Regional Showcase: Rhone Valley

Discover the birthplace of Shiraz and the GSM Blend

FEATURES WINES OF THE RHONE VALLEY

The wineries and wines described below were selected from our exploration of the Rhone Valley. We visited more than 30 wineries and tasted over 200 wines. These wines were selected for their authentic representation of the appellation and style of the region, their value, and above all their quality. We were very fortunate to find numerous back-vintage wines to include in our Rhone Valley Tasting Pack, helping us share with you Rhone Valley wine the way it was made to be enjoyed - aged to prefection.

We hope you enjoy these wines.

One small note. Some wineries call themselves Chateau, while others use Domaine. The difference is simple, and has nothing to do with quality, reputation or value. Older properties with castles surrounded by vineyards are permitted to use Chateau in their name. Newer properties, or simply those vineyards without a castle, don’t have this pleasure and thus use Domaine in their name.

Domaine Remi Niero

The Domaine

This Domaine was one of our first stops on our tour of the Rhone Valley, and we kept coming back to their Condrieu as a reference for others we tasted later in the trip. Domaine Rémi Niero is a small family owned estate producing traditional wines with great concentration of flavours in both Condrieu and Côte Rôtie’s appellations.

Once he could walk, Remi Niero followed his father Robert around in the steep terraced vineyards in Condrieu and Cote-Rotie. Learning his father’s devotion and expertise, Remi recently took over the reigns and expanded the landholding to include vineyards in the nearby Saint-Joseph appellation further south down the Rhone River.

Domaine Remi Niero 2017 “Les Ravines” Condrieu

The only white in the Rhone Valley pack, this wine needed to fly the white wine flag for the region, and it doesn’t disappoint. This Condrieu is made from 100% Viognier in the traditional style. About a third of the wine spends 12 months in oak barrels, the focus is on clean, fresh stone fruit aromas with hints of honey and mint. In true Condrieu style it’s rich on the palate with great concentration of fruit and mineral notes. Pair with seafood.

Remi and Robert after the harvest.

Domaine Francois

The Domaine

Our discovery of Domaine Andre Francois is one of sheer luck.

We flew from Sydney to Lyon via Dubai. Landing late in the day and having checked into our hotel, we ventured out in search of food. We stumbled across a little wine bar. The owner recommended a few wines, but his favourite Cote Rotie (one of the two best known old-world Syrah appellations, the other being Hermitage a few minutes south) was from a winemaker named Andre Francois. We ordered a bottle of their oldest vintage on hand, a 2010. And we’re glad we did.

When we research these trips, we rely on reviews, articles and websites to find about 150 wineries we’d like to visit. Further research whittles this down to about 30 visits. But what this process can’t do is find the beloved local producer with such a small production that it’s not known outside the area, and has no online presence whatsoever. It’s by sheer luck that we stumbled upon Domaine Francois.

When we visited a few days later (our second attempt, as the winery and house were deserted on our first try) were found a humble winery and Francois’ daughter. Through hand signals and Google translate, we had a slow conversation and tasted wines back to 2005. We were blown away by their old Cote Rotie and their viognier, and we’re very excited to bring you their 2006 as a rustic example of old-style, old-world Syrah.

Domaine Francois 2006 “Gerine” Cote Rotie

This wine shows you what old-world syrah is all about. It’s subtle, soft and a little funky, which is what 13 years under cork will do to an old-world wine. It’s at its peak, so don’t delay in drinking it. It’ll pair well with Chateaubriand or other hearty steak dish with mushroom sauce and potatoes.

The steep hillsides of Cote-Rotie are the first vineyards you come to driving south from Lyon.

Château la Nerthe

The Chateau

We visited Chateau la Nerthe early in our time in the Southern Rhone, and it spoilt us. The Chateau can trace it’s impressive history back to the 1500s. A tour of the cellar with Winemaker and Managing Director Ralph took us deeper and deeper into the earth under the chateau, where each branch of the cellar was distinct from its construction and evidence of age. There are still the private cellar cages, where celebrities and notable personalities used to keep their personal collections of Chateau la Nerthe wines within the chateau’s cellar. This practice has been relegated to the past, but the chateau still uses these cages for some of their most prized wines.

The Chateau was so impressive, and the wine so good, that the invading German army made the Chateau their base of operations in the region during the Second World War. German soldiers looted the cellar, drinking wine from vintages stretching back to the origins of the Chateau. Today, the oldest wines in the cellar are from the 1940s, though they actively search for older bottles on the auction market.

We can’t speak highly enough of the team and the wine from Chateau la Nerthe. Every wine we tasted was great value, and we had a difficult time selecting which to include in our tasting pack to represent the Southern Rhone Valley.

