Great reds from the Rhone Valley

Matthew chooses wines to help you get through the month of February
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Matthew chooses wines to help you get through the month of February
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If you are like me — a poor soul looking to drink his way out of February — then I have good news for you: there are a number of superior wines from France’s Rhone Valley in the LCBO right now. Some are cheap, some are excellent, and a couple are both. Here are the Short Cellar’s top picks:

E. Guigal 2006 Cotes du Rhone ($16.95, Vintages #259721)
Few wine writers actually reveal what they have in their own cellar. Let me break this tradition: I have a large supply of E. Guigal’s 2006 Cotes du Rhone. Guigal produces a consistently excellent range of wines from the Rhone, and this entry-level bottle is no exception. An animalistic nose segues into ripe raspberry, dark chocolate and plum. For the price, you are getting solid structure, good complexity and a promising potential for improvement in the cellar over the next two to five years. This is a true French food wine — it will complement a meal without upstaging it. 89/100

Domaine Chante Cigale 2007 “Tradition” Châteauneuf du Pape ($37.95, Vintages #194993 [Ed. Note: No longer available])
The year 2007 was a fantastic vintage in the Rhone, and the Domaine Chante Cigale captures the great weather with its intense yet silky expression of fruit. The bouquet is a massive hit of wild herbs, camphor and juniper. This complexity reappears on the palate, which has meaty (from 10% of Mourvedre) and toasted flavours (from the influence of new oak barrels). Although this wine is showing well now, it will continue to evolve for 10-20 years. A great specimen of Châteauneuf du Pape. 93/100

Le Vieux Donjon 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape ($52.95, Vintages #700922 [Ed. Note: No longer available])
Le Vieux Donjon offers a classic Papist nose: rich, earthy and complex, with hints of rubber, raspberry and thyme. Ripe raspberry flavours are enriched by notes of pine tar and spice, with a little charred toast on the finish. This wine has a lot of horsepower humming beneath a smooth exterior. Fantastic. 92/100

Vignerons du Castelas 2007 Cotes du Rhone Villages ($13.95, Vintages #199299 [Ed. Note: No longer available])
This inexpensive wine delivers the classic flavours of the Southern Rhone: a blend of tart cherry and ripe raspberry fruit with flecks of wild herbs and smoke. The tannic structure is attractive and means this wine will match nicely with rare steak au poivre. 88/100

Clos de L’Oratoire Des Papes 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape ($39.95, Vintages #993279 [Ed. Note: No longer available])
This is a mellow, satiny Châteauneuf du Pape that appears to place finesse above intensity. The spicy complexity is beguiling. Although most Rhones are food wines, this charming profile means this is a good candidate to drink on its own. The tannins are so yielding that it won’t require further aging to enjoy. 90/100

Domaine Belle 2007 “Les Pierrelles” Crozes Hermitage ($22.95, Vintages #41921 [Ed. Note: No longer available])
The Northern Rhone makes a miniscule amount of wine compared with its cousin, the gregarious Southern Rhone. Most Northern Rhones are costly and worth the cost. Unfortunately, when inexpensive northerners do appear, they are often disappointing: insipid or coarse or both. For this reason, Les Pierrelle is a rare bird indeed. A value-priced Northern Rhone that still shows off the unique character of this region. It has a distinctive flavour of roasted coffee bean and smoke, wrapped in a heavily textured and juicy body. I found the crunchy tannin and dry finish delicious, but three to five years will soften the edge. Not to be missed. 91/100


Matthew Sullivan is a civil litigator in Toronto. He blogs weekly here on lawandstyle.ca. The Short Cellar column also appears in the print edition of Precedent. Matthew can be reached at matthew@lawandstyle.beta-site.ca. Follow along on Twitter: @shortcellar.