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tasting notes
The Rhône

(Prices and stockists in the UK are listed in brackets; as a rough guide £1 = US$1.50. Date of tasting is indicated by month/year at the end of the note.)

For convenience, I've broken this region into its two quite distinct subregions, the Northern and Southern Rhône. The two are quite different in character, and so this sort of division makes sense.

Northern Rhône Back to top

Driving north from Valence? I strongly recommend that you leave the autoroute and take the N86, which follows the course of the sleepy Rhône river. There's a continuous swathe of vineyards following the contours of the hills on the left of the road for some 40 miles, with the appellations of St Peray, Cornas, St Joseph, Condrieu and Côte Rôtie merging into each other. Over on the right bank of the river, the land is flatter and there's just one large hill, that of Hermitage, with the lower land around it home to Crozes Hermitage. Some of the vineyards here are spectacular, and the many of the wines no less so. It's predominantly red wine country, and Syrah is the grape here. Its expression varies both with the appellation and the producer, reaching different but similarly exalted heights in Côte Rôtie and Hermitage, with the best examples from Cornas lagging not far behind. White wines are less common but can be brilliant, with the peaks coming in the form of Condrieu (from Viognier) and Hermitage (Rousanne and Marsanne star). Vineyard area of the top appellations is restricted, and only small quantities of wine are made, making availability a problem.

See also: 

Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Thalabert 1983 Northern Rhône
Intense, rich and sweetly fruited with lovely fruit: damson, plum and raspberry. There’s also a lovely savoury, meaty dimension here, with hints of earth, medicine and black tea. This has aged beautifully and is peaking now, I reckon, but there’s still lots of life here. 93/100 07/09  

Eric Texier Crozes Hermitage 2007 Northern Rhone, France
This is nice. It's not a big, obvious, meaty style of Crozes, but instead shows more in the way of elegance. It's sappy, smooth, fresh and has gently peppery cherry fruit. It tastes like a really good Beaujolais, with its juicy, open character. Delicious. 91/100 05/09

Chaupoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 2004 Northern Rhône, France
I was pleasantly surprised by this. It shows supple, sweet red berry and dark cherry fruit with a hint of pepperiness. The palate has elegant, midweight savoury red fruits. Lovely focus with good acidity and some pure, bright fruit. 91/100 07/09

Crozes-Hermitage Beaufeuil 2008 Northern Rhone, France
Really fresh cherry fruit nose with a distinctive pepper character. The palate shows really attractive bright cherry fruit with some grippy tannins under the sweet fruit as well as nice meaty savouriness. Midweight, fresh and delicious, this is lovely cool climate Syrah that's expressive and quite elegant. 89/100 (£8.99 Morrisons) 08/09  

Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2004 Northern Rhône, France
Fresh, bright, slightly meaty red fruits nose. The palate is quite smooth with dark, spicy, meaty fruit and good acidity. Spicy and a tiny bit rustic, but with lots of interest. 91/100 (£39.99 The Sampler) 12/08

Yves Cuilleron Saint Joseph Pierres Leches 2005 Northern Rhône
Very fresh, spicy red fruits nose is bright and quite refined, with a lovely freshness. Juicy, bright, expressive palate with some peppery spiciness. Finishes quite grippy. Lovely bright Syrah. 90/100 (£16.99 The Sampler) 12/08

Gilles Barge Côte-Rôtie Le Combard 2007 Northern Rhône, France (cask sample)
Just delicious. Fresh, bright nose of meaty, peppery raspberry and just-ripe cherry fruit with lovely floral aromatics. The palate is expressive and elegant, with a meaty, subtly animally edge to the beautifully textured sweet and sour fruit, combining pure, sweet cherries with tart acidity and peppery freshness. It’s complex, brooding and quite profound: the antithesis of clumsy, dark, extracted, oaky Syrah.
92–94/100  12/08

Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet ‘La Souteronne’ Gamay 2007 Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche, France 
Fresh, slightly sappy, herb-tinged nose. The palate has a lovely smooth texture and shows pure red cherry and cranberry fruit, with freshness, elegance and just a little spicy grip on the finish, making this a delightful, food-compatible wine of great purity.
91/100 (www.lescaves.co.uk) 07/08

Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet Syrah 2007 Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche, France

This is simply beautiful.
There’s a distinctive cool-climate Syrah peppery kick on the nose, which is otherwise really pure and focused, with a gentle leafy character underneath the red fruits. The palate is beautifully supple, slightly sappy, and fantastically elegant, with real purity to the smoothly textured fruit. I guess the granite soils may have something to do with this: it’s light, but aromatic. Just 11.7% alcohol. 93/100 (www.lescaves.co.uk)  07/08  

Dumien-Serrette Cornas ‘Patou’ 2005 Northern Rhône, France
Very smooth, ripe, lush nose is pure and shows seamless liqueur-like red and black fruits. The palate is bold, dense and pure with nice gravelly, savoury, tannic structure. Intriguing stuff: bold and full with lovely weight and purity. 93/100 (£22.49 UK agent Richards Walford) 02/08

Gilles Barge Côte Rôtie Cuvée du Plessy 2004 Northern Rhône, France
Very perfumed, open, aromatic nose of violets, meat, herbs and olives. The palate is elegant with lovely expressive dark fruits. Not a heavy wine, but beautifully perfumed and elegant in a traditional style. 93/100 (£24.99 UK agent Richards Walford) 02/08

JL Chave Sélection Hermitage Blanche 2004 Northern Rhône, France
Mainly Marsanne. This is a lovely, rich-textured, soft wine with real intensity and a bit of spicy wood. Really deep and bold with a hint of tangerine and fat melony fruit. Remarkable stuff. 90/100 02/09

Gilles Robin Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Alberic Bouvet 2005 Northern Rhone, France
I really like this wine: it's a fantastic expression of northern Rhone Syrah. Deep coloured, it has a fresh, peppery dark fruits nose with a meaty, slightly animally complexion to the sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. The palate has a lovely earthy, meaty, spicy edge to the ripe black fruits with good acidity and a subtle plummy bitterness keeping things nice and savoury. Tight and youthful, this is great with hearty food right now, but could be kept for another five years to mellow out a bit. 13.5% alcohol. 91/100 (£14.95 Great Western Wine)  12/08

Chave Hermitage 1983 Northern Rhone, France
A fantastic wine. Beautifully aromatic, with a fresh, spicy personality and a complexity that’s hard to put into words. I was getting notes of tar, earth, herbs, blood and meat. It’s sweet but savoury at the same time. The palate showed spicy red fruits with a subtle medicinal character, as well as tangy citrus notes on the finish. A complex, multifaceted wine with nice definition. 95/100 09/08

Chapoutier Hermitage 1978
Very fresh and complex with minty, herby notes emerging, as well as some dark fruit character. This an appealing wine with brightness and elegance to the fore. It's not a big, heavy wine, but instead shows a precise, well focused personality, and you get the feeling that this has still got a bit more to give. 93/100 05/08

Dard & Ribo C’est le Printemps Crozes Hermitage 2007 Northern Rhône, France
Very pure, elegant, light nose with fresh perfumed cherry fruit. The palate has a hint of fizziness but it’s really well focused and quite long with amazing purity of fruit. Approachable and more-ish. Remarkable stuff. 91/100 05/08

Dard & Ribo St Joseph 2006 Northern Rhône, France
Wonderful pure, meaty, olive-like nose with sweet, pure raspberry fruit playing second fiddle to the savoury meaty notes. The palate has a lovely purity to the fruit with a subtly green meaty character and some spicy tannin on the finish. It’s intensely fruity. A really interesting expression of northern Rhône Syrah. 91/100

JM Stephan Côte-Rôtie Vieilles Vignes 2004 Northern Rhône, France
Spicy, earthy, complex nose, showing warm spicy notes together with earthiness. The palate is complex and earthy with nice elegance. Lovely wine. 93/100 05/08

JM Stephan Côte-Rôtie Vieilles Vignes 2005 Northern Rhône, France
Assertiv, bright, focused red and dark fruits here with a bright spiciness to the nose. The palate has real structure and depth with firm tannins than clamp down on the fruitiness. Earthy, too. One for the future. 93/100 05/08

Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Petite Ruche 2005 Northern Rhone, France
This northern Rhone Syrah is bright, fresh and juicily vibrant, with focused raspberry-tinged fruit as well as a subtle peppery meatiness. There's good fresh acidity here, and it's nicely savoury, but it does taste quite light and commercial when compared with more serious Crozes Hermitage. A useful food wine, I'd buy this if the price was right - around £6. 84/100 (Waitrose)  

JP & JL Jamet Côte-Rôtie 1999 Northern Rhône
Another crack at this wine, which Ifve now had several times. At an en primeur tasting many years ago I described this 1999 as possibly the best young wine Ifd ever tasted. Itfs now approaching a rather savoury phase, now that the puppy fat is shed, and it shows itself as a classically styled Côte-Rôtie. Perfumed nose has spicy, animally, meaty characters alongside the fruit. The palate is savoury and intense with lots of fruit but also a distinctive meaty spiciness. Ifll not be opening my remaining few bottles for a while. Very good/excellent 93/100 12/06

