Katherine Donnelly: A Worthy heir to the Rhone
Bountiful and balanced is what sums up the perfect wine: plenty of ripe fruit, but with the backbone to provide the necessary structure.
That is what the 2009 vintage in France's southern Rhône gave us.
Now, 18 months on from the grape harvest, there is a good selection of it about. The amount of time that a particular wine spends ageing in oak determines when we get to drink it. That, and the rate at which shelves were cleared of the previous vintage, in this case the more variable 2008.
The 2009s of the most basic level of the southern Rhônes, the Côtes du Rhône, have been around since the middle of last year. Basic seems an unfair description, because Côtes du Rhône from this year are punching above their weight.
Further up the hierarchy are more tightly defined regions such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Cairanne, Rasteau, and, of course, Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The wines of the southern Rhône are friendly all-rounders and good with red meats, casseroles and spicy Mediterranean cooking.
Grenache's juicy red-berry and spicy character dominates, backed up by Syrah's darker fruit and black pepper and dollops of Carignan, Mourvèdre and others add a touch of French village character.
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