(2021) One of the stars of this selection, as it should be given it is also the most expensive. Gigondas is close to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhône Valley and makes broadly similar wines from the same grape varieties like Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. This is all dark, rich bambles and black forest gateau on the nose, spice and meaty, velvety black fruits the order of the day. In the mouth it carries a fair clout: 14% abv is typical for this appellation, here adding a touch of heat to the smooth, sweet, black-fruit flavours of the palate. Robust tannins and acidity kick in towards the finish.
(2018) In search of a moderately-priced wine to recommend for Christmas dinner 2019, I tried various rather disappointing Pinot Noir wines at around the £10 - £12 mark, but this unpretentious Côtes du Rhône hit the spot - and is only £8.99 on Majestic's familiar 'Mixed six' pricing. Based on Grenache blended with typical local varieties like Syrah and Mourvèdre, it has a buoyant, cherry and herb-filled nose with lots of lift and brightness. In the mouth it is medium-bodied and softly approachable despite 14% alcohol, but there's a creaminess and chocolate-touched depth before that fresh red fruit character and nip of rustic tannin kick in. Gentle enough for roast turkey, but fine for goose or even roast beef if that's your festive choice.
(2018) A more or less equal blend of northern Rhône Syrah and southern Rhône Grenache, this comes from 60-year-old vines and is a fine, savoury Côtes du Rhône of quite some style. It is only lightly oaked (I suspect only seeing oak in the form of older and bigger casks), and is liquorice-deep and earthy, but has a fine blueberry and ripe damson plum weight of fruit. Aromatically, it also flits between nuances of goût de terroir and a red fruit lift. On the palate that natural old-vine concentration is effortless, always juicy with its supple, fine tannin and acid structure. Long, the savoury character makes it very broadly food-friendly. Watch the video for specific food matching ideas, and more information on this wine and producer.
(2017) From vineyards surrounding the hill of Hermitage in the northern Rhône Valley, this is produced by the Tain co-operative, a high quality but massive player, who bottle 50% of all Crozes-Hermitage - you will see various of their labels in UK supermarkets and merchants. This has classic northern Rhône aromatics with a whiff of grilled bacon fat, solid black fruit and a roasted chestnut earthiness. In the mouth it is agile and limber, a lovely acid cut to the black fruit, the ripeness offset by tight tannins and that earthy, lightly smoky character from partial barrel ageing. Watch the video for food-matching ideas and more information.
(2017) The wine commemorates Tom Simpson, and English rider, Olympian and first British cyclist to don the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. Sadly, he collapsed and died on the rigorous Mont de Ventoux climb in the subsequent Tour aged just 29. A donation from each bottle sold goes towards the upkeep of his memorial. The wine is mostly Syrah with a little Grenache, opening with a ripe and nicely lifted nose of red plums and violet, a bright fruit character with a hint of white pepper. In the mouth it is full, ripe and serious, a little creaminess detected on the nose giving way to a more taut, mineral-infused palate, but that gives lovely drive towards the finish.
(2016) Regarded as the most powerful of the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, this Cairanne weighs in with 15% alcohol and certainly packs plenty of oomph. The nose has lots of black fruit, but a meatiness too, some herb and pepper hints, but it immediately strikes a muscular pose. Indeed, muscularity runs through the wine in the mouth, with plenty of structural tannin and a grip of acidity underpinning the ripe, savoury but sweet fruit. A huge mouthful of wine, and a very good one. Watch the video for more information and food-matching suggestions.
(2015) Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan in this organic wine from one of the Rhône Villages, and one of its top estates. Very light on its feet at first sniff, with a real Rhône lift of cracked pepper and violet, a graphite and cedar quality and good berry fruit. Really juicy on the palate, with a wonderfully mouth-filling plumpness to the fruit, a bit of chocolaty depth and rounded, plush tannins and moderate acidity. Yet it is without a doubt structured for a few years of cellaring, but the fruit and spice of the finish is delicious now.
(2015) Watch out for the beefy 15.0% alcohol in this Rhône red, a Châteauneuf-like blend of 70% Grenache plus Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan. There's a decidedly woodland character to this: twigs and bracken, scrub and broom. The distinctive aroma makes way on the palate for sweetness and plushness of fruit. Its silky texture and ripeness teeters on being jammy, but a fine tannin grip takes the finish, spice and good acidity too, the whole thing tugged and cajoled into a taut, juicy finish. The price is good on offer.
(2015) Grenache makes up half the blend of this Aldi exclusive, along with Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Syrah and the seldom-seen Vaccarese. It weighs in with 14% alcohol. Schisty, raspberry-touched aromas have plenty of briar and earth, and there is a cool feel to this. There is a touch of chocolate on the nose too, and it has some spices to add complexity. The palate is rather lean, but it is juicy, and although there is a slightly stripped feel to this for some reason, that leanness does add to its sense of freshness into quite a tangy, bittersweet finish.
(2015) Bottled for Asda by négociant firm Leon Perdigal, the name behind many an own-label Rhône wine, this again has a modest 13.5% alcohol and a very primary purple/crimson colour. On the nose it is all lift and cherry brightness at first, an almost Beaujolais-like character before a bit of darker fruit and gentle meatiness emerges. On the palate a similar juicy, but uncomplicated profile continues, and whilst hardly a Châteauneuf of great seriousness or structure, it is balanced, forward and drinks well.