Coteaux du Rhone, 2017 75cl

    Typical, straight forward Cote du Rhone with the classic fresh fruit character which is supported by peppery notes.

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  10. Muscat Beaumes de Venise, M Chapoutier, Half Bottle

    Muscat Beaumes de Venise, M Chapoutier (Half Bottle) 2016 37.5cl

    Dessert wine from the Southern Rhone that has a nose reminiscent of a citrus fruit conserve. The palate is rich and full with stone fruit flavour and a touch of pear, a generous finish completes what is a great end to meal.

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  11. Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Galets de la Berthaude, 2014

    Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Galets de la Berthaude (Half Bottle), 2015 37.5cl

    An excellent example of the big, rich, and superbly balanced wines from this prestigious Southern Rhone region. The nose is full of deep, dark fruit aswell as savoury, gamey notes which continue onto the palate where they are joined by smoke, leather and forest floor. 

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