Chapoutier Les Meysonniers Crozes-Hermitage 2005 Northern Rhone, France
Nicely packaged with the usual Chapoutier braille label and a good quality bottle. I have had mixed experiences with Chapoutier's wines over the last few years - they just haven't delivered that essence of northern Rhone Syrah that I'm looking for when I come to this region. This bottle sort of delivers, and I'm enjoying it. It has a fresh, savoury nose that's distinctly peppery with rather subdued dark fruits and a hint of greenness. The palate is midweight, showing more of those peppery dark fruits, good acidity, and mouth-drying, rather fearsome tannins. I like the fact that it's not tricked up, and that it is distinctly savoury. It's also showing good typicity. I just feel it could do with a touch more fruit intensity to balance those bold tannins. Still, a good food wine, and I'm happy to drink it. 88/100 (£11.49 Averys, Oddbins, BBR) 11/07

Fayolle Crozes Hermitage Les Voussères 2003 Northern Rhône, France
Lovely vibrant, full juicy berry fruit with a nice savoury, dark streak, and firm but smooth tannins. Bright accessible fruit here with a hint of meatiness. Lovely. Very good+ 89/100 (at St John reastaurant) 09/05

Vincent Paris St Joseph 2003 Northern Rhône, France
Wonderful stuff: deep coloured with fantastic crunchy, peppery, spicy red fruits. Lovely primary vivid fruit on the palate with substantial tannic structure. Lovely freshness. Very good/excellent 92/100 (at St John restaurant) 09/05

Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage 2004 Rhône, France
Deep coloured. Fantastic nose of dark olives, meat and spice with vibrant dark fruits. Fresh, concentrated, vivid fruit on the palate with good structure and high acidity. A fantastic individual wine with loads of personality. Very good/excellent 94/100 (£13.99 Waitrose, Yapp Bros) 04/06

Jamet Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes 2004 Northern Rhône, France
What a fantastic wine! It’s honest, bright, fresh and drinkable, with lots of personality. Bright fresh raspberry fruit dominates with a hint of earthiness, lots of savoury pepperiness, just a faint green note and good acidity. Brilliantly drinkable, in a light style. Very good+ 88/100 (£6.49 Majestic) 12/05

Sainsbury’s Crozes Hermitage (Cave de Tain) 2003 Northern Rhône, France
This isn’t a particularly big, fruity red, but it works for me, with its tight, dark savoury character. The raspberry and blackberry fruit has an extra dimension of spice and meatiness, and it’s kept fresh by a pleasantly bitter, high acid finish. A ‘real’ wine. Very good+ 89/100 (Sainsbury £6.99) 12/05

Emmanuel Darnaud Crozes Hermitage Les Trois Chênes 2003 Northern Rhône, France
Very rich, pure sweet fruit on the nose with a hint of olive. Perfumed and alluring. The palate shows great concentration and weight with spicy, structured fruit. A fantastic wine in a rich style. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£13.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) 10/05

Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage 2001 Northern Rhône, France
Very distinctive herb, olive, meaty nose: there’s a hint of greenness but it meshes well with the intense, smoky, spicy red fruits. The palate is savoury and intense with a strong herbal, meaty, olive-like character and high acidity. This wine originally showed much more fruity in its youth. Striking stuff and very Northern Rhône. Very good/excellent 92/100 05/05  

Domaine des Amphores St Joseph 2001 Northern Rhône, France
Wonderful perfumed nose that just screams ‘Northern Rhône Syrah’ at you, with its olive-like meaty, spicy dark fruits and a hint of herby green character. Slightly stinky in a nice way. The palate is savoury and spicy with open dark fruits and a tangy, meaty character. Good acid and a spicy, dusty but fine grained tannic structure. A lovely food wine. Very good/excellent 91/100 (10 Euros in a wine shop in Orleans) 11/04

Cave des Clairmonts Crozes-Hermitage 2003 Northern Rhône, France
I’m sorta undecided about the 2003 vintage in the Rhône, in both north and south. It was hot, yes, which normally would be good. But this time, I think it was too hot, leading to an odd sort of phenolic development and some rather awkward tannins in the final wines. Harvest began here on 20 August, for goodness sake. But it was by no means a disaster across the board, and this is one of the success stories. It shows forward, sweet raspberry fruit on the nose, and the palate is supple with lovely forward ripe fruit character. There’s savoury structure underneath this forward Syrah fruit, reminding us where we are. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£7.49 Waitrose) 04/05

Jean Lionnet Côtes du Rhône Cepage Syrah 2000 Rhône, France
This is a Northern Rhône Syrah from a Cornas producer. It’s a delightfully honest wine. Savoury, slightly dusty nose with a hint of meatiness to the peppery red fruits. The palate is midweight and savoury with good acidity and a distinctive white pepper character. Very drinkable and savoury: there’s a juicy vibrancy to the dry tannic fruit. Delicious if a little uncomplicated. Very good+ 88 (£6.95 Jeroboams) 10/04

Gilles Barge St Joseph Clos des Martinets 2001 Northern Rhône
Lovely intense, spicy, meaty, savoury wine with lots of flavour and concentration. Very good/excellent 91/100 03/04

Gilles Barge Condrieu La Solaire 2003 Northern Rhône, France
Deep yellow colour. Nutty nose with some fruit richness leads to a savoury, rich, super smooth Viognier palate with a spicy frame to the flat, nutty, peachy fruit. A slightly old-fashioned style of Condrieu with a savoury richness. Very good+ 89/100 08/05

Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard 2003 Northern Rhône, France
Dark coloured. Wonderful fresh, ripe, vivid spicy peppery red fruits on the nose. The palate is structured, tight and spicy with very fresh dark, meaty, spicy bloody fruit. Not heavy and quite elegant, a brilliant wine. Very good/excellent 94/100 08/05  

Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot 1997 Northern Rhône, France
High-toned raspberry fruit nose with just a hint of herbaceousness and green olive chartacter. Quite elegant midweight palate shows stalky raspberry and blackcurrant fruit with high acidity. Quite fresh and youthful. A challenging wine that needs food. Very good+ 89/100 12/03

Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage 1998 Northern Rhône, France
Really drinking well now, this shows pungent olive and herb character to the fairly lean, savoury red fruits. A distinctive style of wine that I really like. Very good/excellent 91/100  08/04

Domaine du Colombier Crozes Hermitage Cuvée Gaby 1999 Northern Rhône, France
Savoury roasted meat and raspberry fruit nose, with some black olives, too. The palate is chewy, chunky and savoury with good acid and well integrated wood. Could still do with a few more years bottle ageing. Very good/excellent 90/100 12/03

Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot 1997 Northern Rhône, France
High-toned raspberry fruit nose with just a hint of herbaceousness and green olive chartacter. Quite elegant midweight palate shows stalky raspberry and blackcurrant fruit with high acidity. Quite fresh and youthful. A challenging wine that needs food. Very good+ 89/100 12/03

Domaine du Colombier Crozes Hermitage Cuvée Gaby 1999 Northern Rhône, France
Savoury roasted meat and raspberry fruit nose, with some black olives, too. The palate is chewy, chunky and savoury with good acid and well integrated wood. Could still do with a few more years bottle ageing. Very good/excellent 90/100 12/03

Domaine des Amphores 2001 St Joseph, Northern Rhône
Purchased for €10 at a wine shop in Orleans, this delicious St Joseph is superb value, but in the UK would probably cost at least £10. Very deep coloured, arresting nose of pepper, bacon fat and slightly floral, olive-like notes. The palate is quite raspberryish and meaty with a spicy, slightly animally edge. Very savoury, this is a good food wine with good acid. Textbook northern-Rhône Syrah. Very good+ 88/100 08/03

Pierre Gaillard St Joseph 1999, Northern Rhône
Deep coloured. Lovely ripe blackcurrant and raspberry fruit nose, with a slightly meaty, spicy edge. On the palate good tannins and relatively high acidity provide the structure, with vivid, spicy edged raspberry fruit dominating. Modern and satisfying but with good typicity. Very well judged: it’s not trying to be a ‘big’ wine. Very good+ 89 (H&H Bancroft, approximately £6.50 on sale – normal price about £10) 05/03

Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage ‘Thalabert’ 1995 Northern Rhône, France
One from the cellar. Cherry red colour with a tiny bit of fading round the rim. Leathery, slightly spicy nose with evolved earthy character. Savoury, spicy high acid palate is quite tight and a little tart with good acidity and some tannin. The fruit’s almost gone. Quite interesting but not compelling. Very good 03/03

Domaine Barge Côte Rôtie 2000, Northern Rhône, France
This is an attractive, classically styled Côte Rôtie. Medium bodied, with a nice balance of meaty, herby fruit, tannins and acidity on the palate. Nothing flash here, but it’s classic. The nose is lively and perfumed with open meaty, spicy, green olive character. Drinking well now and probably for the next five years. A little bit light to be top notch, but still impressive. Very good/excellent (c. £11 in France) 01/03

Domaine Georges Vernay Syrah 2000 Vins de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Northern Rhône
Smooth and medium bodied with some subtle spicy, savoury berry fruit. Just a trace of minerality and meatiness. Good acidity. This isn’t a big wine but it’s quite classy, silky textured and could pass for a middling Côte Rôtie. Very good+ (£8.95 Bentalls) 10/02

Jamet Syrah Vin de Pays de Collines Rhodaniennes 2001
Meaty peppery red with a lovely savoury character behind the primary raspberry fruit. It’s not a blockbuster, but everything works well together. A brilliant cheapie which goes very well with food. Lots of character. Very good+ (Majestic £5.99) 12/02

