With nearly 500 listings at the SAQ, Rhône Valley wines are still just as popular in Quebec. A two-step look at this vast region.
With more than 30,000 hectares of vines spread over six departments along the Rhône, it is the second most important production region in France after Bordeaux. Unlike the large southern region concentrated around Avignon, the narrow northern region has a limited number of grape varieties. In red, only syrah is authorized on the whole part going from Vienne to Valence. In white, only Marsanne and Roussanne can be used in the Saint-Joseph, Saint-Péray, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage appellations, while Viognier is the only one allowed in the Condrieu and Château-Grillet appellations, the latter being tiny and the prerogative of a single domain with the same name. Another peculiarity specific to the North: you can add up to 15 % Marsanne and Roussanne in the making of a red wine and up to 20 % Viognier in a Côte-Rôtie wine which produces only red.
Invited to stay in the region by Inter Rhône on the occasion of the “Discoveries in the Rhône Valley 2023” fairs, I had the opportunity to taste nearly 400 wines, including more than 150 in the northern part ; mostly from 2020, 2021 and some 2022 which will start to arrive on our market. Here are five that will help you better understand this fascinating northern part.
Drink less. Drink better.
E. Guigal, Condrieu 2020
★★★★ | $$$$$
Founded in 1946 by Étienne Guigal, in Ampuis, the Guigal estate needs no introduction. Maison Guigal, which embodies the trading side of the estate, offers wines of remarkable quality in all the appellations of the North. The Condrieu is an excellent example of what this marvelous steep vineyard can produce. Bewitching nose of peach, apricot, orange blossom and grilled almond. Concentrated, rich, almost full-bodied, yet lively texture that avoids the trap of heaviness. Long finish reminiscent of tangerine and a fine impression of bitterness.
France 14.5 % | White wine | $80.25
SAQ Code: 14991327
Yves Cuilleron, The Vines Next Door 2021, Rhodanian Hills
★★★ | $1⁄2
Based in Chavanay, in the heart of the Condrieu appellation, Yves Cuilleron has become an emblematic figure of the Northern Rhône. Starting from almost nothing, this talented and dynamic winemaker now offers a wide range of wines from all the appellations of the North, except Hermitage. And the quality is remarkable. Taking advantage of a difficult vintage, Cuilleron offers us here a floral Syrah focused on purity and drinkability, all for less than $20. A bargain.
France 13% | Red wine | $18.85
SAQ Code: 13619478
Jean-Michel Gerin, La Champine 2021< /h3>
★★★ | $$
The arrival of the two sons, Michaël and Alexis, alongside Jean-Michel Gerin seems to have brought renewed purity to this Champine cuvée, a sort of mini Côte-Rôtie. Less wood with more than 80% of the wine now aged in stainless steel tanks, unlike 20% in the past. In 2021, the wine is seductive, crisp and finely peppery. A delight.
France 13.5% | Red wine | $25.60
SAQ Code: 11871240
François Villard , Call of the Sereines 2020, Rhodanian Hills
★★★ | $$
Emulator and friend of Yves Cuilleron with whom he took his first steps in the vineyard, François Villard produces superbly textured wines in almost all the appellations of the North. The name of the cuvée refers to the old name of Syrah (the serene) and, of course, to the song of the sirens. From a sunny and generous vintage, the wine is juicy, full and fragrant to perfection.
France 13% | Red wine | $20.30
SAQ Code: 12292670
Domaine Belle, Les Terres Blanches 2021, Crozes-Hermitage
★★★1⁄2 | $$$1⁄2
Here is a wonderful example of what the Marsanne and Roussanne duo can give on the clay-limestone soils of the Crozes-Hermitage appellation. Benefiting from aging for 20 % in new barrels, 50 % in neutral barrels and the rest in stainless steel vats, the result is a wine with intense and precise flavors of pear, marzipan and acacia. Ample and dense on the palate while remaining lively and precise. A marvel.
France 13.5% | White wine | $36.50
SAQ Code: 14205285
★★★ Very Good
More stars than dollars: worth its price.
As many stars as dollars: worth its price.
Fewer stars than dollars: the wine is expensive.< /p>