5 Jun 2006

More Feline, Less Labrador: The Ventoux

COTES DU Rhone wines are to me ideal, well-made, greet you home from work type wines (although more slightly gauche loveable feline than leaping-labrador). It's always worth choosing an example bearing the 'Villages' tag, which narrows the focus to specific areas.

More recently, however I've become drawn to wines from the Ventoux, a southern Rhone appellation in its own right, and only 30 years old. According to Les Vins du Cotes du Ventoux, the official site for the 46 merchants of the area, 'The Mistral is an integral part of the Cotes du Ventoux. It bends the trees, invites the inhabitants to protect their habitats and cultures from its attacks. It also stops the installation of humidity and dries the vines and crops in record time...'

-I love to think of the population being 'invited' to safeguard their livelihoods against the tempestuous wind in such a gentile beckoning way...
Because this appellation isn't yet as fashionable as the C.d.R. (one could say an inclination for supplying the cheaper Parisian brasseries with strong versions didn't exactly cut the fabric into catwalk shapes) bargains galore abound, including La Vielle Ferme 2004 from the teemingly beautiful slopes of Mont Ventoux [£5.49, Majestic]. This is a simple, lightly spiced wine, feeling somewhere between a young Pommard and a Vin de Pays Merlot.

Also very much worth trying is the Domaine de Champaga 2003, an identifiably individual blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. At £4.99, [Fraser Williamson] this represents I think one of the best vinous bargains at the moment. I used to drink it quite often after formal wine tastings at Winegate in Norwich (now Cellar d'Or) and am amazed that the price hasn't elevated one penny in the five intervening years.

From outside the Ventoux, but still in the Southern Rhone, Domaine de La Janasse 2004 'Terre de Bussiere' [£7.49, Majestic] is stunningly concentrated. This is technically a Vin de Pays rather than part of the Appellation Controlee because it uses the forbidden Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in its five variety strong blend.
On a personal note, it's good to see an increasing number of visitors to this humble blog especially at a time when there are claims in the news that for the first time in decades, UK wine consumption is on a downward trajectory. I think this is potentially good news - it may actually signal our collective intent to shun the big-brand shockers (quantity) in favour of memorable wines from individual producers (quality)...