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2010 Rasteau, Domaine la Soumade
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André Romero has been dubbed the `Superstar of Rasteau' by no less a figure than Robert Parker, and is equally passionate about his wines and his beloved Marseilles football club. On current form, his wines are in far better shape.
Self-taught and adhering to the virtues of low yields and extended fermentation, Romero has invested in an automatic pigeage system along Burgundian lines which ensures maximum extraction. The resulting wine is soft, yet sturdy, with berry flavours and a whiff of wood-smoke betraying its provenance.
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.
One of the very best villages in the Southern Rhône region, Rasteau’s red wines have been promoted to their own AOC in July 2010. Before that, Rasteau merely appended its name to that of Côtes du Rhône Villages.
The vineyards are located north of Gigondas, and the wines, mainly from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes, are deep-coloured and robust, with a good structure and spicy warmth. A small amount of slightly heady white and rosé are also produced.
The Appellation Rasteau Contrôlée, established in 1944, is used for the commune’s sweet, grapey Vins Doux Naturels made from Grenache. These hearty wines come in various shades of white, rosé, tawny and red depending on how they are made and aged. Best enjoyed in their youth they seem to be making a revival, although they are not as good or as popular as those from the Rhône’s other Vin Doux Naturel appellation, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.
A further AOC is Rasteau Rancio, a Vin Doux Naturel that has been exposed to sunshine and oxygen in barrels for up to two years, resulting in a sticky brown wine of variable quality.
Recommended producer: Domaine la Soumade