(2019) A typical blend of grape varieties from this area that is a southern extension of the Rhône Valley, this is made up of 35% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15% Vermentino, 15% Marsanne and 5% Viognier. There's gentle pear and a little boiled sweet, cold ferment character, then a touch of mint leaf of basil. In the mouth there is plenty of sweet peachy fruit in a wine that is light, arguably a touch dilute, but then that does aid the freshness and ensure it avoids the blowsy tendency of those southern varieties, the juicy lemon acidity balancing well into the finish. A highly quaffable, lowish alcohol wine that's perfect for drinking this summer. In Lidl stores as part of their 'wine tour', spring 2019. Watch the video for more information.
(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) From the traditional rosé stronghold of Tavel, very close to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this is a deeply-coloured and quite serious pink made from Grenache and Syrah that’s so unlike the in-vogue pale Provençal style, yet is quite marvellous: crammed with cherry and ripe red berries, there’s a creaminess to the flavour and texture and the little nip of tannin and focused acidity give it structure and length too. Excellent with an Italian fennel sausage casserole perhaps? On offer at time of review for £11.75.
(2018) From the south of the Rhône Valley, this is predominantly Syrah, with just a few percent of Mourvèdre in the blend, and it is one of Fondreche's top red wines. It's a deep, dark and glossy wine with a blue-black fruit quality of damson plum, blueberry and a delightfully aromatic spice and floral top-note. It hints at a chocolaty depth, and that follows through to the palate, where firm but ripe and creamy tannins support that dense and dark fruit, fleshy and ripe, but finishing dry with excellent acidity leading to a savoury finish.
(2018) The first production of this super-Ventoux: apparently the quality of the Syrah from a vineyard planted in 1961 was so exceptional in this vintage that winemaker Sebastien Vincenti decided it must be bottled as a separate cuvée. That seems to have been a good decision, with eRobertParker awarding it 95 points. It's a fabulously smoky and meaty wine, a complex perfume that moves from game to violet and from grilling bacon to fresh-cracked pepper, a core of firm black fruit running through it. In the mouth this does not let up, a silkiness of texture despite a hefty tannin framework (that should see it age well), but that meatiness and the freshness of the cherry-pit acidity balances beautifully. A twist of bittersweet liquorice adds to the intrigue in a truly fabulous wine. Very limited quantities made, and obviously limited availability.
(2018) In its heavy, embossed bottle this mini-Châteauneuf-du-Pape comes from a fifth generation of winegrowers in the southern Rhône. Just a beautiful nose, where the lift of Parma violet and kirsch melts into plush red berries, a dusting of tobacco spice in the background. In the mouth it is a very elegant rendition, nothing too dominant as the lovely dried herb and cherry freshness balances the deeper, more luxurious fruit character, and the smooth tannin and acid balance. Gorgeous.
(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) Gorgeous perfume here; old roses and violets, spice, cherry and raspberry. Little background notes of leather and coffee. Lovely silky texture, with a delightful sense of resolution: sweet, mellow berry fruits, soft acidity and fine, svelte tannins. Very elegant, very lovely texture and again drinking beautifully, though not quite the lush density of the 1982.
(2017) A blend of 85% Grenache with Syrah and Cinsault, this is an unoaked and very powerful expression of peppery, spicy Rhône, lightly meaty with plummy dark fruit. On the palate it is all about savouriness, a bit of sizzling roasted meat, liquorice and quite a lean acid framework, but the plummy, dry fruit does come through as does the spice of the grape and tannins. A food wine that is a tad rustic but good, but matched to the Chief Chocolate Officer's bitter dark chocolate infused with liquorice and rose, really rather sensational as a marriage in the mouth.
(2017) A blend of Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Viognier and Bourboulenc, the nose here is surprisingly delicate, just a touch of white flowers to zesty citrus and apple skins. In the mouth it has the texture and acid grip of so many white Rhône blends, a juicy but taut and pithy lemon character, just a touch of Viognier peachiness softening the edges a touch.