Sunday, 19 August 2012

Braving the Mistral Winds

The Northern Rhone often manages to steal the limelight from its counterpart to the South.  And, indeed, with prestigious appellations like Hermitage and Cote Rotie, this isn’t much of a surprise.  Other than Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the appellations of the Southern Rhone are often forgotten or forgettable.  But who can afford to drink Hermitage and Cote Rotie every day?  (Actually, I don’t know when I can afford to drink Hermitage and Cote Rotie, period.) That is where the Southern Rhone shines (it is also the hotter of the two), in producing affordable red wines that offer terrific value.  This is highlighted in the latest Vintages release through the LCBO, which features the Rhone Valley (both its high-end and low-end).  One such latter wine is the 2010 Cuvée Les Trois Soeurs by Domaine Les Grands Bois (Cotes du Rhone AOC). 

The Cotes du Rhone AOC is the lowliest AOC designation in the Rhone, and can apply to wines from both the North and South.  However, the vast majority come from the South.  Like many Cotes du Rhone AOC wines, the Cuvé Les Trois Soeurs is predominantly Grenache based: 60% Grenache, 15% syrah, and 20% carignan.  The latter, carignan, is often considered the ‘workhorse’ grape of the Southern Rhone, rarely producing wines of outstanding quality on its own. 

The Cuvée Les Trois is sourced from mature vines, ranging in age from 30-60 years.  The fruit is hand harvested, and is sorted in the vineyard before it comes to the winery.  The fermentation lasted ten days at controlled temperatures. 

This purple coloured wine is full-bodied, with subtle, but firm, tannins.  The weight of the wine is balanced by lively acidity, which gives the wine an overwhelming freshness.  The aromas and flavours are typical of the Southern Rhone: liquorice, first and foremost.  But there are gobs of fresh blackberry and red currant, alongside pencil lead and herbs.  Indeed, a lot of complexity – and even elegance – for the modest price.  Overall, a great introduction to the Southern Rhone for those who have not yet braved the mistral winds.   

Available at the LCBO through Vintages for $16.95. 

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