The wines entered under this category will be wines that I tasted within the past year or which continue at a very reasonable price given their quality, and which may be enhanced by being STGT, SOIL TO GLASS TRANSFER, or faithful to their terroir, or w.o.w. [what one wants] – as in being high on drinkability, what the French now call buvabilité, a word that was never mentioned until recently.
But this category is also intended to scoop up those wines that are neither w.o.w. nor STGT, a sort of third filter in the search for a Good Buy.
60-70% Grenache, 10-25% Syrah, 5-10% Mourvèdre, 5-10% Cinsault from galet stone covered soils, destemmed, 2-4 week vinification, pumping overs, steel vat raised 6-12 months, unfined, unfiltered, 27,000 b
This is fantastic, storming value from what can be a very good Southern Rhône vintage. Estézargues is a small Co-operative near the Villages appellation of Signargues in the Gard département, on the right bank west of Avignon. Their wines always have good crunch, can simmer with locked-up power, and give lots of direct fruit. There is straightforward raising in stainless steel, and this is a wine to take on the up, drinking it on its vigour. The term w.o.w. stands for what one wants - meaning drinkability, freshness, the desire to kick back and drink a little more after the first sip.
**** lustrous dark red colour. The nose is bright, has a black cherry and licorice aroma with a little garrigue dustiness. The palate runs with a peppery theme, holds cassis and blueberry fruit with a sleek composition. This drinks with abundant juice to entertain, is full of vim and vigour, a w.o.w. wine. I like its go-go qualities. 14°. 70% Gren, 10% Syr, 10% Mourv, 10% Cins. 27,000 b. To 2020 June 2016
This is a complete steal for the price. It features the virtues of the two classic southern Rhône white grape varieties, notably the Clairette blanche, with support from the Grenache blanc. Clairette is what keeps all the most noble southern wines alive – all the great white Châteauneuf-du-Papes I have drunk, going back to the 1930s, yes, the 1930s, were made largely from Clairette. This much underestimated variety produces wines with gras, richness, but also enough acidity to keep going over a very long time. It is not an exuberant variety, which is why these days Roussanne is often added to it. Here RICHARD MABY makes his LA FERMADE BLANC from 50-60% Clairette (1984), 25% Grenache blanc (1980), 15% Picpoul (1979), 0-10% Viognier, (before 2010s was 30% Clairette 50% Grenache blanc 20% Picpoul), from Les Coudoulières at Saint Laurent des Arbres and La Plane at Lirac. It is vat fermented, raised 4 months, the lees are stirred, the malo blocked. “We pick the crop very ripe, and from the Clairette seek finesse and complexity, floral and aromatic notes; it ages very well,” comments RICHARD.
***(*) pale robe, green tints. The nose is broad, floral airs such as jasmine and honeysuckle feature, bears white fruits, pear, is nicely harmonious. The palate is round, and goes well with a cod brandade. Its gras richness is sealed, has a traditional style thanks to the Clairette and Gren blanc proportion. The palate moves towards hazelnut and aniseed, has southern fat. “It has good volume, roundness and gras,” Richard Maby. Suited to goat cheese, for instance. 14.5°. 2020-22 May 2013
I find the Lubéron vineyards among the less naturally endowed of the wider Rhône. Cellarwork is often active, as well, compunding the problem toweards wines of excess extraction and oak. However, The Wine Society in Britain has tacked down this red wine from the large stable of Ogier, which has run the Notre Dame de Cousignac brand in France for a little time. This come from sandy, marine limestone soils, and is helped by the prominent Syrah in it. At £5.95 it is good value. Good for spaghetti, stews, grilled meats. The Wine Society (you have to be a member), Stevenage +44(0)1438 741177 www.thewinesociety.com
TASTING NOTE: red with purple traces in the robe; the red fruit on the broad nose sustains quite well, mulberry depth in it, plus licorice and nutty airs. Well judged ripeness to the fruit, some jelly in the aroma. Direct, clean wine on the palate - the fruit is clear-cut, has a southern earthiness. Prominent Syrah in this. Effective wine, plus a bit of soul, and is good value at £5.95 from the Wine Society in GB. 14°. To 2015. Sept 2011
a touch of advance on the robe, a little paling, but was never a very dark vintage. Wide, elegant appeal on the bouquet - jam, berries, some spice, has a good, light touch. Tasty, open fruit here, with a fresh thread. The fruit really moves along well, and is remarkably persistent. A touch of end tar, with some mineral texture, this holds up very well. 2010-11 February 2007
Previously April 2006 ***(*) restrained, mild black fruits, honey nose, is rather refined. Easy fruit start with some roundness and a fruit gum middle flavour. Bouncy black fruit as it moves along, is a good, live and clear wine with a smoky aftertaste. STGT wine. Jolly drinking here. 2011-12
£10.99 from Cooden Cellars, Eastbourne +44(0)1323-649663 www.coodencellars.co.uk
