Guide to the wines, wineries and appellations in the Southern Rhone Valley
The southern Rhône is famous for the number of different grape varieties officially allowed there, up to 18 in its most famous appellation Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but Grenache has always been by far the most planted, making usually up a good 80% of the blend in a typical vintage.
RP APPRAISAL OF SOUTHERN RHONE VINTAGES:
WA: 2011 88R / 2010 98T / 2009 93E/ 2008 86R / 2007 98E / 2006 92R / 2005 95T / 2004 88R / 2003 90I / 2002 58C / 2001 96T / 2000 98E
### 2005 ###
In southern Rhone, 2005 was a below average sized crop, because of continuing drought and the fact that there are so many old vineyards where low yields are the rule of thumb even in an abundant year. While 2005 is truly an excellent vintage in the south, I do not believe it is a compellingly great vintage, because it has more in common with beefed up, improved version of 1995 than with what I consider an irrefutably great vintage like 1998, 2001 or even 2000. Certainly the wines have plenty of structure and possess fresher, more vibrant acidities than most years provide. The top wines also display impressive levels of concentration. However all the 2005s tend to reveal a certain firmness, and if the grapes were picked too soon, or the vinification/upbringing were not carefully handled, there is a toughness and austerity to the tannins that ultimately will prove to be problematic. Nevertheless, there is an ocean of top wines.
### 2007 ###
The 2007 vintage in Southern France was wonderful. Here is what controversial Robert M. Parker (Wine Advocate Issue 179) said about it, “Throughout the southern Rhône, 2007 is the greatest vintage I have tasted in my thirty years working in that region. I think of 2007 as a hypothetical blend of an opulent, powerful, sumptuous year such as 1990, and a cooler draught vintage such as 2001. The cool weather and the remarkable three weeks of Mistral in September that concentrated the grapes without any spikes of high heat appears to have given the 2007s an aromatic dimension and freshness that I have rarely witnessed. Combine that with wines that are substantial, powerful, and relatively high in alcohol, with super depth of fruit! These are very aromatic wines of great concentration, freshness, laser-like focus, and amazing purity as well as depth. It is the vintage of my lifetime for this region, and I don’t say that lightly.”
### 2010 ###
Robert Parker, on the 2010 vintage:
"Some producers think 2010 eclipses 2007 because of the wines' vivid freshness and focus. Throughout the southern Rhône, the hallmarks of the vintage are very dense purple, sometimes even blue/black colors as well as higher acid levels that have not been seen since 2004 and 2001. In fact, 2010's paradox is that I can't remember a vintage so concentrated, powerful and rich that also has such zesty acidity. The 2010s will have significant aging potential, which is obvious in the level of tannins, but the tannins are sweet with exceptional elegance and finesse. The ratio of high extractive and phenolic skins to the juice has produced wines of extraordinary intensity, freshness, aromatic potential and obvious longevity. This is another great vintage that offers an embarrassment of riches for this region that has enjoyed a succession of extraordinary years."
### 2011 ###
- "has most Rhône vintners exceedingly optimistic for a third straight outstanding year…" -Wine Spectator
- "fans of fruit-forward, accessible wines will find plenty to like from '11, which looks to be an ideal candidate for restaurants as well as for wine lovers…" -Stephen Tanzer
- “we have got 2011 which is a combination of these two great vintages." -Michel Chapoutier on how 2011 is a combination of the 2009 and 2010 vintage
- The 2011 Southern Rhone Region was Rated 89-92 by Wine Spectator's Vintage Chart!
(By Wine Spectator
2011 Vintage Report: France
A first look at vintage quality in French wine regions, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers
Posted: November 14, 2011
The 2011 harvest has most Rhône vintners exceedingly optimistic for a third straight outstanding year, though a handful rued some late rains and heat that blemished what could have been a perfect growing season.
By Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
2011 and 2010 Southern Rhone Wines
By Josh Raynolds
"...fans of fruit-forward, accessible wines will find plenty to like from '11, which looks to be an ideal candidate for restaurants as well as for wine lovers who lack the facilities or patience for long-term storage.
Fans of graceful, fruit-driven Rhone wines will find plenty to like from 2011 and, as was the case in 2008, 2006 and 2004…"
Michel Chapoutier on 2011 in Rhone Valley: A detailed Early Report
26 Octobre 2011
The tastings of the 2011 vintage have recently given an opportunity for Michel Chapoutier to give his first impressions of the quality of this vintage for the appellations of the Rhone Valley. Prior to the presentation of each appellation, he noted that "after a warm and sunny 2009 vintage that resulted in the exuberance of grape varieties, 2010 was a fresher year with slow maturities which generally gave tense wines - to those who were able to wait for the phenolic maturity - some mineral wines, elegant with an outward expression of the soil, we have got 2011 which is a combination of these two great vintages. "
"This 2011 harvest in Rhone Valley was both early and late: a real paradox!"
By Wine Spectator’s Vintage Chart
Drink Rec: NYR
Description: Warm spring, but cool, wet weather in July and August led to uneven ripening; Indian summer saved the vintage. Grenache is light, but Syrah and Mourvèdre strong, so blending key; there will be some excellent wines, but heterogenous from domaine to domaine.)