Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 9 June

Wine Club 9 June
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There’s something for everyone in the Rhône Valley. And there’s definitely something for everyone in this fine offer from Mr Wheeler: a dozen different wines from one of the region’s finest producers: Etienne Guigal.

Goodness these wines are good and so well-priced! When I last looked, Majestic was offering the Côtes du Rhône Rouge for £12.99 a bottle (£10.99 if you mix six). It’s available here at just £10, along with 11 other first-rate wines that you would struggle to find available all under one roof, particularly at these cut-to-the-bone prices.

I love the Rhône. It’s neither as snooty as Bordeaux, with its poncey châteaux, manicured lawns and gently crunching gravel drives (and bonkers prices), nor is it as neurotic and single-minded as Burgundy with its solo-varietal wines, fragmented vineyard ownership and overly complicated classification system (and bonkers prices).

The region, home to the vine since Roman times, has everything: reds, whites, rosés, sparklers and delicious sweeties. It’s also a blessed sanctuary for members of the ABC (Anything But Cabernet/Chardonnay) fraternity. Neither of these otherwise ubiquitous grapes dare show themselves round here, any more than do Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot.

This is the land of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre for reds, and Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne for whites. There are many other grapes in supporting roles too, of course, for in the Rhône, variety is definitely the spice of life.

Family-owned E. Guigal, founded in 1946, is currently run by founder Etienne’s grandson Philippe Guigal. The much lauded domaine makes wines across the Rhône Valley and our selection gives a perfect snapshot of both producer and region.

The three Côtes du Rhônes (red, rosé and white) are immaculately made examples of their types. The red is lusciously fruity with a hint of spice; the Grenache-based rosé is fresh, crisp and unabashedly drinkable whilst the white — a blend of six different grapes — is fabulously complex for so modest an appellation.

Barely 1 per cent of wines in the Rhône are white but that 1 per cent is gloriously tasty. As well as the white CDR, we’ve the Marsanne (mainly)/Roussanne Saint-Joseph Blanc and Crozes-Hermitage Blanc and the majestic 100 per cent Viognier Condrieu, without doubt my wine of the offer. These wines are peachy, apricoty, citrussy and just so darn rewarding. Drink the first two now but keep the Condrieu for as long as you can. It’ll be more spectacular in a year or so.

The Saint-Joseph Rouge, from 100 per cent Syrah, is big and bold; the Crozes-Hermitage Rouge (also solely Syrah) is cherry ripe and fresh; the Grenache-based Gigondas is spicy, smooth and long-lasting on the palate; the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, based on 45 year-old Grenache and aged for two years in oak foudres, is rich and rounded with sweet ripe fruit and decent tannins.

And as for the mighty Hermitage (100 per cent Syrah) and Côte Rôtie (Syrah with a splash of Viognier), well, these are both absolute corkers. The former is rich, dark, complex and powerful; the latter, full, soft, rounded and aromatic. They’ll last for yonks and you’ll hug yourself with delight that you had the foresight to buy them here.

The wines are offered in unmixed half-dozens; in a mixed dozen of 12 different wines or in a mixed dozen of six different wines (marked*), two bottles of each. Delivery, as ever, is free for a dozen bottles or more. Oh, and Mr Wheeler is offering a free magnum of red Côtes du Rhône (worth £29) to anyone who buys two dozen bottles. You’d be mad not to fill your boots!

Written byJonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray is the Spectator's wine editor.

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