St. Valentines and southern Rhone wine
For this year St Valentine’s wine column, you are really going to score? Keeping that in my mind I have some great recommendations for you. There is no better way to celebrate St. Valentines Day than with the person you love and some Southern Rhone wines. They are great affordable Rhone wine that have great ties to the day.
How is that, you may ask? Well, the history goes back to the lovely port town of Roquemaure, in the Southern Rhône near the city of Avignon. This place has a big tradition of winemaking and it used St. Valentine to save the town!
The Southern Rhone has been making wines since already a long time. This winemaking area was one of the first to step up the commercial wine enterprise business. In particular, Roquemaure and the neighbouring towns began branding their wine barrels with “CDR” for Côtes-du-Rhône as early as 1737 (200 years before the French quality pyramid appeared) to let wine lovers know that the origin and quality of the wine was remarkable. With an strategic situation for exporting (the town is right on the Rhône River) they did a profitable trade and got lots of kudos from their stamp.
Sadly though, the success from this area to spread far and wide and also was its road to perdition, Roquemaure’s location on the Rhône and its imports from America, especially from New York required a special assistance from St. Valentine.
As the tales goes, in 1862 a French wine trader received a shipment of American grapevines, which he proudly planted in his garden. In the course of a year, a strange thing started to happen to neighbouring vineyards — they were deadly sick and started to die. Why? Because those grapevines, carried a lethal bug that multiplied with alarming speed and poisoned the roots of European grapevines (different species from American ones), thus becoming a serial killer in fairly a short time. American vines are immune to this disease, called phylloxera, but the French aren’t and died nearly on the spot (this spread all over France and other parts of Europe, by the way. This makes me wonder sometimes why some french people hate Americans.
By 1868 Roquemaure, which its local economy relied big on wine, was affected by phylloxera and all the vines lay dead or were turning like zombies. People grew desperate. So they pulled out the big guns — a rich citizen in the town, Maximillen Richard, headed to Rome to see about buying some relics of a patron saint for protection.
After some heavy dealing, Richard returned with the relics of St. Valentine. Gradually the vineyards recovered and the townspeople fell in love with their guardian. Since 1989, on the Saturday and Sunday closest to Valentine’s Day, the town of Roquemaure hosts La Fête des Amoureux (the Festival of Lovers) to celebrate love and lovers alike.
This is a nice history and it makes a different change from the traditional or corny St-Valentine wine recommendation column. Hope you have a wonderful love day with your better half.
Rhone wines for St-Valentine
Buti Nages – SAQ# 00427625 $15.05
It might be odd to talk about rose in February but to tell you the truth, I enjoy pink wine all year long. This medium-bodied rosé is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah drawn from Michel Gassier vineyards. It has an undulated textured, with easy red berry fruit and citrus elements. It’s a clean, refreshing, with a friendly price.
Cave de Rasteau Ortas Tradition 2015
SAQ # 113407 $16.80 • LCBO # 998716 $14.25
Full-bodied and fleshy with tasty, pulpy black fruit and notes of smoke. Love the price as well. Established in 1925, the Cave de Rasteau is one of the oldest wineries in the Rhone Valley. The wine end with notes of fruit cake spices and more dry black fruit. Have it with braised beef with carrots. The classic GSM blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre, and Syrah present here, with Syrah taking a more protagonist role than in the past.
Grande Réserve des Challières, Ventoux 2015
SAQ # 331090 $12.45
Located in the south-facing slopes of Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse, which rises to 6,272 feet covering almost 16,556 acres. Since earliest classical times, vines have been grown in Ventoux. A blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, this Ventoux has a seductive nose of ripe plums, blackberries and black currants intertwined with sweet spice and a touch of tobacco. Soft tannins and great length on the dark chocolate-dusted finish. Great wine to have with a stuffed veal roast. Drink through 2017.
Château Mont-Redon, Lirac 2014
SAQ # 11293970 $24.95
A classic southern-Rhône blend, by one of the region’s most celebrated producers. The stony, pebble-covered soils bring to mind those of nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The estate makes this wonderful Lirac blend partly matured in French oak for 18 months. Deep and inky purple. A fragrant nose of raspberry and blackberry, with subtle hints of thyme and licorice. The palate is robust, with weighty tannins and an inviting warmth. Will be at its prime after a couple of years cellarage. Drink with a prime rib roast.
Domaine Elodie Balme Côtes du Rhône Village 2014
SAQ # 12474131 $25.05
Elodie Balme is a young and dynamic winemaker that started in the wine business in 2006. Youngest daughter of a family of winemakers, Elodie felt in love quickly with winemaking. She works across different Rhone villages appellations such as Rasteau and Roaix. She is rapidly becoming a shining star in the appellation of Rasteau. This wine can be described in three words: Power, structure and longevity. A must with a noble piece of wild game.
By: Marco Giovanetti – mtltimes.ca