COMMENT A young man making a name for himself since he left the Tain Co-operative in 1998, Luc Tardy lives in the domaine that his family has owned since 1683. It is just outside the village of Beaumont-Monteux in the flat, southern sector of Crozes. The Beaumont wines are refined – more so even than neighbouring villages such as Pont de l’Isère (Domaine Combier) or La Roche-de-Glun (Emmanuel Darnaud). A new neighbour of his is Maxime Graillot with his Domaine des Lises. I like these wines, especially when they are not over-extracted and messed about too much in the cellar. There is an STGT (Soil to Glass Transfer) leaning here, captured by the lingering red fruits of the 2004 basic cuvée called Les Amandiers. It is made from 15-25 year Syrah, and is vat-raised for 12 months. With its delicate, aromatic and very persistent fruit, this Amandiers goes well with a variety of foods – recently it was excellent with roast Mallard duck, and I would suggest chicken dishes as well, but not cheeses. It is very good in what was an awkward vintage – a wine that augurs well for Monsieur Tardy’s future success.
raspberry and spice nose, with a good foundation to it, has some local air, and violets. There is a bit of sweetness at the start of the palate, then it holds up well, its fruit is well present and there is nice stuffing in this. Good, rounded wine, with late traces of tannin. Has character, can evolve, is good value. Was filtered this year. 2013-15 half bottle tasted chez Jamet, June 2007
COMMENT The Jamet brothers are paradigms of reliability, and their less expensive wines – this vin de pays and the Côtes du Rhône red – are always strong on value. The Syrah vin de pays red usually holds some young vine Côte-Rôtie, but is based on 1997 Syrah from the plateau near their domaine, an area outside the Côte-Rôtie appellation zone, along with some 1970s Syrah as well. It always has more character than many vins de pays, and is raised in the usual domaine style – used oak, nothing fancy. Ideal for low-profile suppers and home cooking. Open around 1 hour ahead of time. DETAILS:
mostly Syrah (1997) from plateau next to cellar, plus some young Côte-Rôtie Syrah, destemmed, 2-week fermentation, aged 10-year casks 8-9 months, can be filtered, 8,000 b, first wine 1997
bright, quite dark robe with some black cherry in it. Mild but safe fruit in the bouquet – the aroma travels gently across the glass, showing black berry fruit above all. The palate`s fruit has some squeeze and grip in it, too. Gains a little tannic, black fruit intensity late on, and has a clear-cut finale, with even a bit of mineral there. Beau vin – good for fun and parties. The fruit is lip-smacking, and persists well. To 2012. tasted chez Vernay, Jan 2008
COMMENT Better known for their graceful, complex white Condrieus, led by the supreme, long-lived Coteau de Vernon, the Vernay family has concentrated more on red wine making since daughter Christine returned to the domaine in 1997. Christine likes what she terms “les vins aeriens” – wines that are airy and elegant rather than powerhouses. With Syrah that is approaching 50 years’ old, this is a vin de pays with pedigree. Its juicy fruit sets it up for early drinking, in convivial circumstances, with foods that are also refined rather than hearty. Great for summer and warmer weather, and lunchtime dishes, including grilled salmon to offset its richness. DETAILS:
1958-1966 Syrah from Ste-Agathe at 320 metres, aged 2-10 year oak casks 10 months, filtered
a pale yellow; wax, wee notes of honey on the nose. Nicely sweet-toned start to palate, which is rich and tasty. The length is good, and the wine is faithful to the Marsanne on the finish, where it tightens. Confirmed quality here, can keep evolving, too. As usual, very Good Value. €6 all taxes included. 13.5°. “Our Marsanne ages very well here,” A.Perret. To 2013. chez Perret, Jan 2008. DETAILS:
1980s ungrafted Marsanne on the plain beside the Rhône at Verlieu, fermented, raised 3-4 year oak 12 months (until 2004 was 50% 2-year oak, 50% vat), first wine 1996, 1,500-2,000 b
low-key yellow colour. Fresh bouquet, with a bonbon underlay, then a nutty finale - this is true Marsanne, with some ripeness carrying the Spanish flan aroma. Bonny, nutted flavour - mixes apricot, caramel, is a good blend of fruit and honey - content and acidity. Length good, finish clean. Gains fat with air and pulls through well on the finish. May 2006, Sussex £8.30 from Vinetrail +44(0)117 921 1770, http://www.vinetrail.co.uk/, firstname.lastname@example.org
COMMENT This note could also apply to the Cuilleron Viognier - it a white wine very much better than its name implies. It, too, demonstrates the wonderful 2004 Northern Rhône vintage for white wines from Marsanne and Viognier. The lesser whites and the big names have all performed well, notably when tended by the top men. The Marsanne here dates from the 1980s, making it reasonably mature, and grows on the sandy area around André's cellars beside the N86 road. This will drink well with picnic food, with smoked fish, with olive oil dishes - some grilled spring onions in olive oil, for instance.
