The best red wines from France's southern Rhône river valley
Red wines from France's southern Rhône river valley differ from many other regions around the world. While some wines are made from a blend of two or three grape varieties, the reds of the Rhône can have up to 12 different varieties.
The main character is Grenache (giving a soft, fleshy strawberry character, white pepper spice and ample alcohol) often supported by Syrah (for a backbone of firm tannins, blackberry fruitiness and black pepper spice), while Mourvèdre gives a deep colour, drying tannins and a savoury meaty bouquet. The more humble Cinsault puts the jam in the doughnut with red berry fruity flavours.
Côtes du Rhône is the generic Appellation and it applies to half of the wine produced in the Rhône.
The wines are generally medium-bodied, fruity, easy to enjoy and mature quickly for early drinking. Below are the highest-scoring wines from a blind tasting of the best reds of the region.
1) Les Marseilles de Colombo 2013, Jean-Luc Colombo, Côtes du Rhône 13.5pc
Perfumed violets and ripe berries. Delicious, silky texture of berries and a little mineral note. Lovely ripe tannins give a refined finish. Try with a tray of roasted aubergines, courgettes and peppers with garlic cloves, sprigs of rosemary and lemon wedges, all slicked by olive oil.
€11.99 (from €13.99) at O'Brien's nationwide until October 26.
2) Les Violettes 2013, Côtes du Rhône 13.5pc
Quintessential Côtes du Rhône style. Berries and a little pepper. Medium-bodied and sandy fine tannins. Enjoy with a smoked fillet of ham, Puy lentils and diced red onions.
€11.99 by J&C Kenny at McKeogh's Londis, Ballina/Killaloe, Co Clare; JR Supermarket, Renvyle; Murray's Foodstore, Sligo; No. 21 Off-licences, Cork, Midleton, Blarney, Charleville, Ballincollig, Waterford and Carrick-on-Suir.
3) Cuvée des Galets 2014, Côtes du Rhône 14pc
Very ripe and fruity perfume. Very juicy and berryish red fruits. Excellent balance of fruit, acidity and tannins. Match with beef stewed with root vegetables, topped with a freshly mown lawn of green parsley.
€13.50 at Brown's Vineyard, Portlaoise and O'Leary's, Cootehill. In Dublin: The Grapevine, Glasnevin; The Hole in the Wall, Blackhorse Avenue; Martin's, Fairview and quintessentialwines.ie.
4) Côtes du Rhône 2011, E Guigal 14pc
Berry flavours and silky smooth, complete and effortless. Berries hide the alcohol. Enjoy with beef burgers with a tomato chutney centre.
€15.99 at SuperValu and O'Brien's nationwide and Ardkeen Stores, Waterford.
5) Mas Oncle Ernest (Organic) 2011, Côtes du Rhône 14pc
Intense and authentic character. Black fruits and a graphite minerality supported by firm tannins and terroir expression. Serve with cold sliced rolled brisket and pickles.
€19.20 at Wines Direct, Mullingar and winesdirect.ie.
Galaxy Hop IPA, O'Hara's, Carlow 5pc
The second skip in the Hop Adventure Series featuring Australia's Galaxy Hop, imparting peach skin and a little passion fruit exotica to the character.
€3.25 for 500ml at independent off-licences nationwide