Wines of the Rhone Valley: Revised and Expanded Edition

Overview

Are there wines to rival the greatest first-growths of Bordeaux and the grand crus of Burgundy? Robert Parker's answer is a resounding Yes -- they are to be found among the finest wines of the Rhône Valley. With this new edition of Wines of the Rhône Valley, Robert Parker, the world's most influential wine critic, provides the key to enjoying the winemaking world's best-kept secret. And publication of Wines of the Rhône Valley coincides with reports that the 1995 vintage from ...
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Overview

Are there wines to rival the greatest first-growths of Bordeaux and the grand crus of Burgundy? Robert Parker's answer is a resounding Yes -- they are to be found among the finest wines of the Rhône Valley. With this new edition of Wines of the Rhône Valley, Robert Parker, the world's most influential wine critic, provides the key to enjoying the winemaking world's best-kept secret. And publication of Wines of the Rhône Valley coincides with reports that the 1995 vintage from this region may be one of the best ever.

With the precursor of this book, The Wines of the Rhône Valley and Provence, first published in 1987, Parker began a campaign to share with the wine consumer the wealth of wines found in this underappreciated region. The area contains the oldest vineyards in France -- indeed the heyday of some of the Rhône Valley wines was 2,000 years ago, around the time of the Roman conquest of France. In recent centuries, these wines have been misunderstood and ignored -- and consequently undervalued. All of which means that some of the great wines of the world are available for a fraction of the cost of those from better-known regions.

Wines of the Rhône Valley is the ultimate resource for every wine lover, highlighting both the greatest wines of the Rhône Valley and the region's finest wine values. These wines range, in Parker's words, "from the humble generic Côtes du Rhône to the most sublime and celestial wines of Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, Condrieu, and Châteauneuf du Pape." With his trademark thoroughness, Parker has fully revised and expanded this edition to reflect changes in the region,new personalities, and the latest vintages.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684800134
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/1/1997
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 688
  • Product dimensions: 6.53 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
Rating the Producers and Growers
Tasting Notes and Ratings
The Role of a Wine Critic
About the Book's Organization

The Northern Rhône

Introduction
Côte Rôtie
Condrieu and Château Grillet
Hermitage
Cornas
Crozes-hermitage
St.-Joseph
St.-Péray

The Southern Rhône

Introduction
Vacqueyras
Châteauneuf du Pape
Gigondas
Tavel
Lirac
Côtes du Rhône-villages
Côtes du Rhône
Esoteric Rhône wines: clairette de Die, Côtes du Vivarais, Coteaux du Tricastin, Côtes du Ventoux, Costières de Nimes

Visitor's Guide to the Rhône Valley
Food Specialties of the Rhône Valley
A Glossary of Wine Terms
Index

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First Chapter

Chapter 1

CôTE RôTIE

One of France's Most Historic and Greatest Red Wines

CôTE RôTIE AT A GLANCE

Appellation creation: October 18, 1940.
Type of wine produced: Red wine only.
Grape varieties authorized: Syrah and Viognier (up to 20% Viognier can be added, but as a rule few producers utilize more than 5% in their wines).
Total surface area: 497 acres.
Quality level: At least good; at best exceptional; among the finest red wines in the world.
Aging potential: The finest age 5-30 years.
General characteristics: Fleshy, rich, very fragrant, smoky, full-bodied, stunning wines.
Greatest recent vintages: 1995, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1983, 1978, 1976, 1969.
Price range: $30-$50, except for Guigal's and Chapoutier's single vineyard and/or luxury cuvees, which cost $150 or more.
Aromatic profile: These intensely fragrant wines offer compelling bouquets showcasing scents and flavors of cassis, black raspberries, smoke, bacon fat, violets, olives, and grilled meats. For wines where a healthy dosage of new oak casks are employed, add vanillin, toast, and pain grillé aromas.

CôTE RôTIE

Textural profile: These are elegant yet authoritatively powerful wines that are often chewy and deep. They are usually medium- to full-bodied, with surprisingly good acid levels for such ripeness and power. Tannin levels are usually moderate.

The Côte Rôtie appellation's most profound wines:
Chapoutier La Mordorée
Domaine Clusel-Roch Les Grandes Places
Gentaz-Dervieux
Jean-Michel Gérin Les Grandes Places
Guigal Château D'Ampuis
Guigal La Landonne
Guigal La Mouline
Guigal La Turque
Jean-Paul et Jean-Luc Jamet
René Rostaing Côte Blonde
René Rostaing Côte Brune La Landonne
L. de Vallouit Les Roziers
Vidal-Fleury La Chatillonne

RATING THE CôTE RôTIE PRODUCERS

*****(OUTSTANDING)

Chapoutier (La Mordoree)
Domaine Clusel-Roch (Les Grandes Places)
Marius Gentaz-Dervieux
Guigal (Chateau D'Ampuis)
Guigal (La Landonne)
Guigal (La Mouline)
Guigal (La Turque)
Jean-Paul et Jean-Luc Jamet
René Rostaing (Côte Blonde)
René Rostaing (Côte Brune La Landonne)
L. de Vallouit (Les Roziers)
Vidal-Fleury (La Chatillonne)

