Think of the Southern Rhone and you think of either Chateauneuf-du-Pape, rich, spicy, exquisite and priced accordingly, or simple Cotes-du-Rhone, an affable, juicy, spicy easy-drinking wine that makes up three quarters of the production in the region. In between these two signposts sits a handful of villages that set loftier standards regarding both viticulture and vinification than a basic Cotes-du-Rhone yet without the recognizable brand name like Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Grapes grown from these different villages can be blended together to make Cotes-du-Rhone Villages or can be vinified separately in which case the name of the village may be printed on the label. It is at the named village level that we feel the wines from the Southern Rhone start to get serious (and seriously tasty). And we aim to prove it to you this Friday from 6-8pm when we taste these two village-level reds from the Rhone region:
Domaine Alary Cairanne 2008 ($19.75) Domaine Alary produces some of the best wines in Cairanne, the village largely regarded as the most prestigious of the Cotes-du-Rhone Villages. The Alary family played a starring role in elevating Cairanne’s reputation to where it is today and Denis Alary, the youngest in a long line of winemakers, has continued his family’s tradition garnering worldwide recognition for the quality of his wines. The 2008 Cairanne is dark, filled with black fruits and sweet spice with minerality lacing the fruit and appealing herbal notes on the finish.
Domain Roche-Audran’s Visan “Pere Mayeux” 2007 ($21.50) Visan, another notable Rhone village, sits futher north and is known for soils similar to the soils in Chateauneuf-du-Pape; rocky with red and black alluvial (grainy, sandy soil that is a result of flowing water) deposits covered by large, round stones. Within Visan, Domaine Roche-Audran makes outstanding wines and in a recent tasting, their “Pere Mayeux” cuvee really jumped out at us. With a dark bouquet of sweet spice, pepper, cherries, coffee, and hints of cocoa and a nose that adds black and dried fruits to the mix, it’s a true testament to the power of the underdog.