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2011 Côtes du Rhône Rouge, Domaine de la Janasse
Scores and Reviews
Domaine de la Janasse was established in 1973 by Aimé Sabon. Brother and sister team of Christophe and Isabelle Sabon continue to work wonders at Janasse, and farm 80 hectares of vineyards spread over a number of wine appellations: Châteauneuf du Pâpe, which is all located in the north-east of the appellation in the commune of Courthézon to be precise, Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Village, but also Vin de Pays de la Principauté d'Orange and Vin de table.
Concrete tanks are used for the Grenache and oak for the Syrah and Mourvèdre; in other words, everything is fairly traditional; it is the quality of the raw materials which is so impressive and for that reason alone, leaving aside the clear skill and vision of the Sabons, that we are delighted to take on these excellent wines in our listings.
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.
Classified in 1937, Côtes du Rhône is an enormous appellation encompassing red, white and rosé wines covering an area of 40,300 ha and producing a crop that is 3 times larger than Beaujolais and almost as much as Bordeaux. Although this wine can come from across the Rhône region, more than 90% comes from the south. With the honourable exception of those produced by famous northern names like Jaboulet and Guigal, the finest examples are made in the south.
Red wine dominates, made with a minimum of 40% Grenache (except in the north where Syrah is allowed to be top dog) normally partnered by Syrah and/or Mourvèdre; another 18 varieties are also permitted. Typically light and fruity, the best examples can be rich, spicy and full-bodied. Almost all are best drunk young.
Quality varies from the very ordinary to the exceptional. Much is produced by cooperatives but the best come from the increasing number of individual estates and Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers like Beaucastel who produce premium entry wines here. White and rosé Côtes du Rhônes account for only 2% and 4% respectively, although both can be very good.