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Rhône wasn’t built in a day

Songbird in chief, Jonny Wren, talks through the new wines from the Rhône that have just arrived in the cellars of Songbird Wines.

It is hard to think of a region in France, or even the world come to think of it, that offers more variety in wines produced than the Rhône. Stretching around 150 miles from Lyon all the way down to its southern point, Avignon, the variation in climate, soil type and grape variety used means that there is a whole host of styles on offer for both red and white. In the north – where notable regions like Hermitage, Côte Rôtie and Cornas are situated – the red grape Syrah is king whilst white varietals like Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier make some of the finest white wines in the world. As you head further south you find that Grenache is more dominant in wines like Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras with Syrah having a supporting role along with Mourvèdre, Cinsault and a number of lesser known grapes. On the white front all three of the above mentioned white grapes make an appearance along with others like Clairette and Grenache Blanc. Not only does the Rhône offer diversity in style but it also remains exceptional value, especially when compared to the escalating prices of the notable wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.


2019 Château Juvenal Ribes du Vallat Blanc, AOP Ventoux, Rhône @ £14.50 per bottle

This Domaine was bought by the Forestier family in 2001 and has become one of the rising stars of Ventoux. This delicious white is a 80/20 blend of Clairette and Viognier grapes from 30-40 year old vines. Its aged on its lees for 6 months, half in tank and half in demi-muids (600 litre oak barrels). The spicy richness of Viognier balances perfectly with the freshness from the Clairette and this is very expressive from the start with flavours of pear, mango and honeysuckle. Lovely texture on the palate with plenty of flavour but with lovely, fresh minerality.

2018 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc ‘La Fontaine’, Domaine Grand Veneur (Organic) @ £45 per bottle

Wow! I tasted this last week for the first time and was totally bowled over. This is a 100% Roussanne from old vines and is a perfect example of what delicious and complex wines made from this grape can be. The Domaine is owned by the Jaume family and they have been making wine in the region since 1826. The Domaine was certified organic in 2012. La Fontaine is a limestone and clay soiled single vineyard that’s well aired by the Mistral and north facing which keeps a freshness to the grapes as they ripen under the hot sun. The wine is matured in a combination of tank and oak to give extra complexity.

It has a coppery yellow colour and the nose is complex from the very beginning with aromas of honey, apricot, quince, marmalade and pineapple. Superb richness and viscosity on the palate with so much depth of flavour. Although this doesn’t have the zippy acidity of something like a Sancerre it has a lovely freshness that makes it incredibly drinkable. I had it with some local asparagus and it was a lovely match and could have quite easily (and happily) quaffed the lot! At £45 a bottle it’s not an everyday wine but you certainly get what you pay for here and it is worth every penny.


2019 Château de Montfrin Rouge, AOP Costieres de Nîmes, Rhône @ £11.75

Another great offering from Château de Montfrin who are based where the Gard and Rhône rivers meet. This is an exciting and vibrant blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre. The Château’s vineyards in Costieres de Nîmes have a pebbly terrain. These pebbles are particularly good at radiating the warmth built up during the day back to the vines. They play a part in getting the grapes perfectly ripe. The exceptional draining capacity of these pebbles also allows any surplus water to quickly drain away during heavy spells of rain, which prevents certain diseases from developing. There is cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks and the wine sees no oak which contributes to its pure, fruit driven style. A youthful crimson colour gives a clue of the young dark berry fruit that jumps out the glass – intense blackberry, blueberry and punchy black pepper. The initial palate is full of this vibrant dark fruit but with some air you get more savoury richness and spice. The finish is super fresh with dark, crunchy fruit.

2018 Bon Remede Rouge, Domaine Grange Delay, Ventoux, Rhône @ £12.75

This Domaine is located in a village at the foot of Mont Ventoux and is now in the third generation of the Delay family. The Bon Remede is a red that doesn’t hang around in charming you with its seductive ripe fruit and earthiness. It is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah and from vines over 45 years old in clay soils. All fermentation and maturation is done is stainless steel. There’s a little dark cherry on the nose, then plum and white pepper start to come though. On the palate it’s as smooth as James Bond ordering a Martini, with soft tannins, ripe black cherry and hint of spice. A joy.

2013 Gigondas ‘Tradition Le Grand Montmirail’, Domaine Brusset, Rhône @ £19.75

Big, bold and beautifully mature. Gigondas gained its cru status back in 1971 though its attempts date back to 1948. In the past 50 years the region has come a long way and although it may not have the universal recognition of Châteauneuf du Pape, it has many producers that can surpass the efforts of a number of Domaines from its more famous neighbour. Domaine Brusset is one of these such producers and was established in 1947 when André Brusset left the local cooperative to go it alone. Although based in Cairanne, Domaine Brusset has vineyards in some of the finest sites in Gigondas including the Dentelles de Montmirail, a small range of mountains with various soils and terraces of vines that can only be harvested by hand. The grapes for ‘Tradition Le Grand Montmirail’ come from stony soils close to the base of the Dentelles and is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Yields are 30 hl/ha (hectare litres per hectare) which is similar to Grand Cru Burgundy. The wines are aged in 60% steel vats and 40% 2-4 year old demi-muids. The wines can age for well over ten years this is right at its peak. Ripe, red berry fruit with earthy minerality and hints of vanilla. Rich and full on the palate but there is good finesse here to with silky tannins and excellent length.

Bang for bucks wise you don’t get much better than this with a wine of this quality and maturity sitting under £20.

2017 Gigondas ‘Le Lieu Dit’, Domaine des Bosquets, Rhône @ £47 per bottle

Brusset may have some fine sites but ‘Le lieu Dit’ is not only the finest vineyard in Gigondas but Domaine des Bosquets is one of the top estates in the entire Southern Rhône. It was here that was home to the first Gigondas plantings in 1376. The winery is now run by Julien Bréchet who has 26 hectares of vines, which are up to 75 years old and lie at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail. ‘Le Lieu Dit’ was the first single vineyard wine produced at Domaine des Bosquets in 2009. This northwest-facing vineyard is planted on sandy soils and measures just 1.8 hectares. It is a cooler site, which gives poise, elegance and a hallmark freshness to the finished wine. Julien is in the process of converting his vineyards to organic and biodynamic viticulture.

The 2017 Le Lieu Dit is a glorious 100% Grenache wine that is deep ruby red in colour with an expressive nose of red berries, sweet liquorice, plum and cherries. On the palate it has smooth and mellow tannins with a long, lingering finish. Complex with underlying power, it also has great finesse and is one of the greatest Grenache based wines in the world.

So there you go, an amazing array wines and if you would be interested in trying them all then I am offering a mixed case deal on them. You can save over £10 on a case of 6 bottles which is priced at £140, discounted from £150.75. If you would like to order 12 bottles (2 of each) then you save over £25 with this priced at £275, discounted from £301.50. The mixed case deal isn’t available on the website so please email jonny@songbirdwine.co.uk to benefit from this deal.

Jonny Wren


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