Katherine Donnelly: A wine of distinction
Discerning Irish wine drinkers long ago discovered the distinctive qualities of Rasteau. Those who put their faith in this robust southern French red have been vindicated.
Last year, Rasteau was promoted to AC status, the highest point in the French wine hierarchy.
Previously, red table wines from Rasteau were classified in the lower category of Côtes du Rhône Village, itself a step up from the more general Côtes du Rhône.
Proud Rasteau winegrowers had, for years, been seeking AC status for their reds (they already had it for a heady, port-style dessert wine), similar to nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras.
Breaking tradition doesn't come easy in France, so there was exhaustive study of the vineyards -- and countless tastings, no doubt.
Eventually, the authorities decided that only 1,200 of the 1,300 hectares of vines in Rasteau could be elevated to AC status. See the respect they have for your palate!
Rasteau can be highly concentrated and, like other southern Rhône wines, it is dominated by the spicy and supple red fruitiness of Grenache. Other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre may be added to the mix to lend structure and interest.