For Rhone Wine Diversity Look Across the Street #Winophiles

Looking across the Rhône at the less famous St. Joseph appellation

January 2023 Searching for Diversity in the Rhone Valley
This month our Winophiles writers are highlighting some Rhone wines which are a bit different from the usual suspects: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône, Hermitage. Percentages vary, but one recent accounting of Rhone valley wines highlighted 80% red, 15% rosé and less than 6% white. So for diversity, go find a Rhone valley white wine! Rhone appellations have a pecking order, of course Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the top in the Southern Rhone, with Hermitage and Côte-Rotie in the north. Being well known and popular, they are also expensive. So look next door: nearby appellations with more humble reputations and price tags to match – try Gigondas, Lirac, Cairanne, Crozes-Hermitage. With the warm climate, white wines lean toward full bodied. The top wines are still expensive – Condrieu and Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc will still set you back well north of $50+. Here, you can look across the street; wines made from grapes just outside the official demarcated boundaries. Some of these grapes literally come from across the street! They cannot carry the vaunted name, often relegated to Vin de Pays status, just look for a good winemaker. Voila!

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose, all wines were purchased at retail

Domaine Georges Vernay
Domaine Georges Vernay is one of the most important vignerons in the Condrieu appellation, with a primary focus on Viognier, a white wine grape found primarily in the Northern Rhone. The top cuvée, Coteau de Vernon, retails for over $150 at release. Today the domaine is run by Christine Vernay, Georges’ daughter. She has converted to organic viticulture and the wines are now (European) certified as such. If you’re curious about Viognier, there is an excellent Jancis Robinson article on the grape and the wine.

Domaine Georges Vernay “Le Pied de Samson” Viognier 2019 VdP

Domaine Georges Vernay Viognier “Le Pied de Samson” IGP 2019 ($55 at Surdyks) 14% abv
The Cuvée Le Pied de Samson is drawn from grapevines at the top of the slopes, above 300 meters in altitude. In past years, the Condrieu regulations reduced the maximum allowable altitude, meaning these vines no longer qualified to be “Condrieu” wines. Literally, they are across the street, on the hill above the “property line” for Condrieu. While $55 isn’t inexpensive, we have the opportunity to taste a very nice Viognier wine grown organically and vinified by a top vigneron. Nice!
Eye: pale gold
Nose: Medium aromas of beeswax, ripe pear, ripe apricot, dried apricot, vanilla, coconut
Mouth: Dry, low acidity, full body with a plush texture, high alcohol, medium plus flavor intensity, long finish. The palate follows the nose, with a bit more accent on the oak notes of vanilla and coconut.
Observations: A delicious wine, quite different from the popular acidity-driven nature of so many white wines today. Plush but not flabby, deliciously ripe and fruit driven wine. I wouldn’t age this wine as it gains its appeal from the fresh fruit supported by oak.

Julia Child’s Casserole Roasted Chicken with Tarragon
I’m a big fan of Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. There are lots of cookbooks and blogs with versions of the classic recipes with timesaving shortcuts. Invariably, if I go to the effort of trying the original, I’m impressed that it is just plain better. A bit more work, sure, but worth it. I was looking for a chance to roast a chicken in a dutch oven, and this recipe seemed perfect. I’m not usually a big tarragon fan, but this dish won me over, the tarragon influenced gravy is absolutely delicious. I found an authentic version posted online, so you can give it a try. Then buy a copy of Julia’s book! The attached recipe is courtesy of countrylife.co.uk

Julia Child’s Poulet Poêlé à l’Estragon

French Winophiles Explore Diversity in Rhone Valley Wines
Take a look at our French Winophiles suggestions for expanding your Rhone repertoire, you’ll surely find something interesting! We’ll be chatting on the topic on Saturday Jan. 21 on Twitter from 10-11am CST, simply search for the #Winophiles hashtag.

Some Other “Across the Street” Rhone Wines
Here are some Rhone wines we’ve enjoyed from places just around the corner or across the street from more famous appellations

Comments
12 Responses to “For Rhone Wine Diversity Look Across the Street #Winophiles”
  1. robincgc says:

    It has been all too long since I have sipped a Viognier! Now you have me craving one. What a brilliant idea to look for winemakers, you know, just outside of the denomination boundaries. Goodness knows I would love to sip Condrieu, but it’s not in the weekly budget to do that very often!

  2. Great advice! Why pay top dollar for an appellation when you can look across the street? Here’s where a savvy retailer could really help the buyer.

  3. Two great tips; follow the winemaker, and Julia knows best!

  4. Alex Bardsley says:

    I think François Villard’s Viognier ‘Les Contours de Deponcins’ is the same idea. Enchanting wine.

  5. Great suggestions on wine and as always the food looks absolutely delicious. Your photographs are literally compelling – roast chicken and Viognier coming up very soon here;)

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