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The Everyday Sophistication of the Rhône

It is that time of year. The smell of log fires waft through the cooler evening air, venison starts to appear on pub menus, daft, young game birds play chicken with oncoming traffic on the country roads whilst my pigs grunt with contentment in their oak woodland; snuffling up the acorns that throw themselves to their inevitable doom like nutty lemmings off a cliff. It is the time of year when my mind turns to the wines of The Rhone. The wines of the region seem to pair so naturally the foods of this particular season as anyone who has ever dribbled like a teething toddler when tucking into a piece of pink pheasant breast paired with a glass of Crozes-Hermitage rouge in hand will tell you. But, don't forget the whites. I know of no person rich enough to drink Condrieu or white Hermitage on a regular basis without forgoing family holidays for the next ten years, but I implore you to dig out a bottle of St. Joseph Blanc from a masterful producer and get stuck into some smoked duck. You might struggle to recover from the elation, but at least you can still afford a holiday afterwards to recover. To finish off a meal you could look to the Southern Rhone for a half bottle of the excellent value, sweet, Muscat based wines from Beaumes de Venise to go alongside a tart of autumn fruiting raspberries. The wines of the Rhone seem simply made for Autumn.  From the refined, complex, Syrah based wines of the north such as Cote-Rotie to the incredibly rich of fruit and high of alcohol concoctions of the south and it's world famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape. As the air cools and the evenings draw in the Grenache based beasts of Vacqueyras and Gigondas come into their own too and do not forget names like Rasteau or villages defined Cotes du Rhone. There is some fantastically good value wine to be discovered in the satellite regions of the Southern Rhone as indeed there can be, though perhaps to a lesser extent in the north. Again, look for the junior wines of a top producer to unlock some of the magic at a fraction of the price of a wine from one of the more illustrious AOC's. After all very few of us are ever going to be lucky enough to get our  gums into a glass of the Viognier of ridiculously teeny Chateau Grillet, or indeed taste some Syrah from that very special mound of earth at Hermitage. But, there is plenty beyond these benchmark names in this  fabulous region where the searing summer heat and cooling Mistral wind combine to produce wines of great richness and power but also complexity and finesse.
 
Domaine Pichat Cote Rotie "Champon's" 2013
From fruit sourced largely from a steep vineyard in the north of Cote Rotie. Composed of 98% Syrah and 2%Viognier from this producer who still seems remarkably to fly under the radar. Autumn aromas; blackberry crumble, woodsmoke, saddle leather. Silky and elegant on the palate with a warming hug. A treat. £39.95
 
Louis Cheze Saint Jospeh "Ro-Ree" 2015 
This is the kind of wine that makes me purr. This mainly Marsanne/Rousanne blend is a intoxicating marriage of fresh, ripe fruit, mellow oak and nutty, leesy notes. Textured, lighter honeyed with a grapey honesty. £26.95

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