France: Rhone
Once again, the Rhône was one of the standout categories of the competition, with great wines – red and white – across the region and across the price points

In the context of the SWAs, the Rhône has established itself as France’s most consistently excellent region. So it proved again this year, with five Golds, nine Silvers and a dozen Bronzes. Moreover, our tasters were, if anything, on the harsh side. There were a lot of truly excellent wines here that were within a whisker of making Gold.

Our sommeliers were impressed with the region’s whites last year, and the story continued in 2011, with a positive reaction to wines ranging from the ludicrously well-priced Boutinot La Fleur Solitaire (Silver) through to Jaboulet’s spectacular white Hermitage, described by one taster as ‘as good as the very best white Burgundy for half the price’. The four white medal winners here are well worth a look.

Côtes du Rhône red is often the workhorse of a wine list, and once our tasters had weeded out the bubblegummy carbonic maceration stuff at the lower end, they found wines with good varietal/regional character (crucially) at affordable prices, with the Silver medal-winning Maison Carrée a snip at just over £5.

The Northern Rhône wines were predictably well received, with the medals ranging in price from a pretty decent Crozes at £10 up to the Domaine du Monteillet at £60, which narrowly failed to squeak onto the Gold List for the second year on the trot.

In the final round our judges had high expectations, looking for complexity and class rather than bargains. And in the Delas Hermitage they found it – the standout wine. ‘This was a delicate, fragrant, uplifted, complex wine which needs decanting, but you could put this on the list and it would develop beautifully both in the glass and given time,’ said Team Leader Peter McCombie MW. ‘It was perhaps the best wine of the day.’ It was heartening to see that the South put in a terrific performance, too. ‘We were looking for good value and character here, and the [Gold-Listed Jean-Luc Colombo Châteauneuf] had great freshness, leaning towards an accessible, fruity, drinkable and immediately enjoyable style,’ said Laurent Chaniac.

There was also a string of impressive Silver and Bronze wines, and our tasters recognised that given a larger wine list, a lot more could have made it onto the Gold List. ‘This was a flight that showed a lot of quality and good value, with fruit concentration, complexity and spiciness,’ said Mikaël Hannequin. ‘These aren’t necessarily wines that set out to please, rather they are what they are, with a good sense of terroir. And, paired with food, a lot of these wines would work very well.'

“The Côtes du Rhône wines were good overall. Plus, a few looked like they were trying to step up a level, and I liked that. ” Senthil Kulandhaisamy, Oxo Tower


Chapoutier St-Peray Les Tanneurs 2009, Northern Rhone, France
£11.85 @ Mentzendorff
Light honey and floral notes with ripe lemon and hints of sweet spices on the nose. ‘Pine nuts, peaches and stone fruits on a good fruit-driven palate, with a fine, long finish,’ said Maria Rodriguez, Massala.‘Try with turbot or roast pork,’ suggested Laurie Watson.

Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage Le Chevalier de Sterimberg 2008, Northern Rhone, France
£36.92 @ Liberty Wines
SWA 2011 Gold List Medium gold in colour with a delightfully spring-like bouquet. ‘A delicate palate with minerals and gingery apple,’ said Team Leader Tom Forrest. ‘Very attractive nose with white flowers, peach, wild herbs and camomile,’ said Angus Macnab. ‘Great!’

Ogier, Oratorio 2009, Cotes du Rhone, France
£11.50 @ Mistral Wines
SWA 2011 Gold List Rich, plump and complex, this easily won over its fans. ‘Incredible nose – herbaceous, savoury, smoky bacon with hints of berries,’ said Mark Deamer. ‘The tannins are gorgeously plump, with spicy plum and cherry fruit flavours, and a great white pepper finish.’ ‘Still young with good potential,’ said Sara Bachiorri.

Jean-Luc Colombo Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Bartavelles 2009, Rhone, France
£26.89 @ Hatch Mansfield
SWA 2011 Gold List Much appreciation from the judges for this complex wine. On the nose Clos Maggiore's Louise Gordon found confit, raspberry and hay with a floral top note and black pepper hints. ‘Very perfumed with superb freshness,’ added Laurent Chaniac.

Delas Hermitage Rouge Marquise de la Tourette 2007, Northern Rhone, France
£30.25 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Universally applauded, this one had it all. ‘Power and elegance with youthful notes of black fruit and rose on the nose,’ said Paulo Brammer, ETM Group. Delicate, fragrant and youthful,’ said Peter McCombie MW. ‘Blood, guts and gore,’ said Angela Reddin.


Boutinot La Fleur Solitaire 2009, Cotes du Rhone, France
£5.59 @ Boutinot
Honey, quince, spiced pear and wet stone on the nose as well as ‘camomile, moss and wild herbs', said Angus Macnab. This has a pleasant mix of candied and orchard fruits on the palate. Medium in body and length, this is great value.

Domaine Chante Cigale Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2009, Rhone, France
£12.59 @ Boutinot
Dry with fine mineral notes, good stone fruit and a crisp finish. ‘Hazelnuts and acacia flowers, this is pleasant and good value,’ said Maria Rodriguez.

