Saturday, May 19, 2007

North vs. South - A Rhone Divided

The Rhone Valley is the second largest wine producing region in France, with 80,000 hectares producing some 3.4 million hectolitres of wine each year. While the vast majority of this production is for Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages, the region is most famous for its Cote-Rotie and Hermitage wines from the North, and Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP) from the south.

In the northern part of the Rhone, Syrah is the dominant red grape, while the southern Rhone permits a variety of grapes, but the wines are typically dominated by Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Not wishing to break the bank this evening, I steered away from Hermitage and CDP, choosing a Crozes-Hermitage to represent the north and a Gigondas to substitute in for CDP.

I love pairing Rhone-styled wines with lamb, and our marinated lamb kebabs paired very well with tonight's wines.

Carrying the flag for the north was the 2003 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage. Red wines from Crozes-Hermitage must be 85% Syrah, and while not as famous as Hermitage wines, the prices are much lower and the wines tend to be more accessible at a younger age. Cherry red and very aromatic, this was a wild animal on the nose - very musky, leathery and oaky with some dark cherry fruit. Surprisingly acidic at first, this medium bodied syrah softened up over the evening, recovering its balance. This is NOT a new world Syrah - this interesting wine was meant for food, and ably dealt with tonight's grilled lamb. I would definitely recommend a one-hour decant for this wine today, but it is probably best to put this one away for two or three years.
12.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$26 (LCBO)

The south was represented by a 2000 Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas "Les Garancieres". Gigondas wines are typically dominated by Grenache, with the appelation allowing up to 80% of this grape, but the wines must also contain a minimum of 15% Syrah and Mourvedre. This ruby red wine was aging gracefully, with a spectacular bouquet - big, bright blackberry fruit with rose and lavender, coffee grounds, pepper, vanilla, and a beautiful earthiness. Medium to full-bodied, on the palate "Les Garancieres" had beautiful fruit, and was soft, smooth, rich, and extremely well balanced. This powerful and elegant wine is hitting its stride, and while it may improve with some more cellaring it will be hard to wait.
14% alcohol
Score: 18/20

Price: C$28 (SAQ)

In the end, the northern wine was probably a better match for these spiced kebabs, but I would choose the Gigondas for a more traditionally prepared lamb chop. Note that One year ago I was not impressed with this Gigondas, but at that time I drank it without a decant, and it was not paired with a meal. Let that be a warning...


bacchus said...

Love the Rhone wines especially the Cote Rotie's and Crozes Herimitage. Great wine blog, come visit mine!

Sonadora said...

Sounds delicious, the food and the wine. The second one seems like a red that is the style I really like!

John said...

It's worth mentioning that Santa Duc also makes some great Cotes du Rhone reds. I don't know that I have ever had a bad bottle from them.

Joe said...

Hi Bacchus-your blogger profile is turned off so I can't find your site. Let me know what it is and I will stop by.
Hi Sonadora-yes, southern Rhone blends can be magical, and the wine was nicely aged. Moreover, enjoyable with or without food.
Hi John-thanks for that comment-it is always important to note when good makers have less expensive entry-level wines. Unfortunately, the Santa Duc CDR is sold out everywhere in town, but reminder allowed me to find the Les Garancieres from the excellent 2003 vintage - will have to go get it. PS-thanks for the link, I just added you as well.
Cheers to all!

David said...

good post, I've dabbled a bit in Cote de Rhones but this helped me learn a bit more about the differences within the region.

Joe said...

Hi David - actually a complex region that deserves more detail, so I provided some links. Cheers!

David said...

hmm, something along these lines might be a good match for lamb I'm planning to grill tonight, will have to see what I have in the cellar!

Joe said...

I will be looking for that post, David!