Monday, August 27, 2007

A Rhone Reminder

One of the great things about being a wine blogger is you are always on the look out for new wines to write about, and new regions to explore. This year I've tried to focus on getting to known Spanish and Burgundian wines in order to expand my palate and wine knowledge. I've loved every minute of it. But, as Tyler Colman pointed out in his list of the pros and cons of wine blogging in Wine and Spirits magazine, the upside of exploration has a downside: you drink less of your favorite wines.

I just got a big reminder that I love Rhone wines. Whites, reds--doesn't matter. Bring them on. I love syrah, grenache, mourvedre, grenache blanc, roussanne, and marsanne. And I could go on and on about the Rhone blends that are so drinkable, and yet so complex at the same time. The Rhone has its expensive wines, to be sure, but it also has bargains and those bargains often come under a Cotes du Rhone label. These wines are grown in vineyards that fall outside of the more famous named appellations like Crozes Hermitage, Cote Rotie, and Chateauneuf du Pape. As a result, they are often less pricey than their better-known neighbors.

They often represent excellent QPR, too, like this 2005 Domaine les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone Les Tres Soeurs ($9.95, Chronicle Wine Cellar; available from other merchants for between $10 and $15). Let me say off the bat that this was a lot of wine for under $10. A rich ruby color made the wine look as luscious as it tasted and I was eager to get my nose into the glass as soon as I had poured it. The wine was blended from 60% old vine grenache, 30% syrah, and 10% carignane, producing a wine that had abundant aromas of berries, herbs, and spice. These are the classic hallmarks that I associate with the grenache varietal. Berries and herbs continued through the flavors, with that distinctive brushy-dusty-herbal flavor that is known as garrigue and always reminds me of country lanes in the height of summer. Underneath it all was a Rhone funkiness of earth and leaves, and it ended with a mouthful of spice.

This was a really good, classic, and drinkable Rhone wine. It was the kind of wine that would go as perfectly with roast chicken as it would with chili or stew. And it was a reminder to me that sometimes you just need an old favorite to bring your day to a satisfying close.

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