Some Rhone wine suggestions for your Thanksgiving feast.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers November 16, 2005
The classic meal of roast turkey, stuffing and cranberries offers a variety of flavors that expands, rather than limits, the types of wine that can be served. Ideally, the wine should have good fruit flavors, refreshing acidity for balance and not be too tannic or oaky. Champagne and other sparkling wines work wonderfully as would an aromatic Pinot Noir, a crisp Riesling, a fruity Beaujolais Nouveau or a spicy Zinfandel. This year, however, I am recommending a Cotes du Rhone.
Located in the southeast corner of France, the Rhone Valley is 60 miles long and stretches from Vienne in the north to Avignon at the Mediterranean. The ancient Greeks, and then the Romans, planted vineyards along the banks of the Rhone River. Now more than 100,000 acres are under cultivation. The main varietals are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, along with a number of other lesser known grapes. Syrah is predominant in the Northern Rhone, while Grenache is the primary grape of the South. Some wines are made from a single varietal, but most often, Rhone red wines are blends of as many as 13 varieties that may even include the white grape Viognier.
The basic wines are called Cotes du Rhone, and most are from the Southern Rhone. Ones of higher quality are designated Cotes du Rhone Villages, and may have the actual village name as well. The entire region’s several recent years of excellent weather have resulted in high-quality wines across the price spectrum, including the inexpensive Cotes du Rhone bottlings.
The recent releases of Cotes du Rhone are dry with round fruit flavors, a touch of spice and good balance. They are food friendly and value priced, making them an excellent accompaniment to a Thanksgiving feast. Here are some recommendations:
Domaine Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone 2003 ($10) An earthy, mushroom aroma with spicy black cherry and vanilla flavors. Great balance and a fruity long finish.
Paul Jaboulet Aine, Parallel 45 Cotes du Rhone 2001 ($10) The Jaboulet company has been producing wines in the Rhone Valley since 1834. Made from 85 percent Grenache and 15 percent Syrah, this has bright raspberry flavors and a touch of white pepper spiciness along with a nicely balanced finish.
E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2003 ($10) From the well-known producer, this has wonderful red fruit aromas and flavors with moderate tannins, tobacco and vanilla notes and a good smooth finish.
M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone 2003 ($10) Produced by a leader of the biodynamic movement of winemakers, this is a blend of 50 percent Grenache and 50 percent Syrah. It has cherry, fig and berry flavors with a touch of smoke and chocolate in the long finish.
Domaine La Montagnette Cotes du Rhone 2003 ($12). A delicious blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre that is fermented in concrete vats and bottled unfiltered. Big fruit aromas and bright raspberry flavors with a firm structure and finish.
Domaine la Remejeanne, Les Chevrefeuilles Cotes du Rhone 2003 ($11) Medium-bodied with cherry aromas, and strawberry and mild pepper flavors.
Andre Brunel, L’Enlos Cotes du Rhone 2003 ($9) Produced from a single vineyard, this has a ripe cherry nose with blackberry and pepper flavors and a smooth finish.
Perrin & Fils, Reserve Cotes du Rhone 2003 ($8) From vineyards managed by the same team that makes the legendary Beaucastel Chateuneuf-du-Pape. Spicy caramel aromas and red berry flavors with a touch of pepper and a long finish.