Michel Ogier Côte Rôtie 1995, Northern Rhône
Very deep coloured. Powerful, meaty nose has a lovely perfumed bacon-like edge. Rich, but still quite elegant with smooth, classy raspberry fruit. The palate is extremely savoury with firm tannins, herby fruit and high acidity. Hints of green olives and stinky cheese, too. A sensational wine. Excellent 04/02 

Michel Ogier Côte Rôtie ‘La Belle Hélène’ Côte Rozier Vielles Vignes 1995, Northern Rhône
Ogier’s most recent release of this special bottling of Côte Rôtie, which is matured in new barrels, was awarded 100 points by Robert Parker, so expect the pricing go into the stratosphere. This 1995 has a sensational nose with liquoricey, meaty green olive-tinged fruit. Lovely complexity. Rich, spicy, meaty palate is wonderfully complex. The new oak seems to bring out the best in this wine without being in any way dominant. Excellent 05/02   

Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage 1998, Northern Rhône
Deep coloured. Really rich forward nose of green olives and meaty berry fruits. Palate is rich, full and very savoury. Firm tannins.  Very good/excellent 06/02 

Alain Graillot St Joseph 1999, Northern Rhône
Deep coloured. Wonderful vivid raspberry fruit on the nose with a meaty, slightly earthy edge. The palate is dense and firm with more intense raspberry fruit and lovely medicinal green olive notes. Tannic and firm, this is a lovely wine in a brilliantly savoury, bold style. Very good/excellent (£15 Waitrose) 10/02

J. L. Chave Hermitage 1988, Northern Rhône
Still very deeply coloured, this is a remarkable wine. The rich, meaty, savoury nose has some animal-like complexity and leads to a dense, slightly stern palate. There’s still lots of tannic structure but some savoury richness too. Full-on and completely delicious. Shame about the price of the current release, but given the quality of this fourteen year-old example it’s easy to see why. Excellent 03/02  

Cave de Tain l’Hermitage Hermitage 1999, Northern Rhône
Quite lush raspberry fruit on the nose with a spicy edge. Midweight palate shows spicy, savoury raspberry fruit with good acidity. Not a big wine and still quite primary: how will this evolve? Very good+ (£15.99 Majestic) 10/02

Pierre Gaillard Saint Joseph Blanc 2000, Northern Rhône
This northern Rhône white is not for everyone, but it’s a brilliant example of its style. Very rich, fruity floral nose with a sweet, luscious edge and some honey notes. The palate is soft-textured, rich and nutty; clean and fruity with some tropical notes. A forward, low acid style. Very good/excellent (£9.95 Berry Bros) 04/02

Rene Rostaing Côte Rôtie Classique 1998 Northern Rhône
Quite a traditional, tasty Côte Rôie, although it’s a little young to be broaching this example from a very good vintage. The nose is meaty and savoury with an attractive green olive edge and it leads to a dense palate showing good acidity and a bit of tannic structure. Very good/excellent 03/02

Jean-Louis Chave Saint Joseph 'Offerus' 1999
A negociant wine from possibly the best producer in the Northern Rhône. It's a deep red/purple colour with striking meaty nose showing some lively peppery notes. The palate is intensely savoury with more meaty Syrah fruit and quite a firm tannic edge. There's a high-acid finish to this substantial wine. Very good/excellent (£12.14 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine Mouton Syrah 2000, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes
This producer is a 'new kid on the block' in Côte Rôtie, and if this deeply impressive Vin de Pays is anything to go by, his Côte Rôtie must be worth checking out. There's a pronounced roast coffee edge to the meaty, smoky nose: it's fragrant, almost perfumed. Delicious savoury, meaty palate with good density and concentration, and a touch of spiciness. Chunky, with lots of character. This is a good price for an authentic expression of Northern Rhône Syrah. Very good/excellent (£6.50 La Vigneronne) 11/01

Jaboulet Crozes Hermitages Les Jalets 1999, Northern Rhône
The nose shows bright raspberry fruit with an attractive meaty, spicy, peppery edge. Quite good concentration on the palate, with a savoury edge. This is an authentic Northern Rhône Syrah, but in quite a light style. Very good (c. £8 Oddbins) 10/01

Domaine des Remizières Saint Joseph 1999
An opaque red/purple colour this wine has a sexy, ostentatious nose of sweet, tarry, oaky fruit with a toasty edge. The palate shows savoury, roasted raspberry fruit with great concentration. Very modern and full, this is a striking wine which some will really love, although it's a little too oaky for my palate. Very good+ (£10.18 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Gilles Barge Côte Rôtie Cuvée du Plessy 1998
Wonderful open nose showing beautifully complex perfumed, meaty Syrah fruit, with a herbal green olive edge. The palate is intensely savoury and nicely balanced, with meaty, herbal fruit and substantial structure from the tannins and acidity. I'd leave for a little while before drinking though. Excellent (£18.50 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Pierre Dumazet Condrieu 1999, Northern Rhône
Impressive Viognier, but expensive. Classic, rich peachy nose leads to a well balanced palate with good acidity; not a super-rich style, but plenty of herby, peachy fruit. Very good+ (£19.00 Bibendum) 11/01

Domaine du Colombier Crozes Hermitages Cuvée Gaby 1999, Northern Rhône
Deep red/purple colour with an attractive nose of meaty raspberry fruit: savoury and delicious. The palate is still quite tannic, with bright berry fruit and a nice meaty edge. Tasty. Very good/excellent (£9.20 Bibendum) 11/01

Delas Freres St Joseph 'Les Challeys' 1998, Northern Rhône
An authentic expression of Syrah from the Northern Rhône, this has a wonderful savoury nose of roasted, meaty fruit with an attractive floral edge. The palate is almost austere with meaty fruit, firm tannins and high acidity. A great food wine but not all the components are working together here. Very good+ (about £9 World Marechal) 09/01

Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage 1998
The second of nine bottles that I have of this wine, it is striking, challenging stuff. Intensely savoury, with a delicious cheesy/meaty character and high acidity. This is definitely not a fleshy, fruity wine: it really needs food at the moment. There are also some olive-like herbal notes, and perhaps just a touch of greenness. This is about as far away from a ripe Aussie Shiraz as you could get, even though it’s the same grape. On day two, raspberry-like fruit is evident. It will be interesting to track the progress of the remaining seven bottles. Very good/excellent 07/01

Domaine Chomel Crozes Hermitage 1999, Northern Rhône
A medium bodied wine offering cherry and raspberry fruit, but otherwise not showing a great deal of interest at this stage. Good/very good (£6.99 Majestic) 10/01

Guigal Condrieu 1999, Northern Rhône
A rich, peachy, spicy nose leads to a lovely full, fat-textured palate with some floral notes. It’s a lovely, balanced, full flavoured example of Condrieu. It isn’t cheap, but Condrieu never is. Very good/excellent (Sainsbury £19.99) 05/01

Ogier Côte Rôtie 1996
A profound wine from the Northern Rhône. Stunning nose: meaty, herby, pungent, medicinal but at the same time delicate and with a floral edge. On the mid-weight palate the firm tannins and high acidity balance beautifully with the dense, earthy fruit. It's savoury and delicious: the antithesis to the new oak, high alcohol, overripe fruit international style that's so prevalent these days. Excellent (Berry Bros £14.95) 2/01

Delas Freres Les Launes Crozes Hermitage 1998
The last of several bottles of this wine that I've had in recent months. There is right raspberry fruit and high acid here, but the dominant character is a delicious cheesy, meaty, savoury streak that runs through the wine. Quite individual and very tasty, but I'd drink this young rather than cellar it. Very good+ (World Marechal £6.70) 06/01

Domaine Combier Crozes Hermitage 1999
From a well known organic producer, this is the regular bottling, not the pricier Clos des Grives. A deep red/purple colour, this shows sweet, chocolatey, ripe fruit on the nose with some cinnamon spice. The palate is soft and rich, with blackcurrant fruit. With good concentration, this is a rich, ripe wine that reminds me more of the new world than the Northern Rhône. It's delicious, but I prefer my Crozes to have more regional character than this. As it opens out over the course of a few hours, more serious raspberry fruit begins to emerge together with some tannins and acidity. If you have some of this, I'd be tempted to leave it a couple of years to let it show what it's really about. Very good+ (About £10, World Marechal) 07/01

Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 1998
Deep purple/black in colour, this is a meaty, intensely savoury wine, with flavours of herbs, olives and tar backed up by firm tannins and high acidity. There's a wild, medicinal edge to this powerful but expressive wine. Drinkable now, although it really needs to be paired with food in this youthful stage of its development. I'm very glad I picked up several of these. Very good/excellent (a bargain at £6 each, normal retail is more like £10) 10/00

St Joseph Blanc Les Challeys 1997, Delas Freres
A deep yellow/gold colour, this is an unusual wine. There is a muted nose of honey and minerals which leads to an odd, low-acid palate that is a bit flat and partially oxidised. There's a short finish, too. OK (£5.09 Worldmarechal) 11/00

Syrah 1999, Vin du Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Pierre Gaillard
This vin de Pays from the Northern Rhône has real character. Purple/black colour. Explosive nose of cheesy, herby fruit with a smoky, animal edge. On the palate it is savoury with lean fruit and high acidity. This is a tasty, inexpensive wine, to be enjoyed young: what a shame it was sealed with a poor-quality agglomerate cork. (About £4, Worldmarechal) 10/00

