The Southern Rhône
A Tasting of Organic Rhône Valley Reds
Friday 12th September
£12 in advance
42-46 Bethel Street
Norwich NR2 1NR
Rich, spicy, smoky, bursting with dark fruit flavours, underpinned by notes of black pepper… you probably like Rhône Valley reds. Most people do. Influential wine critic Robert Parker’s particular infatuation with Rhône style reds has enhanced their profile. He reveres their opulent and voluptuous nature, and marks them highly on his fabled 100 point system.
It’s a popular and increasingly international wine making style, though outside of France some of the grape varieties masquerade under different names – Syrah, for example, is known as ‘Shiraz’. You may have heard of the term ‘Rhône rangers’… a group of travelling American winemakers who have promoted Southern Rhône wines in the US, encouraging plantings of Rhône varietals, especially in California.
But the roots of this kind of wine are back in the Rhône, and these wines themselves are desired internationally. Rhône vintages are studied with an increasing intensity, akin to the attention paid to Bordeaux and Burgundy. But just as hailstorms severely restricted the past three vintages in Burgundy, so adverse weather conditions in the Rhône have led to reduced yields in 2012 and 2013 – though the prospects for this year are more promising.
Rhône Valley wines are usually subdivided in the wine world into north and south. You can visualise the region as an upturned funnel … the north narrower, the south wider, higher yielding. Names like Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie have made the reputation of the north – but also made the wines very expensive. The reputation of the south, meanwhile, has been based around Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but the south has plenty more to offer – and much of it at a more affordable price. We will be sampling five such wines on September 12th.
The wines are the product of two producers, one of which is Montirius. Though the vines have long been in the family, the grapes were previously sold off to be blended by a local co-operative. It wasn’t until current owners Eric and Christine Saurel took over that the name was changed, a winery built, and the wines bottled as a private estate.
The name Montirius is a contraction of the names of the Saurels’ three children (Manon, Justine and Marius), and emblematic of their practice of nurturing their environment in a way that enriches it for succeeding generations. They have even installed a water treatment station, composed of living flora and fauna, which returns the waste water from the winery to drinking water standard.
Montirius wines are certified biodynamic, and the Saurels believe that these growing methods produce high quality fruit. And their wines are pure expressions of fruit – none of their wines are oaked, which they believe offers a more honest representation of their terroir. This terroir is well-respected – Montirius wines are frequent award winners, and are featured on wine lists at starred restaurants throughout France, and into Europe.
The vineyards of Damien Marrès, the man behind the other two wines we’ll be tasting, are dominated by Syrah, the grape variety which built the reputation of Rhone reds. In the past decade he began cultivating additional vineyards under the Monmartel label to expand his production. The bulk of his wine, however, comes from vineyards in Valréas. He is the fifth generation of his family to work this land, and the style is bigger, yet silkier, with more ageing potential.
Whether you’re new to wine tasting or a veteran, these five wines will provide a very interesting overview of the region. People come to our informal and sociable tastings singly or in groups, and wise drinkers eat beforehand!
The evening’s line up:
Côtes du Rhône, AC, Domaine Monmartel 2011
Grape varieties: Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, 13.5% vol.
Shop price: £9.65
Valréas, Domaine Grande Bellane, 2010.
Grape varieties: Syrah, Grenache. 14.5% vol.
Shop price: £10.50
Vins de Pays de Vaucluse Le Cadet, Montirius, 2011
Grape varieties: Grenache, Syrah & Cinsault, 13% vol.
Shop price: £10.95
Vacqueyras Le Village, AC, Montirius 2012
Grape varieties: Grenache & Cinsault, 13% vol.
Shop price: £13.95
Gigondas La Tour, AC, Montirius 2011
Grape varieties: Grenache & Mourvèdre, 14.5% vol.
Shop price: £17.95
All wines at the Greenhouse are certified organic and suitable for vegan diets. Montirius wines are also certified biodynamic.
And now for something completely different…
‘Do You Have Anything English?’
A tasting of Organic English wines
Friday 24th October 2014, 7.30pm
@ The Greenhouse