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2012 St Péray, Cuvée Prestige, Domaine du Tunnel
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Located in a somewhat anonymous back-street of St Peray in Rhone, Domaine Du Tunnel is forging a reputation as one of the leading wine producers in newly rejuvenated villages of St Peray and Cornas, both famous through history and throughout France for making, respectively, excellent white and red wines.
Now, with the savoir faire of young vignerons such as Stéphane Robert, this reputation is set to achieve more international recognition.
Stephane began building this domain in 1994, when he was 24. He now works with 3ha in Cornas, 2.5 in Saint Joseph and 2 in Saint Peray, most of which he owns Aiming for wines which are characterised by fruit intensity rather than oak
Roussanne is one of the most important white grape varieties in the Rhône Valley. It is a particularly pernickety grape to cultivate being a notoriously low yielder as well as being highly susceptible to rot. It is difficult to ripen, and seemingly prone to oxidation at every opportunity. Roussanne's name comes from its russet-coloured skin and it produces richly aromatic wines, often with fruit characteristics of lime and blossom.
In the northern Rhône it is typically blended with Marsanne to produce the white wines of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St-Joseph, and St-Péray. Generally Marsanne is the dominant partner and it lends colour, body and weight to the blend, as well as richly scented fruit, while Roussanne contributes bouquet, delicacy and finesse.
It is grown less extensively in the southern Rhône although it is one of the permitted varieties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are plantings of Roussanne in the Languedoc and Rousillon and in the last decade the grape have been cultivated with particular success in California, where it is produced both as a single varietal and as a component of Rhône-style blends.
St Péray is a small Northern Rhône wine appellation situated directly south of Cornas, and directly west of Valence. There are 65 hectares of vineyards (mostly limestone-based), and the main production is sparkling wine made via the traditional method.
Ninety percent of the planting is Marsanne, the remainder being made up of Rousanne and the lesser-known Roussette. Production of still whites is on the increase and this is undoubtedly an appellation to watch.
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