JL Chave Hermitage 1994, Rhône
Beautifully perfumed and expressive Hermitage, with smoky, syrah characters and a a burnt rubber edge. Complex and attractive, with firm acidity. Lovely wine in a delicate, exotic style. Excellent. 7/00

Delas Frères 'Les Launes' Crozes Hermitage 1998
An impressive inexpensive Crozes Hermitage, with more concentration and character than you'd expect at this price. Big nose, initially a little sweet, but then stinky and meaty. Lovely sweet and sour palate, with ripe fruit and earthy, slightly animal notes. Grippy tannins and a bitter edge; rustic but pleasant. Good concentration here and real interest. Very good + (£4.60, worldmarechal.com) 10/00

Delas Frères St Joseph 'Les Challeys' 1998
Another inexpensive but impressive effort from Delas. Purple/black colour with good concentration. Savoury, meaty Syrah with a smoky, cheesy, slightly stinky nose. It's complex, meaty and dry on the palate, with firm tannins and moderate acidity: my only criticism is that it's a bit savoury and bitter when drunk on its own. Very good and a bargain (£5.09 worldmarechal.com) 10/00

St Joseph 1996 Cave de Tain l'Hermitage
I've had mixed experiences with this wine in the space of a week. The first bottle was flat, dull and a bit past it. The second was really quite good, with dark meaty, chunky Syrah fruit in a medium-bodied style. Drink up soon is my advice; I think I've kept this just a bit too long. Not a great wine, but a good value example of St Joseph. 10/00

Crozes Hermitage Blanc 'Les Nobles Rives' 1998, Cave de Tain l'Hermitage
I've been impressed by the whites of the Cave de Tain before, most particularly their still St Peray, but I was a little disappointed by this. Mildly aromatic, it is a soft-textured, slightly waxy wine with low acid and a sort of hollowness to the palate -- there's something missing. OK, but not my style. (£4, worldmarechal.com) 10/00

Crozes Hermitage 1999 Cave de Tain l'Hermitage
Bright purple wine with good concentration and attractive fruit. A little too simple to be of real interest, lacking real character. OK/good. (£5.99 Majestic) 10/00

Cornas 1997 Cave de Tain l'Hermitage
A mid-weight, spicy Syrah-based wine with firm tannic structure. Quite closed at the moment; may evolve, but currently lacks the sort of distinctive character you might expect from this appellation. Good +. (£9.99 Majestic) 10/00

Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 1997, Guigal
I would be very disappointed if I had spent £20 on this wine. Deep coloured, with a lifted, rather esteric nose. Simple on palate, with primary fruit, firm tannins and high acidity. Lacks real character. Will it evolve into something interesting? Good, but rotten value. (£19.99 Majestic) 10/00

J. Jamet Côte-Rôtie 1983
Soft and mature, with some herbal elements and high acidity. It is mature and expressive, but has probably seen better days. Good but not stunning.

Guigal Côte-Rôtie Côtes Brune et Blonde 1985
Evolved wine showing tannins, high acidity, a touch of smoke and some alcohol. I think this wine just didn't have enough initially to support 15 years' bottle age. OK, but I'm not keen. 7/00

Delas Hermitage 1985 Cuvée Marquise de la Tourrette
Slightly odd nose with some metallic elements, combined with smoke. Mature, mineralic wine with some tannins and acidity. Good but showing its age. 7/00

Syrah Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes 1999, J-P and J-L Jamet
Perfumed, meaty, smoky nose. Herby and light on palate with a bit of farmyard character, with good acidity. Despite the lack of density, this is an attractive, characterful wine with real appeal. Very good+ (£5.99 Majestic) 8/00

Yves Cuilleron La Petite Côte Condrieu 1997
Lovely full bodied, yet still delicate, white wine. Nose of peaches and apricot. On the palate there's a bit of spice and some alcohol. Modern and fresh it finishes bone dry; it could be a new world wine. Very good + (£9.99 Majestic) 8/00

Hermitage La Chapelle 1989, Jaboulet
Rich, attractive nose of bacon fat and red fruits, with some coffee and cedar notes. On the palate it is beginning to dry out a little, with high acidity and more coffee notes, finished off with a smoky earthiness. Maybe also some tea-like flavours. Beginning to show its age, it is still complex and fine, but I’d drink now. Others’ experience with this wine make me suspect poor storage conditions. 6/99

Jaboulet Aîné St Joseph Le Grand Pompée 1996, Rhône
I have had variable experiences with this large negociant firm from the Northern Rhône. This Syrah was interesting, but no bargain. Deep purple red colour and medium bodied. Stony, mineral-laced raspberry fruit dominates, with a touch of varietally true bacon fat and some smokiness. The structure is provided by the high acidity, in combination with moderate tannins: in fact, the piercing, juicy acidity is a little over the top and makes this a difficult wine to enjoy on its own. Perhaps good in combination with food. (£8.99 Sainsbury; also at Oddbins) 1/00

Floréal Crozes Hermitages 1996, Alain Graillot
Huge, delicious nose of herby, smoky, bacon fat Syrah. There’s also a bit of barnyard character. On the palate there is very high acidity, and some soft fruit. Really lovely complexity, but a bit short, probably because of the high acidity. Is this a cuvée from young vines? (Bentalls £9.50) 6/99

Syrah, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, 1999, Pierre Gaillard
An inexpensive wine from one of the stars of the Northern Rhône, this is a deep red/purple coloured, medium-bodied red wine with some character. The delightful savoury nose leads to a palate showing a herby, animal character with a roasted, slightly burnt edge to the meaty, cheesy fruit. Easy drinking and very appealing. Very good+ (World Marechal, about £4.50) 1/01

St Joseph 1996, Cave Tain l’Hermitage, Les Nobles Rives
A good example of the work of this quality-minded cooperative. Red purple in colour, medium bodied. Big syrah nose with earthy bacon fat and minerals. Dry tannins and light on the palate. This is well made and tasty, but best with food. (Purchased directly, 44 ff) 1/99

Southern Rhône Back to top  

The Southern Rhône is quite different from the North. The climate is noticeably warmer, and the vineyards are predominantly flatter. They also occupy a much larger area. The most famous appellation is Châteauneuf du Pape, north of the famous papal town of Avignon. It is best known for its spicy, herby, alcoholic red wines that are made from a total of thirteen permitted varieties, most significantly Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Good examples are substantial wines that repay cellaring, but there are plenty of dull ones still to be found -- none are cheap. And although people often think of red Châteauneuf as a 'powerful' wine, it is often quite light in colour when compared with the Syrah-based wines from the Northern Rhone. Quite similar in style are the wines from villages such as Gigondas, Rasteau, Vacqueyras. Since receiving its own 'appellation contrôlée' status in 1971, Gigondas has proved to be a worthy competitor to its better known neighbour, Châteauneuf du Pape. Although some white and rosé is made here, this region is really all about solid, chunky red wines, predominantly from the Grenache grape but also with a bit of Syrah and Mourvèdre in the blend. Quality is improving with each vintage, and the best examples reward long cellaring. Finally, Côtes du Rhone is a generic appellation used as a catch-all to label the vast amount of largely inexpensive wine made here. Quality varies dramatically, but most of it is inexpensive but reliable plonkish red made mainly from the Grenache grape. Some 16 villages are entitled to use the Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation: the peppery, spicy, rustic reds from these communes are often more substantial wines that represent excellent value for money.  

See also: 

Domaine Montirius Vacqueyras Garrigues 2006 Southern Rhone, France
Deep coloured, this has a lovely spicy, peppery nose with sweet blackberry fruit together with a hint of meatiness and just a touch of mint. The palate is rich and ripe with lovely savoury spiciness and some earthy hints. Ripe but savoury: this is what you come to the southern Rhone for. 90/100 (£11.95 BBR) 08/09  

Domaine de Mourchon Séguret Tradition 2007 Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
14.5% alcohol, unoaked.
A beautiful expression of the southern Rhône, this is a deep coloured wine with lovely sweet, dark cherry, blackberry and plum fruit aromatics, as well as hints of meat and spice. The palate shows lovely sweet, vivid fruit, but with added meat and pepper complexity, adding a deliciously savoury counter to the ripe fruit. It’s dense and well structured, but lush and smooth at the same time. Really successful: modern but interesting, with plenty of non-fruit complexity. 91/100 04/09

Domaine de Mourchon Séguret Grande Resérve 2006 Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
15% alcohol, 40% aged in oak for 10 months.
Deep coloured, this is a bit of a beast of a wine. The nose shows intense, slightly reduced spicy dark fruits. The palate is intense with high alcohol and firm tannins creating quite an astringent base, over which the ripe, sweet fruit is layered. It’s a big, intense, rather ungainly wine with lots of everything, and a bit of a mouth-drying finish. While it would work well with the right sort of food, it doesn’t have the appeal or drinkability of the 2007 Tradition. Perhaps it will pull together in time. 88/100 (04/09)  

Clos de Caillou ‘Le Clos de Caillou’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2004 Southern Rhône, France
Sweet, warm, herby spicy nose. The palate is rich and bold with warm spicy fruit. An elegant spicy style of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with robust tannins under the fruit. 92/100 (£59.99 The Sampler) 12/0

