Like most French wine regions, it offers considerable variation across the appellation – dependent on the soil the vines are planted in, the vineyard aspect, the grape varietals and the expertise of the winemakers. Climatic conditions are pretty constant, and sunlight hours pretty average, but don’t think for a minute that this boring consistency results in run-of-the-mill wines.
Broadly speaking, Rhone wines are Grenache blends (usually with Shiraz, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan and others). The red ones, anyway. They also come in a white version, but it’s the red, red Rhones you’re likely to come across more frequently in the local liquor store.
I was looking for something to accompany my recent curry-experimentation period. The family favourite seems to be curried sausages – by a mile – and my sauce is a complex mixture of curry and pepper spices, enhanced with exquisite home-made sweet chutney, red apples and strawberry jam. It’s my own invention. .
I settled on a fresh bottle of Vintage Cellar’s Chalkboard Côtes du Rhône (2012). Now, I’m no fan of mass-produced, generic house brands of anything – let alone wine – but the price tag of $12.50 had me sold. We’re on a pretty tight budget these days.
Côtes du Rhône reds come in anything from a deep crimson or ruby to bright purple, and are usually medium bodied with smooth tannins. Those from the region’s right bank tend to be lighter in style; and without too much information being disclosed on the label – I’m willing to bet this one comes from there.
The back label tells me it was bottled by the winemakers of L’enclave. I assume they mean L’Enclave des Papes (the enclave of the popes); the Canton of Valréas – which includes the towns of Valréas, Grillon, Visan and Richerenches. Definitely right-bank, then.
Surprisingly well-balanced, with subtle plum and cherry notes – and a touch of spice that really didn’t have a chance against my curry’s rich sauce, but was definitely discernible. The medium body did tend to the weaker end, and the finish was softly dry. Overall, it really was a good accompaniment to my spicy curried snags.
It’s worth mentioning that L’Enclave des Papes wines could well be worth investigating as a fountain of youth.
During most of the 1300’s there were several (French – of course) popes who figured they wouldn’t lower themselves and live in Rome, and Avignon was appointed prestigious honour as the seat of the Pope. In 1316, Pope John XXII became the second Avignon pope. He was pretty old at the time, and had some controversial views – like; Christ and his apostles were not povs at all (as was the belief of the Franciscans) and further; once you’re dead, you don’t see heaven until Judgement Day. Whoops, that means the whole concept of praying to Saints is pointless – a belief which put him in closer collusion with the Protestants than the Catholics. It’s a wonder he wasn’t burned at the stake as a heretic!
Regardless, the Cardinals voted him in to what some hoped would be a short papacy. Unfortunately he was a huge fan of L’enclave wines – and frequent consumption was considered a contributing factor to his extended life. Despite the wishes and prayers of his opponents, the old bugger hung in there for 18 years, dying at the ripe old age of 89 in 1336.