Maison Carree Cotes du Rhone 2010, France
£5.29 @ Patriarche Wine Agencies
With garrigue, liquorice and black cherries on the nose, the palate is rich, ripe and juicy. It has lovely acidity, sweet fruit, silky tannins and a juicy finish. ‘All this and a good price,’ said Joris Beijn, Andaz.

Les Dentelles de Cezanne 2008, Gigondas, Rhone, france
£9.87 @ Cavendish Wines
'Great bouquet,’ enthused Mikaël Hannequin. ‘Red berries, cinnamon and anise, plus rosemary and Italian herbs. A delicate structure, very feminine, with a beautiful vegetal palate and well-defined wood.’

Grapillon d’Or Gigondas Classique 2008, Gigondas, Rhone, france
£11.45 @ Stevens Garnier
Complex, with ripe cherries, liquorice, spice, hints of violets and traces of smoke on the nose alone. The palate is full of ripe red fruits, cinnamon, minty game and wild garrigue/herbal notes.

Domaine Chante Cigale Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007, Rhone, France
£13.09 @ Boutinot
Plenty of black fruit and garrigue notes on the nose lead to a palate of the same, with soft tannins, liquorice plus a shot of minerality at the end. ‘Good finish,’ said a happy Laurent Chaniac.

Domaine de la charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007, Rhone, France
£19.71 @ Enotria
Lovely fruit, elegant spice, and a hint of dried herbs and rose petals. Concentrated in a rich, ripe style, this is a powerful, young wine. ‘Delicious and spot-on,’ said Robert Giorgione, ex-Orrery Restaurant.

Domaine de Thalabert 2007, Crozes Hermitage, Northern Rhone, France
£22.47 @ Liberty Wines
Plenty of red and black fruits on a juicy, balanced palate with enticing notes of smoke and pepper on the finish. ‘Good length plus tannins with finesse,’ observed Garry Clark.

Domaine du Monteillet Cote-Rotie Les Grandes Places 2005, Rhone, France
£60.09 @ Boutinot
Complex, rich and layered with fresh minerality. Despite the price and its apparent youth, this was felt to be such a dream drop, it had to be considered for serious wine lists.


Domaine de la Mirandole Cotes du Rhone 2009, Rhone, France
£6.50 @ Enotria
More great value, with fresh black fruit alongside prominent earthiness on the nose.

Jean-Luc Colombo Cotes du Rhone Les Forots 2009, Rhone, France
£7.81 @ Hatch Mansfield
Aromas of black fruits and violets lead to a medium-bodied palate with a peppery finish.

Vidal-Fleury Crozes Hermitage 2008, Crozes Hermitage, Rhone, France
£10.76 @ Louis Latour Agencies
Purple fruits and smoky notes, this has black pepper splashes, medium acidity and a balanced finish.

“The Northern Rhône allows you to get high quality wines at a better price than other top French regions. It’s amazing. ” Maria Rodriguez, Massala

Chateau Val Joanis Les Griottes Rouge 2007, Cotes du Luberon, Rhone, France
£11.44 @ Champagnes & Chateaux
Savoury tannins, with sour cherry and good acidity. ‘The length goes on and on,’ said Mark Deamer.

E Guigal St-Joseph 2007, Northern Rhone, France
£12.88 @ john e Fells & sons
With a ripe, rich nose, the palate has notes of tobacco and spices, good acidity and integrated wood.

Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas Les Mesjeans 2007, Rhone, France
£14.37 @ Hatch Mansfield
Classic Rhône, with soft, ripe fruits on the nose, soft notes on the palate, plus hints of graphite and minerals. ‘Good potential’, said Nick Chiu, Ashdown Park Hotel.

Terroir Galets Roules 2009, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France
£15 @ Mistral Wines
Silky and elegant, with fine tannins, complexity, spiciness, good acidity and evidence of some new oak. ‘A lovely long, delicate finish,’ said Sergio Benito.

Domaine du Monteillet st-Joseph 2007, Rhone, France
£16.59 @ Boutinot
'Cooked, smoky red and black fruits on the nose,’ said Team Leader Tom Forrest.

Terroir de Safres Red 2009, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France
Clove, raspberry and soft rose perfume with spicy top notes lead to a juicy, blueberry-laden palate with violets, hints of pepper, firm tannins and a medium finish. ‘Exceptional,’ said Team Leader Susanna Forbes.

Delas Cornas Chante Perdrix 2005, Rhone, France
£20.28 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
A palate filled with delicious, ripe, opulent fruits, superb acidity and great length.

Domaine Chante Cigale Vieilles Vignes Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2006, Rhone, France
£20.84 @ Boutinot
A bit of age and a touch of brett add to the complexity of this wine, along with floral aromas, heather and cloves on the nose. ‘I love the structure,’ said Mikaël Hannequin.

Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas La Louvee 2007, Rhone, France
£34.38 @ Hatch Mansfield
Stewed, smoky fruits on the nose, a mineral, mature red-fruited palate, and smoke, pepper and savoury hints on the finish. ‘Bursting with vinosity,’ said an approving Maria Rodriguez.

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

Add your comment

Please sign in or register if you'd like to comment.

Register Forgotten password? Sign In

Subscribe Imbibe Magazine