FranceVisiting.com

The Best of France and nearby!

One journey with the plural wines from the Rhône Valley!

14 min read

©

 
Nothing could be clearer than this map..

After many prior appellations, you are glad to immerse ourselves this time into the wines developed in the Rhône Valley. A wide wine region organized around a distance 250km following this Rhône river, which totally counts 813km.

Issued from the encounter 300 million years ago, between the Massif Central (whose volcanic roots offered the granite soil in the northern part) and the Alps (which offered the limestone composition due to its fluvial and marine deposits), the Rhône Valley is naturally surrounded by river terraces on both sides, where vineyards grow. This wedding of soils explains the various contributions beneath those slopes, such as sands, clay with siliceous pebbles… However, today soils are made up of four types of rock: granite, sandy silica, limestone and clay. This last one plays an essential role by regulating the random water supply to the vine, and eventually giving the specific aromatic notes to Rhône Valley wines.
 
Therefore, you could remember two main areas for this vineyard, offering a whole diversity of styles to discover. On both banks of the river, a multitude of wine houses are ready to amaze you from their lands of contrasts, all unified by the Rhône fluid element.
 
Therefore, you could find the northern part (from Vienne to Valence) starring exclusive grape varieties of Syrah, Marsanne, Viognier and Roussanne. And the southern area around Avignon, with its various varieties of Syrah, Clairette, Mourvèdre, black and white Grenache and Cinsault. From semi-continental until Mediterranean climates, you would see here that the Rhône river is surrounded by draining soils, whether they are granitic in the North or rather alluvial (thanks to pebbles) in the Southern part, the climate is ideal for producing exceptional natural wines. By Alex Plato

Watch out the beautiful autumn colors..

We start our tour in Condrieu with one its main ambassadors… So to say, Christophe Pichon is a renowned winegrower, settled in this right bank of the Rhône river, and he vinifies among the most prestigious appellations in this generous region. Indeed, spread over 23 hectares, the Domaine Christophe Pichon is mainly implemented over this rich Condrieu territory, but also in Côte Rôtie, Saint-Joseph and even Cornas appellations. Without missing that a production of white and red table wine completes his production, and not only, because this estate as well contributes into the revival of historical wines of Seyssuel.

For your information, the Domaine Christophe Pichon had early decided to mature its Condrieu wines on barrels, which was rarely done in this region. This was made possible thanks to a personal tuition followed by Christophe Pichon in Davayé in Burgundy, that probably influenced his know-how. Another personal touch seems to be illustrated in his reasoned approach, with the motivation to cultivate responsibly his own vineyard. Thus, here the plowing is done where it is possible, then a sexual confusion is employed for insects… On top of that, the harvest is exclusively manually operated, and the grapes sorting is done directly in the vineyard, before grains being crushed and mixed with much care. 
 
..while the domain center is dedicated to encounters.
Let’s keep  patience..

In this case, there should be no possibility of transmitting bad tastes. Thereafter, the process is always the same, by pressing the white grapes during 3 hours inside a pneumatic device, even for the Saint-Joseph appellation. Continuing on this green way, only indigenous yeasts are used, and a direct entonnage is settled for Condrieu, Saint-Joseph and local wines, in only few new barrels. After this, juice aging could last approximately between 10 and 12 months (photo credits: Christophe Pichon).

Over this large estate which currently covers 23ha, we can count 5.5 ha occupied in Condrieu, covering a granite soil and settled on hillsides with a southern exposure. The age of vines, extended from 20 and 45 years old, contribute to the development of a selection of fine Condrieu. In those terms, why don’t you opt for the Condrieu Patience 2018? Its absolute aromatic expression conveys to a real sweet wine harvested by a complex and progressive explosion of notes of honey, almonds and yellow fruits. Perfect to match with foie gras but also explicit desserts.
 
..embodied on hillsides, vines can still stand by your man!
Holy Saint-Joseph..

Following this, don’t miss the 6.5 ha belonging to red Saint-Joseph and 2 ha related to white Saint Joseph. This colorful wedding is located on the right bank of the Rhône river, with these plots being based on homogeneous and essentially granitic soils.  Structured by vines evolving on sloped planted terraces, those vineyards stand on a large scale age range, from 5 (notably in white juices) until the early 50 years old. This mixity probably explains the heterogeneity and richness of flavors, present inside the line of Saint-Joseph (mostly composed of 90% Marsanne and 10% Roussanne for the white wines and only Syrah varieties for the red wines), issued by this Domaine Christophe Pichon

For instance, why don’t you ask for this delicate 2019 Saint Joseph, expressing the beauty and purity from Marsanne? Aged during 10 months in barrels of three years maximum, you could also feel a touch of granite, but also fresh floral and honeyed notes that would wonderfully match with white fishes, but can also be enjoyed as an aperitif.
 
