If there is one wine region that is getting the quality/value balance right in the last few years, it has to be France’s Rhone Valley. Home to appellations such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Lirac, Gigondas, as well as the more humble Cotes du Rhone, the Rhone Valley is already well known as a place to look for solid wines, but vintage variations has been known to play a big role in the quality of the wine produced.
Overly hot growing seasons can lead to baked, jammy wines with huge alcohol and harsh, one-dimensional palates, whereas cool summers can mean wines that are all structure and no charm. Fortunately, a combination of perfect weather and improved technique has led to a string of terrific vintages.
The 2015-16-17 vintages have resulted in consistently terrific wines throughout the price spectrum, from everyday Cotes-du-Rhones to the high-end collectibles that are receiving rave reviews. While other regions in Europe and elsewhere have been having good harvests as well, for the money it is hard to argue with the Rhone.
Recent top-end arrivals, such as the Clos des Papes CNDP or the Single Vineyard Ch St Cosme Gigondas, are giving 95-99 point quality for less than $180, something not often found in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa, Tuscany or elsewhere. At the same time, any Rhone wine over $20 is a good bet for a tasty, well-balanced wine that is both solid and fresh. We have several Rhones under $30 at the moment that honestly make you say “Wow!” and the $40-$60 stuff is unreal.
Do yourself a favour and spend some time exploring the Rhone the next time you are in – there is a reason we have so many Rhones on our shelves!