ample, springy bouquet, with well-founded depth, pear and smoke - good typicité. Straight hit of delicious fruit on palate wines with good sides and direction. Acidity keeps it alert, clean. Touch of burn on aftertaste. Classy for a vin de pays. September 2005, London £13.50 from Berry Brothers & Rudd GBt 0870 900 4300, from Uncorked +44(0)207 638 5998
COMMENT A white wine very much better than its name implies - would outstrip several Condrieus (its neighbour) at twice the price. Most appealing is its fleshy Viognier depth, the hallmark of the variety. Fine as an aperitif, a wine that your guests would actually stop and notice before the evening got hotted up. Also good with hors d'oeuvres or tapas, its oily heart working well with garlic or marinaded fish-vegetable starters, peppers and Mediterranean flavours.
warm berry, jam aroma, ripe raspberry with floral side. Jam fruit theme on palate, red fruits. Soft, nicely juiced texture, appealing fleshiness. Red fruits also on aftertaste. All you want from St-Joseph. 2006 on, but drinkable now. STGT wine. 2012/14. March 2005, Rhône £10.95 from Stone Vine & Sun +44(0)1962 712351
COMMENT When founded in 1956, the appellation of St-Joseph grouped just six villages around the small town of Tournon. They are all in the Ardèche département, which is full of rugged hills, plateau landscapes and streams that run down into the Rhône. The local wine made from the Syrah was then a wine of simple pleasures, its fruit soft, its red berry flavours suited to a broad variety of dishes. Often it was sold straight from the cask. This wine captures the easy essence of those days. It is non-interventionist, without forced extraction or statements of oak, and gives unassuming pleasure. Its softness renders it good with first course dishes, where flavours are low-key; chicken casseroles, game soups, Moroccan lamb, mushroom dishes including pastas also suitable. Certainly a wine that lends itself to adventure in the food-wine pairing stakes.
pale robe; zesty aroma, with a soft white fruit such as pear under aroma - also flan in it - so there is a gentle couch of support. I would reckon this elegance comes from the inclusion of the Clairette. The palate holds attractive, shapely fruit. This is good, fresh wine with enough body to stand up well alongside chicken or fish dishes, even a sauce tartare for cod. It can do as aperitif wine, but its body is agreeable, and it ends on a nicely firm, nutty finale. Pear and baked apple come through in the flavour. Excellent value at only £4.45 (a discounted price in Jan 2009). Jan 2009
COMMENT The Gard département on the right bank of the Rhône near Avignon is home to some very fine white wines. Lirac has always been a leading appellation for whites, even back 20 years ago, with vinifications at low temperatures - around 16°C - but enough crop ripeness to bring out body and roundness. This comes from Les Vignerons de Laudun, a Co-operative of 150 members, whose Domaine du Boulas is one of two flagship estates. It is tremendous value, in the current sale at M&S; I spotted my single bottle in Eastbourne, Sussex, but it can be bought on-line, by the case, for the price of £53.91 for 12 bottles (also £4.49 a pop). The body comes from the Grenache blanc, and the breeze of elegance from the Clairette. Highly recommended.
