So, I do live in the Rhône Alpes region of France. Therefore, I drink every form of syrah and blends of syrah ALL THE TIME! Now, my husband LOVES it. He could not be happier- coming from the south where syrah is the main grape varietal. Don’t get me wrong, it is interesting to drink all these different types of syrah and blends of syrah and blah, blah, blah… but there is such a thing as overload, oh my goodness! Fortunately, when there is a syrah overload we can move south to find grenache as the main varietal and syrah as support. Therefore, entering into a grenache overload… here we go.
Anyway, my husband’s family was here the other week and we went to a small restaurant at Les Halles Paul Bocuse called AOC. Excellent restaurant, by the way. The AOC specializes in different cuts of beef with a well-rounded wine list- something you don’t always find in Lyon. It was an excellent meal! If you come to Lyon anytime soon- I highly recommend it!
For dinner we had two different bottles of wine from the Southern Rhône region, very small regions that you normally don’t find very far away from France. Originally, we wanted to start off with a bottle of Vinsobres. Vinsobres is a small appellation in the northern part of the Southern Rhône region. I, personally, have found mostly organic and biodynamic wines from this area, giving it a more ‘dirty’ taste than others in the region. Unfortunately for us, the restaurant was out of the wine. So, we decided to stay within the same area, but move a little more south to Rasteau.
Rasteau is again a small village in the southern part of the Rhône region. In general, it is considered under the larger umbrella of Côtes du Rhône-Villages. That is, (at the very basic of meanings) means that the wine has to comply with certain rules and regulations of the Côtes du Rhône-Village. And just as a side note, all Côtes du Rhône-Village and Côtes du Rhône AOC are found in the Southern Rhone region, other than that the difference in the two names is the quality, Côtes du Rhône-Village is of a superior quality to the Côtes du Rhône. Now, on taste, it was a little too soon to be drunk. Unfortuantely. The Grenache Noir (at 70%) was still maturing, still a little too high in alcohol. I like to call it HOT. I don’t know where your palate is or what you like for your personal taste, but I like the finish of a wine. The longer it stays on my tongue the better and this wine, unfortunately, didn’t appease that part of my palate.
But not to fear… there was a second bottle. A Sablet.
Do you know Sablet? Me either at the time I drank it. I could figure out the basics by the appellation, the AOC, and general taste… but had NEVER heard of the region Sablet before. Now, normally I would feel pretty bad about myself for not knowing this and having claimed to specialize in French wines once upon a time…. but at the same time- EVERY region in France is a wine-growing region and so I have chosen to take the approach where I learn the most I can from the person who serves me. In this case the waiter was very knowledgeable and easily understood.
Sablet is like the little sister of Rasteau, with characteristics that all little sisters can embody sometimes. In this case, the Sablet was ready to be drunk at that moment. It was spicy like a grenache should be with a finish of dried fruit and dirt. The nose was a little less expressive, although the hints of bright fruits expressed stronger than what I found on the palate. However, the end was what interested me. It tickled the back of my throat and lingered for a while, with the cut of meat (called poire de boeuf) it was a nice mix.
Often with the Côtes du Rhône, there is a difficulty in understanding the subtleties of different regions because they are so close together and will often times give a similar taste. For myself, when I focus on the finish of the wine I can usually tell more about the region. What do I mean? Well, for the Southern Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the king, Gigondas the queen, Vacqueyras the prince and then the court is everything around it- Vinsobres, Rasteau, Sablet, Tavel, Lirac, Ventoux, and the list goes on. If you do a tasting of five of these regions for example… you will find that the finish changes on each (along with other things, but I am focusing on the finish). The finish goes from more mature, rounded and deep in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape to lighter and shorter in the Rasteau, for example. It is a fun exercise to do if you can find it (and afford it).
I will try and find it and maybe display if for you later… I’ll start saving 😉