..this artisanal disposition of steel vats is a fact.
This wine is a promise..

Adding to this, don’t miss the 5.9 ha extending on the Côte Rôtie, which is maybe one of the oldest vineyards in France, with an additional 1.3 ha of surface this year 2020, starring a southern exposition on hillsides. For your information, and depending on the location of the vineyards, a distinction needs to be made between the brown Côte Rôtie, which offers more full-bodied wines that age more slowly, and in another hand, the blonde Côte Rôtie side which proposes more delicate wines. It’s commonly known that Syrah is the main grape variety of this appellation, which is sometimes added by a touch of Viognier variety.

In this case, we could suggest you to try the Côte Rôtie Promise 2019, fully made of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier. Therefore, the aging is estimated at 13 months, 75% in new barrels and 25% in one-year barrels. The aging is the same for the Côte Rôtie Rozier 2019, but this time only in new barrels. This sensation of young barrels still pursues with the Côte Rôtie La Comtesse cuvée, but here during 18 months. This Côte Blonde 2018 features precious Syrah grapes, with the oldest vines planted in 1933. 
 
..this green panorama doesn’t stop on those lightful vines.
An invitation to allegory..

Adding to this, count on the 1 ha of Cornas appellation that should be mentioned through the acquisition of grapes, again evolving on a granite soil situated at the top and middle of the slopes. Those fruits mainly grow on plots located on the left bank of the Rhône river on schist soils. There, you could find a mix between 0.75 ha of Syrah, and 0.25 ha of Viognier.

For example, we suggest you this Cuvée “Allégorie” 2019, vinified from this AOP Cornas. Its vines are planted on steeply sloping granite soil, based in Cornas in Ardèche, on the right bank of the Rhône river, near Valence. This red wine holds a very deep ruby red color, anticipating an elegant fragrance of red and black fruits, so representative of Syrah. Inside your palate, you could find a fruity and balances wine, including spicy and peppery touches, able to harmonize your grilled pieces and Savoy cheeses.
 
More information on the official website.

..and harvesting as much as possible by muscle power.
By that time, most of people were working hard for the money..

Now, let’s focus on another illustrious wine house… The Vidal-Fleury house was founded in 1781, and quickly acquired an international notoriety, even in the United States where the firm already settled in 1787, thanks to the former president Thomas Jefferson who visited the domain. Thus, even since this period, Vidal-Fleury has been considered as one of the most emblematic houses in Côte-Rôtie. Moreover it has also been regarded as the oldest Rhône Valley house still in operation, despite its vineyard was replanted at the end of the 19th century with American rootstocks after the phylloxera crisis.

Indeed, Vidal-Fleury holds a certain know-how, by managing all the process from A to Z, essentially about running vineyards, winemaking, packaging and aging. This allows the domain to deliver globally a variety of wines, at the optimum of their potential (photo credits: Vidal-Fleury).
 
..those vines act right, even sloped on the hills.
The whole collection of wines is waiting for you to be tasted..

If you wanna get further into Vidal-Fleury‘s philosophy, you would learn that the domain proposes a selection of the best local grapes, from the Rhône Valley. This exigency may become possible through a precise sorting and aging of those blends that make the reputation of this specific terroir

Indeed, the huge diversity of beautiful grape varieties is nested in this Rhône Valley. With a selection of appellations, standing in the northern part, so to say Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Saint-Joseph, Cornas, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage. For instance, Syrah is the only red grape variety employed there, unless it is sometimes embellished with white grapes, such as Viognier in Côte-Rôtie, along Marsanne and Roussanne
 

..no better protection than this cork plug bed!
Sometimes a bit of altitude can do miracles..

In this amount of renowned wines, you should know that approximately 70% of their references are dedicated to exportation throughout the World, and notably beyond the borders of Europe, since the most important market seems to be the Northern America (with USA and Canada), along Northern Europe (aka the Benelux, Scandinavia and the UK), without forgetting Japan and China

To illustrate this global keen interest, let us introduce you this Côte-Rôtie 2015 Brune et Blonde. This supple and light red wine (Syrah 95% vs Viognier 5%) is full of red berries generated by a blend between the tannic wines of the Côte Brune and the softer and more tender juices from the Côte Blonde. This splendid wine is aged on lees during 4 years in barrels and aged for six months in bottles.
..or just make an acquisition directly in the store.
Let’s make some pairings with fine cheese by a friend..

