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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. Château Val Joanis Blanc, Côtes du Lubéron

    Château Val Joanis Blanc, Côtes du Lubéron, 2014 75cl

    Was £12.95

    This excellent example of a Southern Rhone blend contains traditional varieties Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Ugni Blanc. The nose is quite floral with notes of peach. The palate is fresh and clean with a pear like character.

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  3. Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe

    Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, 2008 75cl

    Very grippy style, with lots of sweet, spicy tobacco, braised chestnut notes weaving through a core of dark currant and fig fruit. There's a nice twinge of lavender on the structured finish.

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  4. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château la Nerthe

    Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château la Nerthe, 2009 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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  5. Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Font de Michelle

    Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Font de Michelle, 2013 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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  6. Gigondas, Cuvée Prestige Domaine Grand Romane

    Gigondas, Cuvée Prestige Domaine Grand Romane, 2012 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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  7. Arbouse Jean-Henri Fabre, Massif d'Uchaux Cotes du Rhone

    Arbouse Jean-Henri Fabre, Massif d'Uchaux Cotes du Rhone, 2014 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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  8. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Télégramme F D Brunier

    Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Télégramme F D Brunier, 2014 75cl

    This is a deep, rich, luscious wine which is soft and plummy on the palate and exhibits hints of spice and leather. The taninns are ripe but fairly gentle and the finish is long and complex. 

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  9. Vacqueyras, Domaine Grandy, 2014

    Vacqueyras, Domaine Grandy, 2014 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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  10. Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Galets de la Berthaude

    Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Galets de la Berthaude, 2015 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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  11. Cotes du Rhone Villages, Plan de Dieu, Frederick Reverdy

    Côtes du Rhône Villages, Plan de Dieu, Frederick Reverdy, 2015 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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  12. Côtes du Rhône, Vieilles Vignes Les Corteaux du Rhone

    Côtes du Rhône, Vieilles Vignes Les Coteaux du Rhone, 2015 75cl

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

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