****(EXCELLENT)

Bernard Burgaud
Domaine Clusel-Roch (other cuvées)
Henri Gallet
Vincent Gasse
Jean-Michel Gérin (Les Grandes Places)
Guigal (Côtes Brune et Blonde)
Michel Ogier
René Rostaing (regular cuvée)
René Rostaing (Côte Brune La Viaillère) (since 1991)
Vidal-Fleury (Côte Brune et Blonde)

***(GOOD)

Gilles Barge (including Pierre Barge)
Guy et Frédéric Bernard
Gérard Bonnefond
Domaine de Bonserine (Domaine de la Rousse)
Emile Champet
Joel Champet (La Viaillère)
Chapoutier (regular cuvée)
Domaine Clusel-Roch (regular cuvée)
Delas Frères (Les Seigneurs de Maugiron)
Albert Dervieux-Thaize
Yves Gangloff
Jean-Michel Gérin (Champin de Seigneur)
Paul Jaboulet-Ainé (Les Jumelles)
Robert Jasmin (***/****)
Lyliane Saugère

Côte Rôties have become among the most fashionable and popular wines of the Rhône Valley. Whether it is the extraordinary, sometimes explosive perfume often consisting of cassis, raspberries, olives, fried bacon fat, and smoke, or the cascade of velvety, berry-flavored fruit flavors, Côte Rôtie is an undeniably seductive, voluptuous wine that one needs little experience to appreciate.

The first view one has of Côte Rôtie (literally translated, "the roasted hillside"), which sits on the western bank of the Rhône with a perfect southeasterly exposure, is unforgettable. Just 20 minutes by car south of Lyons is the tiny, rather drab town of Ampuis. Looming over the town are the precipitously steep terraced slopes (a 55° gradient in some spots) of Côte Rôtie. Except for some vineyards in Banyuls and along the Mosel River, there are none in Europe that appear so vertical and formidable as those of Côte Rôtie. Cultivated entirely by hand, the narrow terraces of vines and difficult footing have made the use of machines impossible. In many places even oxen and horses are useless. Undoubtedly, the huge expense of human labor has caused many a less hearty grower and winemaker to look elsewhere for a career in winemaking.

Côte Rôtie, the most northern of the Rhône Valley's appellation, has a remarkably long history and, of course, the usual legends surrounding the established facts. One school of thought attributes the origin of these vineyards to the ancient Greeks, claiming they introduced viticulture to Côte Rôtie in the sixth century B.C. This line of thought has its critics who claim it was the Romans, in the first century, who built the network of terraces and planted vines on these steep hillsides. It is this latter theory that seems more plausible, given the fact that Vienne is a Roman center. Vienne, only five miles away, is still a hallowed site for Roman ruins, particularly the temples of Livia and Augustus, believed to have been constructed 100 years before Christ's birth. Whichever theory is true, it seems doubtful that the look of Côte Rôtie's hillside vineyards has changed much over the last 2,000 years. There can be no doubt, however, that the size of the area under vine has increased, and will continue to do so given the great demand for this wine and the higher and higher prices Côte Rôtie can command. Côte Rôtie's current-day popularity began in the late seventies, benefiting enormously from the world's increased interest in fine wine. But this was not always the case.

Côte Rôtie's fame was such that in the eighteenth century Thomas Jefferson visited the region, describing the vineyards of Côte Rôtie as "a string of broken hills extending a league on the river from the village of Ampuis to the town of Condrieux." Moreover, Jefferson apparently admired the wines enough to consummate a purchase. In 1787 he wrote, "There is a quality which keeps well, bears transportation and that cannot be drunk under four years." Jefferson went on to buy Côte Rôtie, having it bottled and put in wooden cases for shipment to his home in Paris.

About 100 years later, as the nineteenth century drew to a close, the phylloxera epidemic devastated Côte Rôtie, as it did nearly every major viticultural region of France. Following the phylloxera came two world wars sandwiched around the century's worst economic crisis, the Great Depression of 1929. These events seemed to further push this backwoods, miniature viticultural region to the brink of extinction. As Marius Gentaz-Dervieux once told me, it was easier to make a living growing apricots in the post-World War II era than it was to grow grapes.

However, the world's growing interest in wine, and the higher prices demanded by France's best products began to benefit the Côte Rôtie growers. But it was the labors of one Côte Rôtie producer, Etienne Guigal, and the praise these wines received, that seemed to awaken an entire wine world to the realization that France produced great wines other than those from Champagne, Burgundy, and Bordeaux. The ascendency of the house of Guigal, which coincided with the early eighties' explosive interest in fine wine, has continued uninterrupted. While all the attention lavished on Guigal at first met with predictable jealousy from other Côte Rôtie producers, those raw emotions have been replaced with respect and admiration as foreigners from around the

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