*** 2005 Côtes du Rhône red E.Guigal
bright dark plum robe; black fruit with lurking potential on the nose, a bit of licorice in the black berry – not yet fully open: good, dark fruits inside here. The palate holds black fruit with some ingrained richness, is a wine that travels straight along. Has a sound tannic spine. Is good for food, and holds sound juice at its heart. Fresh on the finish, its tannins are well judged. 2016-18 Jan 2008 “A lot of wine from the Plan de Dieu and Lirac and Vacqueyras this year,” Philippe Guigal. January 2008, chez Guigal
COMMENT Not necessarily top marks for originality, but under our noses can reside hidden gems. The Guigal Côtes du Rhône red is often given a good note in newspaper columns as value for money, but in 2005 the wine goes that extra furlong to provide dashing fruit and real flair. It is always a wine that can evolve past its first fruit, given that it is founded around Syrah from the west bank Gard department. In 2005, it is structured with more rich matter than usual, and I salute the fact that it is drawn from so many domaines, and involves so many tastings chez Guigal for such an enormous production. Chapeau, Marcel and Philippe! Good with barbecues, prepared meats, spaghettis, vegetarian lasagna. DETAILS:
55-60% Syrah from the Gard département, 30-40% Grenache, 5-10% old Mourvèdre from Courthézon near Châteauneuf-du-Pape, from 850 domaines, aged 60% vat, 40% large 50 hl barrels 12 months, unfined, filtered, 2.7 million b
quite full red; pretty bouquet – springy red fruits, with some sweet appeal, has cards up its sleeve for more and character. Good shape to the palate; accomplished red fruits, with a silken feel, is elegant and rounded. Persists discreetly, has good balance. Good typicity, this is STGT (Soil to Glass Transfer) wine, with its pure fruit quality. More from 2008, but can go well now. Good sinew with a gourmand sweet appeal – caresses the palate. Long, too. I reckon it must be good value as an above average Tradition wine. 2020-23 Tasted at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Nov 2006
COMMENT One of the leading heartlands domaines at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Bosquet des Papes have multiplied their cuvées in recent years. Often this can lead to a neutering of the classic or Tradition wine, as it is stripped of nutrients from old vines. The Boirons rely on 40-plus year Grenache for the majority of this, and with the inherent richness of 2005, and a set of moderated tannins in this approachable cuvée, the result is a wine of sweet-noted appeal. Good with beef, lamb, especially roast lamb and rosemary, stews, and grilled foods. DETAILS:
70-75% Grenache (1960s), 12% Mourvèdre, 10-12% Syrah (1970s), 3% Vaccarèse (1950s)/Counoise (1990)/Cinsault, destemmed, 10-12 day vinification, aged 40% large barrel, 35% 2-3 year oak 550-litre casks, 25% vat 12-18 months, unfined, filtered, 40,000 b
tasted in February 2006 in France and April 2006 in London: dark robe; thorough black fruit aroma with violet and some mystery - tighter in April, the surround to it is dense. Full and wholesome attack, lots of berried flavour, the tannins are ripe and aid the persistence. Has softened a touch on finish, this is a big, sun wine. The oak at the end is a little detached, the finish was more spiced in February. Good acidity, this is well-knit and live. Lots of guts, a proper do. From 2007. To 2014-16 £16.00 from The Real Wine Company, +44(0)1753 885 619 http://www.therealwineco.co.uk/
COMMENT What price character? I will always pay extra for character. This stands out from its neighbours, and brings joy to those who lament the Wine Superhighway. Bolida is 88% Mourvèdre, with 10% Grenache, 2% Syrah, and weighs in at over 15°. The label is a bright yellow and red combination, as befits the Bolida title. Diane de Puymorin is the zappy, wired owner of this Château, and since buying the vineyard in 2002, has set out to make her wines fun and challenging. The Mourvèdre is said to be 90 years' old and grows on sand and clay. The wine is aged for 12 months in half new, half 1-year 300-litre casks. "Bolida is a mix of power and roundness. I recommend that you decant it for 2 to 3 hours, and you can keep it for 10 years," she says. You can drink this on the up with a grilled beef - a rib on the bone cooked on the barbecue would be fantastic, in the parrilla argentina way that would tie in with the name. Or leave it until 2008 and await more complexity and variety, along with game dishes and sauced beef.
leathery, red fruits aroma. Nicely succulent fruit on attack - red jam with an attractive smokiness. Length is good, runs on to a rounded, tickly sweet finale. True, genuine wine with bonny fruit. To 2009. July 2006 New York City US$13.99 (exc 8.25% state tax) Enthusiastic Wine Shop, Main Street, Gardiner NY 12525, tel 845 255 0600 http://www.enthusiasticwines.com/
COMMENT This wine falls firmly into one of my favourite value for money categories - the Côtes du Rhône reds made by domaines at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Domaine Paul Autard is in the north-east of Châteauneuf, its 24 hectares split half and half between Châteauneuf and Côtes du Rhône. The Côtes red is composed of 70% Grenache (1940s-1960s), and 15% each Syrah and Mourvèdre (1960s to 1970): the formula of old vines underpinning these wines is respected. It is raised in vat for 12 months, fined and filtered. "I think of it as showing plenty of charm and freshness," comments Jean-Paul Autard. It can be drunk lightly chilled, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes clear, brambly fruit in their wines - and nothing too heavy for the hot days of summer. Lovely with barbecued meat and cold luncheon dishes.