In the southern side, you could enjoy one of these following appellations, which are Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Tavel, Cairanne, Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Côtes-du-Rhône, Ventoux and Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. This announced wide range of wines offered by Vidal Fleury, is composed by red grapes, counting on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, and as well white ones, in terms of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Roussanne

Sharing a part of its vineyard with Guigal which acquired the domain in 1984, Vidal Fleury conserves its autonomy in terms of winemaking. Spread on a total of 62 ha, which represents one of the most important vineyards in the northern Rhône Valley (including 35 ha of Côte-Rôtie, 12 ha of Condrieu, 11 ha of Saint-Joseph and 4 ha of Crozes-Hermitage).
 
..those huge barrels can contain a lot!
Ready to drink..

As we should take an example, the territory of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation is spread through the plain of the Comtat Venaissin, on the left bank of the Rhône river and made up of vast terraces covered with red clay. This famous vineyard area owes its existence (and name) to the former pope Jean XXII, who a great wine enthusiast, who had his summer residence built here in Châteauneuf-du-Pape from 1318, naturally surrounded by beautiful olive trees and vines.

We could easily illustrate this zone by the young dry white wine of 2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is muchly appreciated its freshness, fruity and floral aromas. Therefore, this elixir may then develop more pronounced aromas of wax, nuts and dried fruits., thanks its Roussanne dominating in the bottle and a finish based on acidity and flavors, for a conservation potential of 10 years!
 
 
 
..as for a passionate cellar master as Antoine Dupré?
Which cork plug would you keep for your personal collection?

Thereafter, the development of the winery is operated in the 9,000m2 of this two-floor cellar. This space contains stainless steel vats and the proper conditions, notably for aging in barrels, with a stable temperature and humidity. So to say, perfect for the single stage and tangential filtration, which is a technique more respectful for wine and environment, and supported by a proper aging period. 

Furthermore and since 2021, the cellar is managed by the expert Antoine Dupré, which after numerous experiences in various parts of the World, got tempted by a new challenge proposed by Vidal-Fleury, since he got quickly attached by this region, and especially by the diversity and richness of its different terroirs.

..whether you are more into vats aging?
Such a gem..

In a way, Vidal-Fleury embodies different facets from the Rhône Valley and is able to display the specificity of each of its different terroirs. Adding to this, you have to know that in their process, when you try a structured and lively wine like in a northern side, its aging takes place in barrels. And for rounder and more delicate wines, its vinification is rather done in casks or in vats, but always on the lees.

Therefore, we could illustrate here the inevitable Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise vineyard, deeply anchored in very aerated soils. Based on the south-eastern slope of the Dentelles de Montmirail, in the north of Vaucluse, where vines and olive trees harmoniously collide. For instance, the 2019 vintage is a genuine sweet white wine, exclusively composed of Muscat à petits grains grape variety and a minimum sugar content of 252 g per liter of must. This millesime needs to be served at 8°C, in order to display its fine aromas of fresh grapes and white peach, for an aging potential between 10 and 15 years.
 
More information on the official website.

Autumn is rising up at least once a year by the mounts..

Let’s get more into the South with the Domaine Alain Jaume which is closely connected to the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation. In the 14th century, when the Popes were established in Avignon, they built the pontifical castle at Châteauneuf du Pape.  The making of wine being closely linked to the church, the Popes became aware of the immense quality of the terroir for the cultivation of vines.  This is how they decided to develop the vineyard that surrounded their home.

Indeed, the Jaume family continues a long tradition of winemaking and the local archives have already been mentioning the Jaume family as settled farmers since 1826, in the northern part of Châteauneuf du Pape. Since then, the family’s estate has continued to expand to produce more and more wines, from the south of the Rhône Valley. Starting by the creation in 1979 of the Domaine Grand Veneur (starring the Châteauneuf du Pape and the Côtes du Rhône appellations) and the acquisition of the Clos de Sixte vineyard (including the Lirac appellation) in 2003. In another hand, the Alain Jaume estate, which is nowadays managed by the descendants of the family, Sébastien and Christophe, is as well made up of two other distinct estates. In fact, you could find the Château Mazane, adorned with the Vacqueyras appellation and the Domaine la Grangette Saint Joseph, which is also a Côtes-du-Rhône appellation.
 
..so do the winter graphics.