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1990 Southern Rhône, France
This is a lovely, light, evolved wine drinking at its peak. Complex, warm, spicy and earthy with a lovely earthy, spicy character, as well as some meaty funkiness. A savoury style with lots of interest. 94/100 (£160 The Sampler) 12/0

Domaine Grand Veneur Les Champauvins 2007 Côtes du Rhône Villages, France (cask sample)
Apparently, Robert Parker gave this 91/100, which is a high score for a relatively affordable wine. I can understand why: it’s a deliciously rich, dense Southern
Rhône red with concentrated, sweet spicy raspberry liqueur fruit, backed up by fresh acidity and a bit of earthy structure. It’s smooth and delicious, with a hint of ginger adding aromatic interest. Much better than most Châteauneuf-du-Papes, with real richness and intensity. 90–92/100 (£55 in bond for 12 bottles in www.bibendum-wine.co.uk’s recent en primeur offer) 12/08 

Domaine des Tours Vin de Pays Vacluse Rouge 2004 Southern Rhône, France
Smooth, sweet nose is liqueur-like with rich berry fruits. The palate is expressive and perfumed with really aromatic sweet fruit and grainy tannins on the finish. A perfumed, expressive wine with lovely elegance. 91/100 (£8.49 UK agent Richards Walford) 02/08

Raymond Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2006 Southern Rhone, France
80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, 2% Cinsault and 2% Counoise. Deep coloured, this has a sweetly aromatic nose with lush, pure blackberry and sweet cherry fruit, with a hint of soya sauce and some savoury, herby elements. The palate is concentrated and sweet with slightly reduced, almost rubbery notes accompanying the lush fruit. Densely fruited, this is a serious effort that needs a bit of time to find its feet. A rich, extracted, intense style of Châteauneuf, finishing quite spicy. 90/100 (imported by Fields, Morris & Verdin) 11/08

Asda Extra Special Vacqueyras 2006 Southern Rhone, France
Surprisingly muted nose doesn't give much away, except for some faint liqueur-like red fruits and a hint of spice. The palate is more expressive with an attractive peppery character under the pure, smooth cherry fruit. This isn't a totally obvious wine: you need to look under the surface, and there you find some attractive Grenache fruit. Finishes a little earthy with some grippy tannin, which makes me think this wine might evolve a little more. Not mind-blowing, but authentic - decant for an hour to get the best from this now? 86/100 (£6.98 Asda; 14% alcohol) 02/09

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1990 Southern Rhône, France
This is a lovely, light, evolved wine drinking at its peak. Complex, warm, spicy and earthy with a lovely earthy, spicy character, as well as some meaty funkiness. A savoury style with lots of interest. 94/100 (£160 The Sampler) 12/08

Château Beaucastel Blanc 2003 Châteauneauf-du-Pape
Yellow/gold colour, this is a rich white wine that’s made in a slightly oxidative style. It has nutty, rich, broad fruit with nice complexity – toasty and waxy. Unusual stuff with a broad texture and lots of flavour. 90/100 (11/08)

Marks & Spencer Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 'Le Fussier' 2006 Rhone, France
A blend of Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussane, without oak, from Chateau Mont Redon. Fresh herby, lemony flowery nose is crisp. The palate is rounded and quite fat, as Rhone whites tend to be, but with some crisp minerality on the finish. Delightfully expressive and crisp, and quite complex, too. 91/100 (£13.99 Marks & Spencer) 08/08 

Domaine Richaud Cairanne 2006 Cotes du Rhone Villages, France
A dark, concentrated Southern Rhone wine, this is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan. The nose is ripe, meaty, peppery and quite pure. The palate is dense with lovely sweet blackberry and raspberry fruit combining well with a savoury, spicy, slightly reductive streak. There's some lushness here (it's 14.5% alcohol), but it avoids being over-ripe. The most impressive aspect is the concentration and purity of the fruit. With its richness, this could almost be a new world Syrah, but if it was, it would be one of the very best because it's still really well balanced and quite elegant. 92/100 (this was around 10 Euros from a Paris wine shop) 06/08

Caves St Pierre Côtes du Rhône Preference Blanc 2006 France
Bright fresh and fruity with a hint of melon and some herbiness on the nose. The palate is rounded and quite rich with a lovely soft, fat texture to the fruit. It’s a bit floral, too. Really nice for the price. 85/100  (£4.99 Tesco) 03/07

Domaine de Joncier Lirac 2005 Southern Rhône, France
Deep coloured and quite substantial, this southern red has sweet, ripe red fruits with a bit of spiciness and some savoury tannic grip, battling it out on the finish with some alcoholic heat. It’s better than this description sounds, though: a ripe, plummy, satisfying Rhône wine with some depth and concentration. 89/100 (Waitrose) 04/08

Domaine Richaud Cairanne 2006 Côtes de Rhône Villages, France
A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan.
Deep coloured, with a dark, spicy, meaty nose that is intense and quite savoury. The palate is dense with bold sweet fruit countered by spicy, earthy savouriness. A powerful, intense win of real appeal. 92/100 04/08

Selection Laurence Feraud Seguret 2006 Cotes de Rhone Villages, France
Quite deep in colour with attractive aromas of sweet red fruits and peppery spice. The palate is brightly fruited with some grippy, peppery tannins and a distinctive spiciness that nicely counters the sweetness of the fruit. There's also a hint of meatiness here, together with a bit of earthiness. This is quite seductive, in a modern, fruit forward style, but there's also some old world earthiness and spice that I find really appealing. Isn't cheap, but it is good. 90/100 (£9.99 Virgin Wines) 05/08  

Plan Pégau L:2003 Vin de Table, France
As a modest Vin de Table this wine from Châteauneuf du Pape estate can’t carry a vintage designation, although the code L:2003 gives a strong clue. It shows a light, pretty cherry and herb nose with some savoury spiciness. It’s quite perfumed. The palate is also savoury, in a light, spicy, rather earthy style. Not a big complex wine but satisfying and very drinkable, with a nice peppery edge to the rather fresh fruit. The equivalent of a rather good Châteauneuf for much less money. Very good+ 88/100 (Majestic £7.99, £6.99 if you buy two) 05/05  

Coteau Brûlé Cairanne 2003 Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
Fresh, spicy, peppery red fruits on the nose, giving this rather rustic red wine a deliciously savoury character. The palate is spicy and earthy with smooth, slightly meaty red fruits and a peppery, tannic finish. Very good+ 87/100 (£4.49 Tesco) 06/05

Domaine de la Grande Bellane Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas 2004 France
Syrah and Grenache are blended here to make a dark, intoxicating red wine with a nose of black fruits that leads to a juicy, spicy, fruity palate. There’s good acidity keeping things savoury and fresh. A nice wine. Very good+ 88/100 (Sainsbury £5.99) 09/05

Domaine Chapoton 2001 Côtes du Rhône Villages Rochegude, France
Fantastic stuff: a really authentic, earthy, spicy southern Rhône wine. Fragrant peppery nose is earthy and spicy. On the palate it is quite generous and rich with rounded spicy fruit that has a lovely earthiness to it. Delicious for a relatively inexpensive wine. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 12/04

La Chapelle Notre Dame d’Aubune Baumes de Venise 2003 Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
A brilliant cheapie, this is a red wine from a subregion more often associated with sweet whites. Sweet, ripe open nose of liqueur-like blackberry and raspberry fruit leads to a smooth, ripe, supple palate with lots of red and black fruit character. Fine-grained tannic structure. Impressive: lovely Grenache fruit with a beguiling minerally edge. Very good+ 89/100 (Majestic £4.99) 10/04

Château de Beaucastel Blanc 2002 Châteauneuf du Pape
Quite a nutty, fresh, savoury white with some real elegance. Some subtle floral notes, too. Very good+ 89/100 05/04

Château de Beaucastel 1990 Châteauneuf du Pape
Remarkable nose: smoky, spicy and earthy with complex leather and animal notes. The palate is spicy and earthy with lovely minerally density and quite good acidity. Quite evolved and rich with great balance. Undoubtedly bretty but it works very well. Very good/excellent 92/100 05/04

Château des Tours Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2000 France
A special wine, showing alluring sweet Grenache aromas with a lovely rich earthy spiciness. Quite complex with archetypal southern Rhône flavours and a touch of herbiness. Sweet and pure fruit here. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Bibendum c. £7) 02/04

Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône 2004 France
Unfiltered and unfined, and thus suitable for vegetarians and vegans (fining sometimes involves the use of animal products), this red wine is an appealing blend of the Grenache and Syrah grapes. It’s got plenty of rather meaty blackcurrant fruit, together with a nice peppery character. Well balanced and satisfying: I’ve been underwhelmed by Chapoutier’s lower end wines in the past, but this is pretty good. Very good + 88/100 (£6.49 Waitrose) 10/05  

Domaine de la Mordorée Côtes du Rhône 2002 Southern Rhône, France
From a 55ha biodynamic estate in Lirac with 40 year old vines, this is a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Cinsault, 10% Carignan and 5% Counoise.    Classic Southern Rhône perfumed nose, showing sweet ripe red fruits with a spicy, minerally underlay. The palate is midweight with supple fruit, a touch of meatiness and a spicy finish. A really good effort from a very difficult vintage, and drinking well now. Very good+ 87/100 (£12.95 in Café Rouge as their wine of the month for March 2004) 03/04

