Archive for May, 2011

The Red Wines Of The Rhone Valley

May 4, 2011

I am not a wine connoisseur or a collector and, point in fact, I am simply a daily wine consumer and have been for the past fifty years.
Nor do I have a dazzling enology vocabulary that many of the nouveau wine world find even more enjoyable to articulate than the consumption of this magnificent gift from Bacchus.

I live by the philosophy of two men I greatly admire for many reasons and wine is certainly one of them. Dr. Samuel Johnson, an English writer in the seventeen nineties, was quoted as saying:

“A day without wine is like a day without sunshine”

while Ernest Hemingway succinctly stated:

“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.”

My journey through the fascinating and constantly evolving world of enology started about 1960. From that time to the present I have religiously drank nothing but wine, most always with dinner, and stayed almost exclusively, by choice, in the French Burgundy and Bordeaux regions.

Toward the end of the eighties we were blessed here in Minneapolis when the D’Amico Corporation opened a restaurant downtown called The Azur. It featured French Mediterranean cuisine and the wine menu was dominated by French red wines from the Rhone valley.

These wines were a totally new experience for me as Rhone wines were still virtually unknown in the United States. It was, far and away, my favorite restaurant with an outstanding cuisine, flawless service, an ambiance that led you to believe that you were in Southern France and that newly discovered and fascinating wine list. I spent many hours talking to the manager and key staff of The Azur and they told me that some of them had been sent by the owners to France with the mission to tour the vineyards of the French Rhone region prior to the opening of the restaurant. Without any real planning, analysis or classes on the subject, I just followed my taste dictates and soon was exclusively converted to those wines.

At this juncture I will have to point out that, like many of us Americans, I am not wealthy but I do earn, and always have, slightly higher than average income, and I have had the advantage, on occasion, due to my marketing profession, to be the beneficiary of New York City style expense accounts, so I have enjoyed the best wines from most regions.

However, on a day to day basis, I look for reasonably priced wines and it’s been my experience that the red wines of the Rhone Valley are the best priced for the quality they deliver. In particular, most of the reds are full bodied, have the exclusive French “terroir” aspect to enhance them, and therefore, are, as a group more earthy, full bodied and food friendly than any other wine region.

Whether you’re at the very top of their price range ( Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Cornas, Chateauneuf-du-Pape) or at the lower scale with the Cotes-du-Rhones all Rhone wines have that earthy, very real and substantial characteristic to them. I would like to single out Gigondas as my favorite when I consider price and product represented. They are in the price range of $25-35 and seldom disappoint so I would say that’s what I’ve uncovered as my choice for the best buy in wine today. They never seem to fail and it’s bite and muscularity translate into one word – real. They are almost always robust, well balanced and aromatic. A close second to Gigondas but in a slightly lower price range, and with similar qualities, is Vacqueyras.

In the $10-20 price range I’d rather take my chances with various Cotes-du-Rhone selections than the Argentine Malbecs or the Chilean reds which although adequate, on a random basis don’t match up to the Cotes-du-Rhones. American Reds in that grouping? If you’re prepared to do encyclopedic cogitation and traveling you’re blindly looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack.”

In this “Opinion Paper” I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m focused in on Reds of the Rhone Valley. Nevertheless, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cover White wines. I’ve occasionally had White Hermitages and Chateauneuf-du-Papes but my favorite moderately priced white wines are still from the Chablis region. On the other hand, I never turn down, when opportunity strikes, to truly enjoy a Meursault or any of the magnificent Montrachets from the Cote-Du-Beaune region.

Regards,

CP Donly

I am not a wine connoisseur or a collector and, point in fact, I am simply a daily wine consumer and have been for the past fifty years.
Nor do I have a dazzling enology vocabulary that many of the nouveau wine world find even more enjoyable to articulate than the consumption of this magnificent gift from Bacchus.

I live by the philosophy of two men I greatly admire for many reasons and wine is certainly one of them. Dr. Samuel Johnson, an English writer in the seventeen nineties, was quoted as saying:

“A day without wine is like a day without sunshine”

while Ernest Hemingway succinctly stated:

“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.”

My journey through the fascinating and constantly evolving world of enology started about 1960. From that time to the present I have religiously drank nothing but wine, most always with dinner, and stayed almost exclusively, by choice, in the French Burgundy and Bordeaux regions.

Toward the end of the eighties we were blessed here in Minneapolis when the D’Amico Corporation opened a restaurant downtown called The Azur. It featured French Mediterranean cuisine and the wine menu was dominated by French red wines from the Rhone valley.

These wines were a totally new experience for me as Rhone wines were still virtually unknown in the United States. It was, far and away, my favorite restaurant with an outstanding cuisine, flawless service, an ambiance that led you to believe that you were in Southern France and that newly discovered and fascinating wine list. I spent many hours talking to the manager and key staff of The Azur and they told me that some of them had been sent by the owners to France with the mission to tour the vineyards of the French Rhone region prior to the opening of the restaurant. Without any real planning, analysis or classes on the subject, I just followed my taste dictates and soon was exclusively converted to those wines.

At this juncture I will have to point out that, like many of us Americans, I am not wealthy but I do earn, and always have, slightly higher than average income, and I have had the advantage, on occasion, due to my marketing profession, to be the beneficiary of New York City style expense accounts, so I have enjoyed the best wines from most regions.

However, on a day to day basis, I look for reasonably priced wines and it’s been my experience that the red wines of the Rhone Valley are the best priced for the quality they deliver. In particular, most of the reds are full bodied, have the exclusive French “terroir” aspect to enhance them, and therefore, are, as a group more earthy, full bodied and food friendly than any other wine region.

Whether you’re at the very top of their price range ( Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Cornas, Chateauneuf-du-Pape) or at the lower scale with the Cotes-du-Rhones all Rhone wines have that earthy, very real and substantial characteristic to them. I would like to single out Gigondas as my favorite when I consider price and product represented. They are in the price range of $25-35 and seldom disappoint so I would say that’s what I’ve uncovered as my choice for the best buy in wine today. They never seem to fail and it’s bite and muscularity translate into one word – real. They are almost always robust, well balanced and aromatic. A close second to Gigondas but in a slightly lower price range, and with similar qualities, is Vacqueyras.

In the $10-20 price range I’d rather take my chances with various Cotes-du-Rhone selections than the Argentine Malbecs or the Chilean reds which although adequate, on a random basis don’t match up to the Cotes-du-Rhones. American Reds in that grouping? If you’re prepared to do encyclopedic cogitation and traveling you’re blindly looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack.”

In this “Opinion Paper” I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m focused in on Reds of the Rhone Valley. Nevertheless, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cover White wines. I’ve occasionally had White Hermitages and Chateauneuf-du-Papes but my favorite moderately priced white wines are still from the Chablis region. On the other hand, I never turn down, when opportunity strikes, to truly enjoy a Meursault or any of the magnificent Montrachets from the Cote-Du-Beaune region.

The Journey Is Complete

Regards,

CP Donly

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