About this WINE
Chateau la Nerthe
Ch. la Nerthe is a stunning, 500-year-old property that has become one to watch over the past few years. Working organically since 1998, its impressive range of 57 parcels on various soil types and expositions helps to produce wines which are not only a seamless and complete expression of Châteauneuf-du-Pape but also have wonderful complexity. The noticeable care and attention taken in both the vineyards and cellar has, over the past few years, resulted in seriously impressive wines here. This property is, in every way, a worthy rival to the likes of Ch. de Beaucastel.
The 2019 vintage was challenging here, as it was across the Rhône Valley, given the multiple heatwaves in the summer months and the extreme drought between May and September. But these tricky conditions have revealed the true magic of vines which are so perfectly adapted to manage the majority of nature’s whims; 2019 ended up becoming an exceptional vintage here.
Key to its success this year is the remarkable terroir at Ch. la Nerthe. The mix of rocky, clay and sandy soils, as well as the natural springs at the property, bring a wonderful freshness and minerality to the wines. The very special top white cuvée, Clos de Beauvenir, comes from a single, walled plot – an old castle garden, right in front of the historic château.
Côtes du Rhône Villages
A clear step up from basic Côtes du Rhône in terms of both quality and price, the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation covers an area of 5,700 hectares entirely within the Southern Rhône. About 15 percent of the size of its generic counterpart, it offers mostly excellent, very good value wines from all three hues that are more serious, concentrated and interesting.
Red wines dominate, made up of a minimum 50 percent Grenache, at least 20 percent Syrah and Mourvèdre, and no more than 20 percent from 10 other named varieties. Out of 95 communes that are eligible to use the Villages name, the finest 18 of them have the right to append their village name, as long as the wine is exclusively from that commune. The classification is quite fluid though, with Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and Beaumes de Venise and Vinsobres and Rasteau having been upgraded to AOC status, and other villages like Massif d’Uchaux and Plan de Dieu being added.
Best enjoyed from two to 10 years of age, the best wines probably come from Cairanne and Sablet, but all are well worth a look. The whites are rapidly improving and are delicious in their first three years. Rosé wines are made from the same cépage as the reds and are usually very good.
Recommended Producers: Chapoton, Domaine Cros de la Mûre, La Soumade
White Rhône Blend
In the north, the white wines of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St-Joseph, and St-Péray are produced from blends of Marsanne and Roussanne. Generally Marsanne is the dominant partner and it lends colour, body and weight to the blend, as well as richly scented fruit. Roussanne, a notoriously low yielder and pernickety to grow, produces intensely aromatic wines which contribute bouquet, delicacy and finesse to the blend.
Until about 15 years ago there was very little interest in southern Rhône whites as it was widely believed that the combination of dull non aromatic grapes and the baking summer heat meant quality wine production was nigh impossible. Since then the quality has improved markedly through the introduction of cool fermentation techniques and increased plantings of northern Rhône white grapes.
The base of many blends is still Grenache Blanc, a widely planted variety producing fresh wines with apple-like fruits, often with hints of aniseed. Ugni Blanc is still found in many blends, as is Clairette though their general lack of character and definition has led to a reduction in plantings. The future for southern Rhône whites appears to lie with Roussanne, Marsanne, and, increasingly, Viognier.