15% Off Rhône (3/13/12)

Here’s the abridged version of the Rhône Valley story:

The northern Rhône is teeming with trophy bottles, and the southern Rhône produces amazing, versatile wines for every night of the week.

Scroll down for the full story, or head straight to the sale now!

Southern Rhône

The largest appellation in the Rhône Valley is the Côtes du Rhône. It is not a single contiguous region: Côtes du Rhône grapes are grown on many separate patches of land in both the northern and southern parts of the Rhône Valley, but the majority of Côtes du Rhône grapes come from the southern Rhône.

As you can imagine, Côtes du Rhône wines are made in a huge variety of styles. Most are red, though we do come across the occasional delicious white Côtes du Rhône as well.

The primary red grapes for Côtes du Rhône are Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsault. Depending on the blend (and the vintage, and the specific terroir), the wines can range from tannic and robust to fruity and light.

The primary white grapes are Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Viognier, Ugni Blanc, Marsanne, and Roussanne.

With so many permitted grape varieties, it can be difficult to generalize about Côtes du Rhône wines. That said, many of the reds offer exuberant berry fruit on the palate, with notes of coffee, spice, and game. The white wines are often full-bodied, dry, and richly textured.

Inside the Côtes du Rhône are several smaller appellations, known collectively as Côtes du Rhône-Villages, which abide by stricter regulations, and generally produce better wines than basic Côtes du Rhône. Wines from the best village appellations are permitted to include the name of their village (e.g., Sablet) on the label.

Other familiar southern Rhône appellations include Tavel (which produces dry rosés), Lirac, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and the most famous of all, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Red wines from these southern Rhône appellations are based on the Grenache Noir grape, and these reds, like Côtes du Rhône, can range from light and fruity to dark and brooding. Many are delicious in their youth, and some (especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape) will improve in the cellar for decades.

Northern Rhône

While the southern Rhône is made up of large swaths of land, many northern appellations are tiny hillside vineyards. The three most famous appellations of the northern Rhône are Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie, and Cornas, all of which have this prized hillside exposition.

Another difference between the northern and southern parts of the Rhône: with rare exceptions, reds from the northern Rhône are made from 100% Syrah. In general, these red wines are less opulent and fruit-driven than the Grenache-based reds of the southern Rhône. Wines from the north tend to display the classic “savory” characteristics of Syrah, including black olives, bacon fat, black pepper, violets, and cigar ash. These wines are not for the meek.

Pick up a bold northern Rhône red at a discount today – along with a Tavel (“serious rosé”), a berry-flavored Lirac, a case of Côtes du Rhône for a dinner party, and just about anything else you’ve been craving. The Rhône has a wine for every palate, and they’re all on sale now.

See our full selection here!

Staff Pick: Côtes du Rhône Brézème, Helfenbein – 2010

Côtes du Rhône Brézème, Helfenbein - 2010

Fans of Eric Texier may be familiar with the relatively obscure viticultural zone of Brézème in the Northern Rhône. The red wines of Brezeme are made entirely of Syrah planted on limestone and clay soils. Helfenbein’s example shows the softer side of Syrah, but still has a smoky, gamey (bacon fatty) edge with some sweet tobacco and violet notes as well. This wine has a nice freshness to it that makes it pretty quaffable on its own, but would also be great with some salty snacks, especially charcuterie.
– AL