About this WINE
Domaine le Sang des Cailloux
The charismatic Serge Férigoule has, over the last two decades, done more than most to raise the profile of Vacqueyras. Located on gently ascending limestone vineyards between Vacqueyras itself and Sarrians, this evocatively named property appears, probably a little later than it ought, for the first time on our list.
Vacqueyras was the second Côtes du Rhônes Villages to be upgraded to AOC status, after Gigondas, in 1990 and rightly so. These excellent-value wines are like turbo-charged Côtes du Rhônes: dark and rich with the classic herbs and warm peppery spice of the Southern Rhône.
Compared to neighbouring Gigondas, they are slightly more restrained and rustic – in the best sense of the word – and slightly cheaper. They are made from a little less Grenache (50 percent minimum) with the balance made up with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault.
You should give Vacqueyras two to three years to come round, but they can then last up to a decade. The 770 hectares of vineyards are spread across the communes of Vacqueyras and Sarrians in the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail and produce almost exclusively red wines. The small amount of fresh, fruity rosé is normally well worth the search, while the tiny amount of white wine is mostly not.
Recommended producers: La Bastide de St. Vincent, Montirius
Southern Rhône Blend
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.