In this area where millions of years ago, the Rhône river built the basement of the left and right banks by depositing sandy clays and the famous rolled pebbles, the vineyard of Alain Jaume is managed with the greatest respect as possible for the terroir. Therefore, its soils are enriched with natural composts and maintained by shallow plowing, while yields are intentionally lower than expected in order to preserve the surrounding soils, thanks to manual harvesting and sorting. The homemade philosophy would be that nobody could produce quality wines without cultivating its vines in such a way as to allow them to produce healthy and balanced grapes. This commitment may also be illustrated by letting the forces of their unique heritage, the Earth express themselves

In addition, those respectful cultivation methods of the environment and the majority of wines (which are Domaines Grand Veneur, Clos de Sixte and Chateau Mazane) have been labeled “AB – Organic Agriculture” since the 2012 vintage, while continuing the intense oenological and viticultural work on their 78ha of surface.
 
 
 
We are glad to introduce you here their Bellissime 2019 vintage, which is a Rosé wine, composed of a good choice of grape varieties, which are Grenache noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre. In fact, this elegant salmon pink colored 2020 Rosé can be obtained from a direct bleeding pressing, vinified in stainless steel vats and at low temperature. 
 
After opening the bottle (which was ready 5 months after harvest), you could easily smell the fruity and spicy olfactory aspects from this reminiscent juice of wild strawberries, raspberries and fine Provence accents. Thereafter, its taste would stay naturally fruity, with a fresh and long finish, rather to be served at 8°C before 2023.

More information on their official website.


..and stand in a certain harmony with soils and vines.
The arms of the family reflect a rich history..

Then, let’s talk about the Domaine André Brussset initiated in 1947. This charming diversified and fragmented domain has been already lasting for 3 generations, since its foundation by André Brusset.

Followed afterwards by Daniel and his son Laurent who tried as much as possible to carry on the tradition, notably by expanding the estate which today covers 87 hectares (photo credits: Domaine Brusset).

For your information, this Domaine André Brusset is located between Orange, Vaison-la-Romaine and Bollène, in the sunny Vaucluse departement. At least, at the tip of those Côtes du Rhône, you would see that this domain includes 4 of the most emblematic local appellations, so to say Gigondas, Cairanne, Ventoux and Côtes du Rhône.

 

..the harvest of last year seem to be abundant!
All roads lead to these Côtes du Rhône..

In order to extract the most fruity assets of wines, its vineyards are cultivated at very low yields. The diversity of plots, reflect a certain respect for terroir and its vegetation, with the goal to obtain a complete range of high quality products.

Adding to this, red wines represent 95% of the domain‘s production here but this vineyard also produces a natural sweet wine. This elixir is native from old 70-year-old vines, mainly planted on clay slopes and composed of Grenache Noir and even a touch Marc de Gigondas.

Indeed, the Gigondas importance holds its full importance there, since some Montmirail vineyards were the last acquisitions by the Domaine André Brusset, in 1986.

 

Standing at the foot of the dizzy Dentelles de Montmirail, those 19 hectares of vines are situated on an exceptional AOC covering Jurassic terraces and Triassic limestone. Without missing that around the city of Carpentras, stands the AOC Ventoux. For instance, 5 hectares of vines are planted on Les Boudalles estate. The rest of the production is cultivated in the Côtes du Rhône, respecting the ancestral tradition.

..to join the complete Cairanne tribe reunited here.
This Viognier grape is ready to get collected..

At last, don’t also miss their wines from the Cairanne appellation, mostly embodied by “Les Coteaux des Travers” territory. Composed of 40 hectares of vines planted on slopes full of clay-limestone soils, surrounded by large pebbles. The average 30 year old vines remain manually harvested, along a traditional vinification and destemming without any yeast addition, plus aging for 6 months in vats

This ensemble gives birth to fabulous wines, we can mention here Les Travers 2020, which is a really impressive Cairanne Côtes-du-Rhône Villages item. Thus, this supple and velvety red wine offers gourmet sensations of ripe fruit, spices and liquorice aromas, whose supple tannins predispose to a lingering finish and adaptable to any culinary occasion!

 

Otherwise, if you are allergic to sulfites. You have the choice to opt for a round and powerful wine, still based on a blend of Grenache and Syrah. But this time, this sulfite-free edition of Cairanne 2020 tends to express the most on very ripe fruity notes and spices. Its fragrance reveals a floral hint of peony and black berries flavors, completed by strawberries and even some liquorice spices. After this statement, you could appreciate its silky and fruity tannins before a fresh and peppery finish.

More information on the official website.