**(*) 2003 Côtes du Rhône red E.Guigal
**(*) prune, smoky aroma, with violets, black jam. Blackberry taste, nicely shaped wine, flecks of mineral towards finish, which is clean. Laurel, mint aftertaste. Best young. Good for its category. 2010-11 April 2006 Rhône
COMMENT The Guigal Côtes du Rhône red has for many years been a reliable benchmark in this category, with some vintages exceeding that status. 2003 is one such year, with a most agreeable roundness and immediacy of flavour. There are some hidden corners, and the finish is clean and herb-tinted. The Guigals always buy plenty of Syrah from the west bank Gard département, and have selected their sources well this year - this is a wine that can be drunk solo, as well as with white meats, pork, chicken fricassee.
pale, fleeting light copper, salmon pink robe - eye-catching. Light red fruits aroma, good and clear, delightful clarity. Flinty, also clean-edged, harmonious red stone fruits on palate. Has the feel of a little bordering tannin here, and is very elegant - just what is required for rosé. Length is good. Good price-value combination. September 2005, Sussex £6.50 from Cooden Cellars, Eastbourne +44(0)1323-649663 http://www.coodencellars.co.uk/
COMMENT 40% Cinsault, 25% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 15% Carignan - a Rasteau domaine where the emphasis is correctly on the King of rosé vines, the Cinsault - hence the welcome moderation in the colour and the weight of the wine. Ideal aperitif, or with salads, quiches, cold chicken, pasta with herbs (go easy on the cheese).
mild red, very Grenache robe. Pretty bouquet - mix of flowers, red fruits, very harmonious now. Assured, elegant fruit on palate, very well sustained. The customary elegance of the domaine here, this is a refined Côtes du Rhône. Very good now, length very good, too. September 2005, London £10.50 from OW Loeb +44(0)207 234 0385
COMMENT Across the road from their Chateauneuf-du-Pape Grenache veteran vines, the Daumen family also have healthy Grenache from decades gone by. This can make Côtes du Rhône, not Châteauneuf, so the wine's origins are blue-blooded. The floating, floral topping on the bouquet is especially appealing, and this gentle wine flows warmly. Sausages, pork dishes excellent; simply cooked lamb, or try keftedes, Greek meatballs that can be prepared with lamb.
beef stew, oxtail style aroma, quite potent. Red berry attack, typical of the place, with a thread of tannin running through it. Persists quite well. A decent, savoury, again beefy finish. Full, earthy wine. Rather a sleeper, I back it to develop. 2010-12 July 2005, Rhône £6.99 from Whitebridge Wines, Staffordshire +44(0)1785 817 229 www.whitebridgewines.co.uk
COMMENT 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre. Arnoux are not well known in Great Britain, but Francis Peel has imported their wines for some years. Label titles can change, but the core observation is that they represent rattling good value for money, and are true to their origins. The Seigneur de Lauris red can be known as Beauvais in Britain. The rosé and white Vacqueyras are also sound. Quality is helped by mature Grenache, and the policy is ferment the older vine crop with stalks on. Leans towards STGT. This is good wine for autumn breezes, when a little extra warmth is needed. Ideal with stews, shepherd's pie (lamb and potato) and good, dense flavours.
pleasant, compact aroma of berries with likely move towards gaminess in a little while. Palate is a good mix of black fruit and some sweetness, is warm, with good length. Good harmony and weight to it, shows some sound tannins. Honest wine, with some STGT leaning. 2009-10 March 2005, Rhône £8.00 from Charles Taylor Wines +44(0)207 9288151
COMMENT 75% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 10% Syrah. A domaine moving towards organic status, Frédéric Zobel made his first wine, a Côtes du Rhône, in 2000. Vat-only raising for a year, and unfiltered. In his early thirties, he shows promise for the future. This is a friendly wine - easy to drink several glasses at one sitting, and shows what can be done without imposing Big Wine vinification on the drinker. It is good with vegetarian dishes involving lentils, also with chick pea dishes such as falafel. It also runs well with goat meat and meat of a sweet texture.