Jean Luc Colombo Les Abeilles Côtes du Rhône 2001
Savoury, spicy wine with some structure, good acid and a minerally streak. Lots of flavour, tending to the slightly austere. Satisfying and savoury. Very good 84/100 (Lay & Wheeler £6.95) 12/03

Perrin Nature Côtes du Rhône 2001 France
Classic southern Rhône nose: sweet, spicy, liquoricey fruit with an earthy edge. Midweight, savoury palate with smooth, spicy tannins. A well balanced wine that’s a nice expression of this region. Well packaged, too. Very good+ 88/100 (£6.99 Thresher) 11/03

Domaine le Clos des Cazaux Vaqueyras Cuvée des Templiers 2000 Southern Rhône, France
Savoury, forward nose shows a spicy roasted character with minerally hints and dark fruits. The palate is savoury and firm with smooth tannins and an appealing meatiness. A dense, quite modern wine that is well structured and could probably do with a couple of years in the cellar. Very good+ 89/100 (Lay & Wheeler) 12/03

Château des Tours Reserve 2000 Côtes du Rhône
The second bottle of a six-pack I bought. Lovely sweet, ripe Grenache nose is quite voluptuous with a distinctive peppery edge. There’s liquoricey complexity on the soft palate which shows nice peppery fruit. Quite subtle and terroir driven despite the sweetness of fruit. Very good/excellent 90/100 09/03

Les Hauts de Gramenon Vinsobres 2000 Côtes du Rhône Villages
Quite a serious wine, with some brettanomyces character, too. Cheesy, animally, smoky and intensely spicy nose but with some lush, ripe fruit underneath. The palate is lush and spicy with a savoury, animally edge. Very good+ 88/100 08/03  

Domaine Monpertuis Vignoble de la Ramière Cuvée Counoise 2000 Vin de Pays du Gard, France
The Counoise is a red grape that's often used as a blending component in Châtrauneuf du Pape but which is rarely seen on its own. I am very excited by this wine, which shows wonderful personality. It has a slightly cheesy, meaty, savoury edge on the nose. The palate is dense, spicy, meaty and savoury with good acidity, and a bold spicy aftertaste. With its firm, tannic structure it's quite challenging: it's a big, firm wine. (£5.95 Lay & Wheeler) 11/03

Domaine de Piaugier Gigondas 1998 Southern Rhöne, France
Warm, herby nose with some southern spice elements. The palate is savoury with some firm tannins and good acid. Quite herbal and spicy with some earthy notes. Very good+ 87 04/03  

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe 1995, Châteauneuf du Pape
Wonderful herby, spicy complexity on the nose, with some sweet, animal-like character. The savoury, meaty palate has a spicy edge with a firm tannic structure and lovely acidity. Still quite tight; although this is drinking well now, it still has some distance to go. Exciting drinking. Excellent 10/02

Domaine de la Grande Bellane Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas 2000 Rhône, France
Lovely spicy meaty nose is quite savoury with good concentration. The palate is quite firm and spicy with delicious savoury roasted meat character. Quite tannic. This is delicious and authentic, and represents brilliant value. Very good+ (Tesco, Sainsbury £5.49-£5.99) 01/03

Domaine de Font Sane Gigondas 1999 
This deep coloured wine has an attractive pepper spice nose with some sweet herbal and animal notes adding complexity. Midweight spicy meaty palate is nicely balanced with some tannic structure. A super example of Gigondas. Very good+ (£10
Wannop Wines) 08/02  

Chapoutier Organic Côtes du Rhône 2001, France
An unoaked blend of Syrah and Grenache. Quite lightweight, but there’s a lovely smoky, earthy edge to the juicy berry fruit. Nice if a little light, I like this. Very good (£5.99
Waitrose) 10/02

Paul Jaboulet Aîné ‘Parallèle 45’ Côtes du Rhône 2000, France
Simple juicy cherry and raspberry fruit dominate. Good acidity but one-dimensional. Good/very good (£6.49
Waitrose) 10/02

Clos Saint-Michel Châteauneuf du Pape 2001, France
Aged in used Bordeaux barrels. Nice herby berry fruit on the nose. Chunky, chewy raspberry fruit on the palate. Good acid and concentration. Very good (£10.99 Waitrose) 10/02  

Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pape 1995, Southern Rhône
Wonderfully complex nose is quite gamey, herby and meaty with some warm spicy elements and a leathery edge. The palate is quite dense and spicy with firm, dry tannins. Finishes quite dry. Brilliant: a top-notch Châteauneuf. Excellent 04/02 

Domaine des Espiers Côtes du Rhône 1998, Southern Rhône
From a well regarded estate this is an attractive wine, showing spicy, toasty cherry and raspberry fruit, good density and nice acidity. Very good+ (La Vigneronne) 06/02

La Chapelle Nôtre Dame d’Aubune Beaumes de Venise 2001 Côtes du Rhône Villages
Vivid nose of juicy cherry and raspberry fruit with a spicy edge – very fruity. The palate is wonderfully vivid, dominated by vivid primary fruit. Good concentration and lots of character here: thoroughly enjoyable. Very good/excellent (£5.49 Majestic) 10/02

Domaine de Piaugier Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet 2000
Quite a backward wine showing taut, focused primary fruit with plenty of peppery character and dusty, tannic structure. An authentic savoury style, but not showy. Very good+ (£5.99 Majestic) 10/02

Les Grandes Serres Châteuneuf du Pape 2000
Quite light in colour, this shows attractive chewy savoury fruit with an earthy edge. Midweight. Very good (£8.99 Majestic) 10/02

Domaine Des Chênes Blancs Gigondas 1997
Fading colour. Striking pepper spice and earthy nose leads to a savoury, peppery earthy palate. The fruit has begun to recede a bit, but this is interesting stuff drinking well now. Very good+ (£8.99 Majestic) 10/02

Cave des Papes ‘Oratorio’ Gigondas 1999
Dreadful packaging. Ripe herby fruit on the nose. The palate shows a good concentration of rich, almost lush fruit with a spicy edge. Some new oak here. Very good+ (£10.99 Majestic) 10/02

Domaine Lucien Barrrot Châteuneuf du Pape 2000
Striking and appealing nose displays spicy, peppery fruit. The palate is rich, structured, earthy and spicy. Quite delicious, with lots of savoury structure. Very good/excellent (£11.99 Majestic) 10/02

Clos de l’Oratoire Châteauneuf du Pape 2000
Attractive old-style label. Tight herby nose with some restrained berry fruit. Chalky peppery palate is restrained but full flavoured with spicy structure. Interesting. Very good+ (£14.99 Majestic) 10/02

Marc Gallé Châteuneuf du Pape ‘Cuvée Mangouste’ 1999, Southern Rhône
I wasn’t expecting a great deal from this wine, but I was pleasantly surprised. The sweetly spiced nose is quite perfumed, with some attractive meatiness. The palate is expressive and spicy with a nice green olive-like edge, some herbiness and a bit of spice. Nice chunky stuff and very tasty. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Oddbins) 11/01  

Domaine de la Grande Bellane Valreas 1997 Côte du Rhône Villages, France
An inexpensive wine bought and cellared for a couple of years, this is pleasant but needs drinking up. There’s a savoury, meaty, medicinal edge to the nose, which displays dark fruits and herbs. The palate shows a meaty character and lovely juicy acidity and some tannin. It’s very savoury – almost austere—and the fruit is beginning to recede a bit. Substantial and intense, this is definitely a food wine. Very good+ 02/02

Domaine de la Renjarde Côtes du Rhône Villages 1998
Renjarde is a property owned by Château La Nerthe. It is located at Serignan-du-Comtat, between Orange and Montpellier. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault are planted on calcareous sandstone soils. The grapes are machine harvested and fermented in a combination of concrete and temperature-controlled stainless steel vats. This is quite a substantial red wine. Deep colour with a savoury nose of wet stones and a touch of spice, and a tiny bit of alcoholic heat. Palate is rich, ripe and spicy with a mineralic edge. Very attractive: approachable but still nicely savoury. Good value. Very good+ (£6.95 Berry Bros) 03/02 

Château La Nerthe 1990 Châteauneuf du Pape, Southern Rhône
Still very dark in colour. Complex, evolved nose of sweet spices, herbs, leather and tea leaves, with just a touch of gaminess. The rich, full-flavoured palate has a rounded texture and a complex spicy/leathery character. This is a wine that is surely drinking at its peak: how often can you say that? Excellent  04/02

Château Fortia 1995 Châteauneuf du Pape, Southern Rhône
Very deep red/black colour. Quite closed on the nose with some meaty berry fruit character, but opens out after a while to show rich, meaty, savoury notes. The palate displays dense, spicy, meaty/earthy fruit with good concentration and a lovely herby complexity. This is a serious Châteauneuf, and I’ll be keeping my second bottle for another five years at least. Very good/excellent  (c. £16 Edencroft Fine Wine) 04/02

Domaine des Bosquets ‘Préférence des Bosquets’ 1999 Gigondas, Southern Rhône
Very deep coloured red/purple. Restrained but serious nose showing wet-stone mineral character with some tarry liquoricey fruit in the background. The concentrated palate shows intense minerally fruit with an earthy edge. There’s some liquorice and spice, but the predominant character is minerals. Quite firm but fine-grained tannins. This is a classic, refined style of Gigondas: it shows great concentration but avoids going down the soupy, over-ripe, over-oaked route taken by some of its ambitious peers. Serious stuff. Very good/excellent (Edencroft £23.30) 03/02  

