The Big Valley: Rhône

  • Christian Navarro

There is an old saying that, if it smells like a Bordeaux and tastes like a Burgundy, it must be a Rhône. Indeed, the wines of this southern region of France strike an interesting medium between the lushness of those from Pauillac and Pomerol and the exquisitely structured austerity of those grown in the Côte de Nuits. Yet until recently, these gems—though prized by connoisseurs—have been for the most part ignored by mainstream consumers. However, this circumstance is changing, particularly with the arrival of the 2007 vintage, which is the greatest in recent memory.

Clos des Papes 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rhone Valley
The late Paul Avril’s son, Vincent, is in charge of this venerable estate, where he carries on his family’s traditions brilliantly. This wine has almost too many attributes to list; nevertheless, its highlights include black tea, viscous framboise, grilled meat, and garrigue, a fragrant type of Mediterranean shrubland composed of lavender, thyme, and oak. ($250)

Guigal 2007 Côte-Rôtie La Landonne
In 1946, Étienne Guigal established this domaine, which is now under the direction of his son, Marcel. Guigal produces stunning cuvées from both northern and southern Rhône appellations. Dazzling flavors of thick-cut bacon, rich black truffle, crème de cassis, and white pepper make this wine a must-have for holiday sipping. ($500)

Domaine du Pegau 2007 Cuvée de Capo Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rhone Valley
Named for a 14th-century wine jug found in Avignon, Domaine du Pegau is owned and operated by the legendary Feraud family, who have overseen its vineyards for multiple generations. This wine is simply a monster, coupling thick blackberry and raspberry aromas with intense dark plum and smoked meat. ($500)

Vieille Julienne 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rhone Valley
Vieille Julienne was purchased in 1905 by the forefathers of Jean-Paul Daumen, the current owner. The vines in the producer’s vineyards have an average age of over 60 years, and the grapes are grown without fertilizers or chemicals, to ensure the purity. This vintage shows earthy notes of fresh-ground black pepper, charcoal, and black currant. ($75)

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