“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem lightly. It is dearness which gives everything its value.” ~Thomas Paine
Perhaps, you're thinking and scratching your head over the fact that many of last years posts were centered on plenty of domestic juice, with the usual suspects. I know I've indicated that there was going to be some major spanning the globe stuff, to bring you the constant variety of vino the world has to offer. So with that in mind, bam it's time for a visit to the Rhone Zone.
That said, "you're now traveling through another wine country destination, a destination not only of sight and sound but of the vine; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of export. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Rhone Zone. —Rod Serling
Isn't that how Mr. Serling introduced the second season of the Twilight Zone, a timeless show which was way ahead of its time in many respects. A show that made many take pause and perhaps even some thought about this mortal-coil that we all tread upon. Okay yes, I did take some artistic license with the opening monologue, just think of it as an homage to a show that was far ahead of its time.
That reason to transport you ever so briefly to another time and place. One you may have no doubt heard of before, but one you may not have had that much experience with on a regular basis. The boundaries of export, meaning I don't see as much vino from the Rhone Zone as I would like to see in the US wine marketplace, but when you have a chance explore, explore this vast and luscious wine landscape.
The Rhone Zone: This is one area of France which is fast becoming one of my all-time favorite regions and not just for the red wines either. As the white wines from the RZ are every bit as fantastic as the reds. It's split up with south and north, and each has its own climate and interesting topography. There's the signpost up ahead you are about to enter the Rhone-Zone.
The North: It's hilly, is influenced by a turbulent, strong wind, called the Mistral and according to their strict wine laws, there a good number of the northern appellations that can ONLY be planted with Syrah. Within the borders of the North, you have the Cote Rotie, where up to 20% of the Syrah can be juiced with Viognier [syrah-perfume]. They also have a super-star [think Jerry Maguire] within its borders, named the Hermitage home to some of the world's most beautiful wines, where bacon fat and pepper aromas are coaxed from steep hillsides.
It's also home to some big red monsters who lie in wait in the Coronas appellation, dark, rich, brooding wines who bite at the heels of their neighbor in Crozes-Hermitage which produces a lighter more subtle style of vino, where rich raspberry, earthiness, and silky tannins dominate the more value-oriented red wines from the north.The South: Is by contrast to the north, considered the "flat-lands." It's much warmer, and the vineyards rise out of land covered by some strange stones called 'galets' which make a significant contribution to the "uniqueness" and excellent quality to Southern Rhone wines.
The Southern Rhone is home to the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape [new castle of the pope]. These wines typically are GSM blends but can be blended with up to 13 different grapes, but Grenache is the king-pin grape here. This is the place you will find bottles brandishing a lavish Coat of Arms just above the label, indicating that these wines are Estate grown. They also have a super-star in their midst, known as Chateau de Beaucastel.
The Murkey Middle Lands: This is the place where you have a blending of both regions, known to many as Cotes du Rhone encompassing the dual Rhone's most extensive production areas, producing a broad range and styles of wine. While the Villages designation on the bottle will typically mean, the wines lean toward a higher quality standard.
Wine in the Spot Light: 2007 Domain du Grapillon d'Or Gigondas ~ 1806
Swirl, Slurp and Gulp: I brought home this beauty from the Rhone-Zone just a few weeks ago to let it nestle in my very cool, dark pantry [my cellar is maxed out]. Uncorked a few nights ago, I poured myself a nice two-ounce pour, a vibrant colored ruby core fills my glass. I took the first sniffy, to find a beautiful bouquet of fresh-market strawberries, white pepper, lavender and cigar box draw you into this vibrant blend. After a good swish-about, I found this excellent wine offering bright flavors of red raspberry, kirsch, and licorice filling out a fleshy mouthfeel, supple tannins and a long lingering richness round out the elegant finish.
What's in It: The 2007 Domaine du Grapillon d'Or Gigondas is a wonderful southern Rhone blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah and weighs in with a New World leaning 14.5% ABV [just my impression].
Price and Purchase Location: So you wanna know how you can get your hands on this bad-boy or something like it can be found here.
What's the Score: Hmmm, in thinking about how wonderful this wine is for the price I gave it 93 points. It's solid well-made wine showing a good deal of generosity and richness, smooth tannins and a firm structure. A superstar of value at the $25 price point, this wine drinks like a $45 to $60 westside Paso Robles red blend. This is a bottle of wine which is drinking so very nicely now, but I believe could improve with just a bit more time in the cellar if you can wait.
Other Voices: I found an abundant amount of different voices for this wine over at Cellar Tracker, whose average score had this wine weighing in at 91 points. Swill Power had this to say, "rocking from the first pour. Very up-front blue fruit, with a savory note and a full, delicious mouthfeel. After 2+ hours, this feels as much like stylish zinfandel as anything, with great dark fruit, a touch of cedar, and a sweet umami/soy note as well. Overall, a delightful drink, and awesome QPR at under $20. Blows away most Rhone players at twice the price. [ Btw, RP gave this wine 92 points.]
My Recommendation: If you have been getting notices from your favorite wineries about the upcoming spring shipments from your favorite Syrah-Mouverde producers, I would ask that you give some pause to the thought of jumping into an order. That's until you had the opportunity to give some genuine Rhone-Zone wines a swirl, I would say you may want to decant an hour or two before enjoying for maximum enjoyment, but will easily impress at the first pour. Until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!