Whenever I am in a restaurant that does not feature Italian wines, I always look for wines from France’s Rhône Valley. I find that they are a good value and most of the producers have not gone over to the “dark side.” They are still a bargain compared to Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Most people think red wine from the Rhone, but the whites, which are difficult to find in this country, can be very good, have more body than most whites and can be an interesting drinking experience.
The Wine Media Guild had a tasting and lunch of the wines from the Northern Rhône at Felidia Restaurant in NYC. The speaker was Roger Bohmrich, MW an expert on the wines of the Rhone. Roger spoke about the different appellations in the Northern Rhone and gave us details and descriptions of each wine. There were six whites and 12 reds but for now I will limit myself to the whites and save the reds for a separate article.
Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2010 made from 75% Viognier, 15% Grenache Blanc and 10% other white grapes. Vidal-Fleure. They use short pruning (Gobelet) and the grapes are picked both by hand and by machine. Direct press is used fro 30% of the grapes with skin contact. A pneumatic press is used for 70% of the grapes. There is a cooling of the must at 12C and a natural and light clarification of the must by racking. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with selected yeasts. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. Aging is on the lees with bâtunnage for six months. Natural clarification takes place by settling and one filtration. After 3 months in bottle the wine is released. This is a great buy for $16
Crozes- Hermitage ”Petite Ruche” Blanc 2010 100% Marsanne. M.Chapoutier The soil and subsoil here are composed of old alluvial deposits with numerous gravels and shingles. The whole grapes are pressed and the must is cold –soaked for 24 hours. Fermentation and sging of the wine takes place in vats. The Malolactic fermentation is stopped to give freshness to the wine. The wine has floral aromas and flavors with hints of green apple and citrus fruits. $2
Saint- Peray Fleur de Roc 2009 85% Marsanne and 15% Rousanne Cave de Tain. 30% of the Marsanne is fermented in tanks to preserve freshness, the rest is fermented in new French oak barrels with regular stirring of the lees. The wine is then aged for 12 months and blended together before bottling. This is a balanced wine with hints of white peaches and good minerality. It could be drunk now but I think a few more years of aging would help. $20.
Roger said Saint- Peray is situated across from the Valence on the west bank of the Rhône, just south of but contiguous to Cornas. It is the most southern appellation of the Northern Rhône. They only make white wine from the Marsanne and Rousanne grapes and most of it is sparkling. He added that the wine should be drunk young.
Saint-Joseph Blanc 2009 60% Marsanne and 40% Roussanne Phillip Faury. The vines are planted on steep slopes (with a grade of up to 35%) facing south by southeast. The soil is granite. The grapes are hand picked and pressed in a pneumatic press. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel cuves. It is aged for t 10 months on the lees; 30% in 1 to 5 year old barrels and 70% in stainless steel. Every year the blend changes slightly. $27
Condrieu “La Galopine” 2002 100% Viognier Delas Condrieu is on the west bank of the Rhone adjacent to the Vineyards of Cote-Rotie. Because of the steepness of the vineyards and the low yields of the Viognier grape only 50 acres are planted. The soil is granite-based with a fine topsoil of decomposed mica that washes away easily. The grapes are picked by hand into small bins. The must is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. After malolactic fermentation the wine ages on the lees. Roger said that Condrieu is one of those few great wines that should be drunk young. He described it as having aromas of yellow flowers and flavors of tropical fruits. $55
Hermitage Blanc 2008 80% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne Tardieu-Laurent. The Marsanne vines are 50 years old and the Rousanne are 35 years old. The vineyards are in the lieux-dits of Pierelles,Beaume, Les Murets and Maison- Blanche. The wine is aged in new French Allier and Troncais oak and is lightly flittered. The cork they use is untreated. $60. Roger said that 2008 was a very good vintage for white wine in the Rhone because the weather was cooler than recent vintages.