Domaine La Soumade Rasteau 1995 Côte du Rhône Villages
Deep coloured. Slightly muted nose of wet stones and fresh pepper spice. Later on some smoky fruit emerges. Palate is dry, leathery and slightly spicy. Quite minerally but with some tannin here, too. A lean, restrained, somewhat old-fashioned style: a good food wine. Very good+ (Originally from Berry Bros, cost around £6) 02/02  

Domaine de Piaugier Gigondas 1997, Southern Rhône, France
The attractive, sweet herby/leathery nose shows some evolution: it's moved beyond the fruit phase and has a peppery, spicy edge together with tea-leaf notes. Palate is medium-bodied with a dry, savoury edge and a spicy finish. Beautifully expressive, I reckon this is peaking now. Very good/excellent (La Vigneronne, bought a couple of years ago) 1/02

Domaine de Val Frais Cuvée Prestige Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc 2000, Southern Rhône
(Tasted blind, note as written)  Really unusual, slightly volatile salty nose. There’s a  savoury, almost fino sherry-like edge to the palate, which displays nutty, yeasty notes. Unusual stuff. Sharp acidic finish, with a bit of a cheesy edge. Interesting, savoury wine but could be a bit off-putting for some. My guess: something a bit weird, like a Savennières. Very good 11/01

Domaine de Font Sane Gigondas 1998, Southern Rhône
Quite deep coloured, this has a ripe nose with liquoricey fruit, some spice and a distinctive herby, leathery edge. The palate shows sweet cherry and plum fruit with leathery, spicy tannins and a savoury, herbal edge. Quite classic in style with good concentration, and some tannin. Finish is quite alcoholic and warm. A satisfying wine from the Southern Rhône. Very good+ (€12.00; £8.00 Mille Vignes) 01/02

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2000
Nicely packaged in a heavy bottle, this is a deep purple coloured wine showing great concentration. There's an attractive roast coffee/burnt edge to the peppery nose. The palate is savoury, with grippy tannins, peppery fruit and a drying, slightly green finish. There are also hints of olives and coffee. A great food wine. Very good/excellent (Handford £6.99) 09/01

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Blanc 1999 Côtes du Rhône
This has quite an unusual nutty, waxy nose. It's savoury and rich on the palate with good acidity. Very nutty, and not really my thing, but interesting nonetheless. Very good (£9.01 Bibendum) 11/01

Domaine Capouillères 2000 Côtes du Ventoux (Caves les Roches Blanches)
A co-op blend of Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Carignan, from low-ish yields of 46 hl/ha. Deep coloured with an attractive nose of peppery berry fruit. Medium bodied palate shows a nice minerally character and a peppery, spicy, savoury palate. A tasty cheapie. Very good 10/01

Roger Sabon Lirac 'Chapelle de Maillac' 1999
Rather a pale colour, with a nice meaty, smoky nose. Quite a substantial medium-bodied palate with some nice southern character and a touch of spiciness. Very good+ (£8.22 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine La Rocalière Lirac Cuvée Prestige 1998
This quality-minded Lirac producer bottles two prestige cuvées, one a varietal Syrah and this, a varietal Mourvèdre. But they are not allowed to indicate this on the label because of the appellation rules. A rich purple/black colour, this is a youthful, chunky wine with firm tannins and high acidity. Hiding in among all that structure, there are some herbal, leathery and undergrowth notes. Quite hard and unyielding now, I suspect this will be a delight in three to five years time: I'm holding my other bottle for a while in this hope. (£8.50 La Vigneronne) 08/01

Rabasse-Charavin Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Cuvée d'Estevenas 1998
The name is a bit of a mouthful, but this is a breathtaking expression of Grenache from ancient vines and low yields. I was blown away by the full-on, attractive, fragrant and peppery nose. This leads to a palate displaying concentrated, ripe spicy fruit with a touch of sweetness to it. Very good/excellent (£10.67 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Moulin de la Gardette Gigondas Cuvée Ventabren 1997
Lovely slightly stinky, meaty nose, along with some peppery Grenache notes: expressive but not 'modernized'. There's some structure on the palate, with spicy tannins. It's quite austere, but with good concentration. A first-rate Gigondas. Very good+ (£13.60 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Château de Saint Cosme Gigondas 1999
Sweet liquoricey fruit meshes with some complex heral notes on the nose. Quite a lush, modern style. Palate is dense and rich but with some substantial tannic structure. Finishes dry. A serious effort but a little stern at the moment, though. Very good/excellent (£10.67 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Font de Michelle Châteauneuf du Pape 1999
Sweet herbal nose with some jammy fruit and a caramel and medicine edge. Dense palate is quite typical of Châteauneuf, with spicy tannins on the finish. Interesting stuff, and not in the oaky modern style. Interesting and very enjoyable. Very good+ (£12.63 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine de la Charbonnière Cuvée Mourre des Perdrix Châteauneuf du Pape 1999
Relatively muted slightly spicy nose. Quite a dense, rich style but with dry, dusty tannins. Relatively closed at the moment; some new wood here? Very good (£13.60 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Bosquet des Papes Cuvée Classique Châteauneuf du Pape 1999
Attractive nose with complex herby and spice elements, and a touch of liquorice. Very enticing and classy. Savoury palate with dense, spicy, peppery fruit. A very good example of Châteauneuf du Pape, and potentially ageworthy. Very good/excellent (£13.12 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Les Grandes Serres Châteuneuf-du-Pape 1999, Rhône
Very fruity for a Châteauneuf with some spicy southern character on the palate. Medium bodied. [Irrespective of the quality of the wine, I suspect this will sell because of the name and the price.] Good/very good (£8.49 Majestic) 10/01

Domaine des Chenes Blancs Gigondas 1999, Rhône
80% Grenache, 20% Syrah; unfiltered. Some real interest here. There's a liquoricey, spicy edge to the ripe fruit on the nose. The palate has a herby edge to it with some rubbery, spicy, Grenache-like character. Good value. (£8.99 Majestic) 10/01

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Ventoux Les Trois Mas 1999, Rhône
A savoury red wine with good balance and a reasonably firm palate. Good/very good (£4.99 Majestic) 10/01

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Rhône 'Mule Noire' 199, Rhône
A chunky, savoury Côtes du Rhône with good balance, but pretty unremarkable stuff. (£5.99 Majestic) 10/01

Domaine des Sénéchaux Châteuneuf du Pape Blanc 2000, Rhône
Subtly fruity nose shows floral and lemony notes. Soft, ripe palate with low acidity and a gentle texture, but missing definition in the midpalate? I'm not keen. Good/very good (£8.99 Majestic) 10/01

Guigal Châteauneuf du Pape 1997, Southern Rhône
I was pleasantly surprised by this negociant wine, which I wasn’t expecting to be very good. A deep red colour with a brick red rim, there are some pungent herbal notes to the nose. The palate is full and savoury, with a rich, meaty character. Drinking beautifully now. (Sainsbury £15.99) 05/01

Domaine des Espiers Côtes du Rhône 1998
There's a big smoky, burnt-toast kick on the nose, which is followed up on the structured palate by a savoury herbiness with some pronounced peppery notes. There's plenty of tannin, good acidity and a dry finish. Because of the almost austere savoury character, this is best with food, but it has plenty of character. Very good+ (La Vigneronne £5.95) 08/01

Domaine St Etienne Côtes du Rhône Villages 'Les Molières' 1999 Michel Coullomb
Nicely packaged, this is a tasty mid-weight Côtes du Rhône made in a modern style. It's ripe, rich, licqouricey and has a silky texture, with supple tannins and good concentration. There are no rough edges, and although it's drinking well now I wouldn't be surprised if this continued to develop with a couple more years in bottle. Very good+ (World Marechal) 05/01

Domaine La Roquette Châteauneuf du Pape 1996
This is the sister wine to Vieux Telegraphe, from what turned out to be a tricky vintage in the southern Rhône. However, this is still a very attractive wine, probably drinking somewhere near its peak. The nose shows pronounced peppery notes which are complemented by some herbal complexity. The palate shows moderate concentration, but with good balance and tasty peppery/herby fruit. It's no blockbuster, but is a satisfying, Grenache-dominated wine that makes a nice food match. Very good+ (World Marechal, £9.49) 02/01

Guigal Côtes du Rhône 1998
Quite dark coloured for a Southern Rhône, this has an attractive smoky, herby nose and nicely balanced palate showing smoky/earthy fruit with some tannin and a pleasant minerality. It's not a dense wine, but should drink nicely over the next few years. Worth buying if you can find it at the right price (around a fiver); often this is overpriced. Very good 03/01

Domaine des Espiers Sablet 1999 Côtes du Rhône Villages
I've enjoyed everything I've tried from this Southern Rhône producer. A concentrated red/purple colour, this is a gorgeously rich-textured Côtes du Rhône Villages that is really punching above its weight, with soft olive and herb flavoured fruit and a sweet spiciness. There's enough tannin to give some structure. Delicious stuff for current drinking. Very good+/excellent (£6.50 La Vigneronne) 1/01

