Posted on March 31 2016
People say, "you shouldn't meet your heroes".
Well, perhaps that is true. But when it comes to visiting your wine region heroes, it couldn't be further from the truth!
My wife and I have just returned from a week's driving in the Rhone, and I can tell you this: it certainly lived up to my high expectations. (We managed to hire this rather beautiful little old Mercedes... ahh, France...)
Not only does the Rhone have some of the most beautiful scenery you could imagine - rolling hills, vineyards and cherry blossom everywhere - it has an amazing food and wine culture too.
We started in the Chateaneuf du Pape region, one you will surely have heard of. CdP itself is a tiny little town that covers a small hill and whilst beautiful and full of little wineries, it is hard to believe that it has become world famous when it is so small.
The wine here was, obviously, absolutely delicious. From rich and refreshing whites to fruity yet complex reds, CdP has a lot to offer. It is pricey, however!
On the other hand, one of its neighbours Gigondas produces very similar wines at a more affordable price. Without patronage this area had for many years become under funded and unfashionable, however since 1971 when it gained its own appellation it has become a source of wines strikingly similar to those produce in CdP but without the price tag to match.
Luckily, we managed to visit one of our favourite Gigondas producers, La Bastide St Vincent. I say luckily, because without Sat Nav and having momentarily misplaced our map (it flew out of the open top car! oops) we were very fortunate to, quite by accident, come across the property as we drove down country roads at rather a loss.
By the time we got there it was only 3 minutes until lunchtime closing, but again luckily, the matron of the house was still there to greet us. We did take a little time to admire the beautiful little house that acts as the HQ for La Bastide St Vincent first.
The wines were delicious and full of youthful fruit, with a depth provided by herbs and spices. It seems that the very big and alcoholic wines of the region, which become as such because of the heat, unfortunately don't actually suit being drunk in the heat of the area!
Well, there is a solution to that. On a hot day, if you are having a barbecue - these wines do suit grilled meat - put the wine in the fridge for 30 minutes first and you will be surprised. They become more refreshing and fruity and suitable for warm weather drinking.
On the other hand it is no coincidence that Rhone-ish wines are so popular here. In the winter they can warm you through whilst eating a hearty meat dish or just whilst you sit in front of the fire trying to heat up after a day of bullish British weather.
You can see here the gnarly old Grenache vines of the Rhone. They are kept warm throughout the day - Grenache needs heat! - by the sun and then by the reflection of the heat back from the pudding stones during the night. It is a wonderful natural interaction.
We stock La Bastide St Vincent's Gigondas, which you can find here... it is a wonderful rich and fruity wine with savoury elements that will benefit any meat or charcuterie dishes.