Château la Nerthe 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The quintessential wine of the Southern Rhone Valley is the Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend, led by Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. These wines are jammy in their youth, but settling as they age into majestic giants. The 2007 CDP blend from Chateau la Nerthe is a powerful wine not for the faint of heart, but with soft, smooth tannins and gentle acidity which is in perfect balance with the wide range of fruit characters in the wine.

It’s best enjoyed with a hearty meat dish like Beef Bourguignon. See the recipes page for a great traditional recipe from our featured chef Jay Kim.

The cellars under Chateau la Nerthe are carved out of the rock, first being build back in the 1500s and extended multiple times over the centuries.

Domaine du Grand Tinel

The Domaine

Not quite as old as Chateau la Nerthe, Domaine du Grand Tinel can trace its history back to 1770, when Francois Establet started growing grapes in a vineyard called “the Popes” in what would later become the appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. His son Alexis continued growing the domaine by acquiring new vineyards, as did Alexis’ son Georges Establet in 1846.

Born in 1906, Lucien Jeune owned a winery in the area called Baucau and Pied Redon. In the 1930’s he became mayor of Chateauneuf for 25 years. In the 1960’s, the two estates became one when Christiane Establet and Pierre Elie Jeune married.

Today, the domaine’s vineyards cover 74 hectares and are planted with vines of a ripe old age in different varieties, including black Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, and Counoise for the red wines, and white Grenache, Clairette, and Bourboulenc for the white wines.

Domaine du Grand Tinel 2001 “A. Establet” Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Only made in exceptional years, this blend is the flagship wine for the Domaine. A slightly irregular Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend, it is made from only Grenaghe and Syrah vines planted more than 100 years ago. The wine is named for Alexis Establet, a key figure in the historic growth of the Domaine in the early 1800s.

Only made in exceptional years, this blend is the flagship wine for the Domaine. A slightly irregular Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend, it is made from only Grenaghe and Syrah vines planted more than 100 years ago. The wine is named for Alexis Establet, a key figure in the historic growth of the Domaine in the early 1800s.

This wine is OLD, but don’t be put off by that. You may even think it’s a little musty at first, but give it a few minutes after popping the cork and you’ll find a delicate, soft and fully mature Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend in the prime of its life. This is old world Grenache 18 years in the making. At this age, fruit and structure descriptions become less relevant, suffice it to say that it’s simply delicious.

The rugged terrain of the Domaine du Grand Tinel.

Domaine Les Ondines

The Domaine

In contrast to some of the older domaines we visited, Domaine Les Ondines is a youngster. Founded by physicist turned winemaker Jeremy Ondines in 2003, this estate is located in the appellation of Vacqueyras on the eastern edge of the valley. The appellation produces red and white wines with almost identical grape varieties to that of the more famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation to the west. The geographical difference here - the region is higher, rockier and slightly cooler - produces wines which are lighter in body than CDP and generally better enjoyed earlier.

Jeremy experiments with different varieties, producing several straight varietal wines which breach the rules of the appellation and thus must be released without appellation labelling as simply “wines of France”.

It’s great to see that while long standing Chateau continue to succeed in the Rhone, passionate winemakers like Jeremy can also find success producing great wine in the Rhone Valley’s better value appellations. We’re very proud to bring his wine to Australia.

Domaine Les Ondines 2015 “Passion” Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre

This wine is a more accessible version of the famous GSM blend from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This is bright and fruity, with plenty of acidity to make it a good food wine, particularly with fatty dishes like pork belly. This style is best drunk within 5-6 years of bottling.

It's easy to forget that the Rhone Valley sits along the alps - it gets cold in the winter!

Domaine Vallet

The Domaine

The Domaine Vallet is a property of 11.5 hectares located in Serrières at the edge of the Ardèche in the Northern Rhône. They produce red and white Saint-Joseph and Condrieu. The Saint-Joseph region is known for producing good value and (often but not always) great quality wine which is a great introduction to the style of the Northern Rhone. Domaine Vallet is a perfect example of this. Their wines are easy to drink, enjoyable in their youth, and they reach maturity after 4 to 6 years.

The Domaine was a member of a cooperative until 1989, when Louis Vallet pulled out and created the estate in 1990. His son Anthony joined him ten years later, and this was the beginning of a new adventure. Today Domaine Vallet is considered a new rising star in these old appellations.

Domaine Vallet 2016 “Meribets” Saint Joseph

This wine is excellent to accompany prime rib and venison. Made from 100% Syrah (Shiraz) grapes and harvested by hand, this wine is assembled from grapes grown in different vineyards across Serrières and Limony (within the Saint-Joseph appellation) before being aged in oak for about 10 months.

It is a ripe young wine showing the cool climate characteristics of smoked meat and earth. It’s a great introduction to what good value, affordable Northern Rhone red can be. Compare it with the perfectly cellared (and higher quality) Cote Rotie from Domaine Francois to get an idea of what time in the cellar does to cool climate Shiraz.

Anthony in the cellar.

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