Château de Beaucastel 1991, Châteauneuf du Pape
Beaucastel is one of the great wines of the appellation, but from time to time these wines have suffered from Brettanomyces (a spoilage yeast) infection. At low levels ‘brett’ (as it is known in the trade) can add complexity, but when it is more prevalent it’s considered to be a wine fault. And if you want an example of bretty Beaucastel, this is the one to pick, the 1991. It shows an animal-poop-like, spicy nose that is actually quite attractive. On the palate the brett really shows, with cheesy, meaty, poopy flavours and a metallic finish. It is intensely savoury, and somewhat perversely, I quite like it. But there’s no doubt that this is a flawed wine. 1/01

Domaine La Rocalière Lirac Cuvée Prestige 1998
This large domaine makes two special Cuvées (in addition to their regular cuvée which is stocked by Majestic): one is a varietal Syrah, and this one is a varietal Mourvédre. It is impressive stuff for the price (I've previously enjoyed the 1995, which was superb). Deep red/black colour with an arresting nose of meaty fruit. Firm, tannic palate with some peppery fruit and chunky, full-on flavours. Nicely balanced. Impressive wine with nice ageing potential. Very good/excellent (£8.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de Villeneuve Châteauneuf du Pape 1997, France
A biodynamic wine from a slightly difficult vintage in Châteaneuf. It has a bright herby nose and earthy, herby, spicy fruit on the palate. Good concentration and structure; quite typical of the region without being top drawer. Good+ (Adnams £14.95) 11/00

Coteaux du Tricastin 1998, Delas Freres
A real bargain here: soft, sweetly fruited, slightly spicy red wine, that I suspect is Grenache-dominated. Gentle and soft with medium concentration. Much better than most plonk. (around £4, Worldmarechal) 10/00

Guigal Côtes du Rhône 1998
Medium-bodied wine with pleasant peppery, cherry and herby fruit -- good concentration and more character than you'd usually expect from a lowly Côtes du Rhône. At the price I paid (£4), it’s a useful glugger with a touch of class, but at the normal UK retail of £7, there are more worthy alternatives. I guess you are paying for that name.   (10/00)

Domaine d'Andézon Côtes du Rhône 1999, Vieilles Vignes
Deep red/purple colour, medium concentration.. Initially quite muted on the nose, with a stony edge. This shows good balance, with an earthy, slightly meaty character, cherry and raspberry fruit and firm tannins. Better than most Côtes du Rhône. Good/very good (Oddbins £5.79) 10/00

Domaine de Piaugier Sablet 1998 Côtes du Rhône Villages
An old fashioned, sturdy red wine with real potential for evolution, even though it is a bit severe at the moment. Medium bodied, with sweet, herby fruit and pronounced peppery character. Spicy, firm tannins underlying the fruit. Authentic and balanced. Very good. (£5.99 Majestic) 8/00

Château de St Cosme Gigondas 1997, Earl Barruol
Slightly bretty wine with meaty, earthy notes combined with farmyard, cheesy notes. Overall it is an attractive, rustic Gigondas. OK/good. 7/00

Domaine du Cayron 1998 Gigondas
A very nice, traditional styled Gigondas from the excellent 1998 vintage. Deep red/purple colour with a nose of liquorice and rubber. It is peppery and herbal on the palate, full bodied and with cloaked tannins. Complex and rich, this is a great example of this appellation. Very good +. 8/00

Clos Petite Bellane 1999 Côtes du Rhône
A blend of 50% Roussane and 50% Viognier. It's an inexpensive, attractive perfumed white, with some class. Floral, honeyed, peachy, spicy nose. On the palate it is full and spicy with a touch of bitterness on the finish. Lovely, but perhaps a little bit technological. Very good (£5.49 Oddbins) 8/00

Domaine de la Soumade, Rasteau 1995, Côtes du Rhône Villages, André Roméro
Deep red/purple colour. Lively, smoky, herby nose. Full and savoury on the palate with red fruits, a touch of farmyardy complexity and substantial structure from both the acid and the tannins. Good concentration and quite a bit of complexity. This is an old-fashioned, deep, earthy wine of real class. Very good + (Berry Bros £7.85) 5/00

Domaine de la Grande Bellane Valreas 1997, Cotes du Rhone Villages, France
A bright purple colour. Full herby, peppery nose with meaty, smoky fruit on the palate. Dry, tannic finish with a hint of bitter red fruit. Overall, this is a deep, exotic and sophisticated wine, but the moderately high acidity means that for it to be enjoyed at its best it needs to be paired with food. A good value offering far more than most wines from the Southern Rhone at this price. (£5.99 Fullers, Tesco; £6.49 Sainsburys) 8/99

Domaine La Rocalière 1995, Lirac, Cuvée Prestige
Lirac is a generally undistinguished Southern French appelation on the west bank of the Rhône. It has similar soils to Châteauneuf du Pape, with large galet stones common in the vineyards. However, despite the generally low reputation of the appelation, this wine is a real stunner. The Domaine makes two cuvées, one a Syrah varietal, and this one entirely from Mourvedre. It is deep reddish brown, with a beguiling nose of meat, leather, smoke and herbs. Beautifully aromatic. Moderately tannic, but with a soft texture. Really approachable, with real complexity and interest: there are even some mineral-like notes. Excellent and highly recommended. (£8.49, La Vigneronne) 1/00

Les Oliviers Châteauneuf du Pape 1998, Caves Saint Pierre
This negociant wine is very disappointing. Ridiculously overpriced for a poor and perhaps faulty wine. On the nose there are herbs and caramel-like funky notes, possibly from bad wood or poor winemaking. The palate has good intensity and firm tannins, but again is spoiled by these rather odd caramel-like flavours. Tasted blind I had real trouble spotting the origin of this wine: I started off in Portugal and ended up in Italy, before going to the South of France. This wine was so poor I ended up freezing most of it to cook with at a later date. (£9.99 Bottoms Up) 1/00

Domaine de la Grande Bellane Valreas 1998, Cotes du Rhône Villages
Medium bodied with a youthful red/black colour. This has an extremely peppery nose with a touch of smoky bacon and some herby elements. On the palate the wine is bright and peppery, with good acidity. Quite different in character to the excellent 1997, but still pretty good stuff. (£5.99 Fuller's, also Tesco and Sainsbury) 11/99

Domaine de la Grande Bellane Valreas 1998, Côtes du Rhône Villages
Deep purple-black, this is a tasty medium-bodied wine displaying a beguiling, meaty mix of dark fruits, black pepper and herbal notes. There is good acidity some tannin. This is a lovely, savoury wine with some potential to improve: it has already improved since the last time I tried it six months ago. Very good. (£6.49, widely available) 7/00

Domaine de Beaujeau 1999, Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône, France
From young Merlot and old Carignan vines, vinified at Mas de Gourgonnier. It's a firm, tannic red with bright fruit and good ripeness. Good (Adnams £5.75) 11/00

Vidal Fleury Domaine Le Pigeonnier 1999 Côtes du Rhône
This single estate Côtes du Rhône is an impressive, chunky wine for a bargain price. A concentrated purple/black colour, it has a smoky, peppery nose, followed up on the palate by a robust tannic palate with some meaty, raspberry-tinged fruit and firm acidity. Very good+ (£4.99 Majestic) 12/00

Terrasses d'Eole Viognier 1999, Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, France
From vineyards around Mont Ventoux in the South of France, this displays a modern, lifted, honeyed nose. It's full textured on the palate, but lacks a bit of the typical peachy Viognier character. Nice, clean wine; good, but not in the top tier. (£6.50 Adnams)  11/00

Domaine de Piaugier Sablet "Tenebi" 1997, AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages
This wine is unusual in that it is a varietal made from Counoise, one of the component grapes of Châteauneuf du Pape. It is quite pale in colour, but not lacking in concentration, and yields warm, complex, southern flavours of herby fruit with notes of pepper, cherries and tea. Underneath the fruit there are dry, dusty tannins lurking, which should provide the structure for some ageing. Very good. (£8.50 La Vigneronne) 6/00

Delas Frères Côtes du Ventoux 1999
Attractive but light peppery southern red with nice balance and moderate concentration. A great house red for the price. Good+ (About £4, World Marechal) 11/00

L'Image du Sud 1998, Féraud et Brunel
An unusual wine: most of the grapes come from the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation, but with the addition of some Cabernet, Syrah and Tannat, it has to be classified as a Vin du Table. Light coloured, with some herby, earthy complexity, it's very reminiscent of a Châteauneuf. Overall, though, this is not compelling enough to justify the price tag. (£12.99 Majestic) 10/00

La Vieille Ferme Rouge 1998, Côtes du Ventoux
A branded wine from the Perrins of Beaucastel fame, this is light red wine with up front cherry fruit and some structure: a little bit dull. Good. (£4.99 Majestic) 10/00

Côtes du Rhône, Domaine le Pigeonnier 1999
Red/purple, with good colour and intensity. Attractive, bright fruit on the palate. Good (£4.99 Majestic) 10/00

Lirac les Esperelles 1998, Château d'Aquéria
Deep red/purple colour and with some interest on the nose. On the palate there is bright fruit, firm tannins and a nice, herby/medicinal edge. Good/very good (£6.49 Majestic) 10/00

Châteauneuf du Pape 1998, Domaine Lucien Barrot
A rich, ripe, exotically flavoured Châteauneuf, with medium concentration. Attractive stuff. Very good (£10.99 Majestic) 10/00