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On May 29, Rhône Valley Vineyards hosted an intimate tasting at SevenFifty House in Manhattan. The event aimed to help buyers discover—and rediscover—the appeal of Rhône Valley wines, including the Rhône’s wide range of styles, the wines’ pairing versatility, and their quality at all price tiers.
Attendees had the opportunity to taste 33 wines—white, red, rosé, sparkling, and dessert wines were all represented. While appellations like Hermitage are leaders in the luxury category, wine buyers remarked on the value to be found from the Rhône as well. “We have a Côtes du Rhône—Domaine du Joncier L’O de Joncier—at $17 that flies off the shelf,” said Hilary Fasen, a sales associate at Terri’s Wine and Spirits in Manhattan’s West Village. “It’s medium bodied, with good acidity and earthy fruit flavors, making it work solo or with food,” she said.” “Plus, it’s organic, which is a current crowd-pleaser.”
Participants also tasted many styles that were considered strong candidates for by-the-glass pours. “The Château de Montfaucon Côtes du Rhône would be perfect by the glass,” said Zach Cramer, the bar director at Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs in Tribeca. “It’s juicy and drinkable for $10.”
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An array of gourmet cheeses were available upstairs at SevenFifty House, and a menu created by Chef Diego Moya of Racines NY, tailored to complement the Rhône’s legendary Cru wines, was served downstairs. Attendees noted that the range of wine styles offered impressive pairing flexibility. “The perfect pairing today,” said Agata P. Lucy, a former sous chef at the Soho restaurant Alison on Dominick Street (now closed), “is the Domaine François Villard Le Grand Vallon Condrieu and the pickle pintxo with boquerones. The creamy roundness melts around the sharp acidity of the pickled veggies and salty anchovies.” Will Marengo, a sommelier at Nerai Restaurant in Manhattan, noted that Rhône Valley wines pair well with a range of cuisines. “I recently helped a guest pair our duck moussaka with a 1998 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle,” Marengo said. “It’s not something you enjoy every day—more of a special occasion pairing, but the range of styles from the region offer many pairing options.”
The region offers many styles and new appellations. There is a renewed interest in Village wines, where value can be found in high-caliber offerings. “Côtes du Rhône Villages wines express rich regional character defined by concentrated flavors in their Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre blends,” said Eileen Fabunan, the trade marketing manager for Rhône Valley Vineyards. “For instance, Domaine Rouge-Bleu Mistral from Sainte-Cécile, being poured today, is a minimal intervention wine from a newly minted AOC—it illustrates the elasticity of the AOC hierarchy,” she explained. “At $20 a bottle, it drinks way beyond its price range.” Sainte-Cécile is one of three Villages—along with Vaison-la-Romaine and Suze-la-Rousse—that was granted the right in 2016 to use its Village name on the labels of wines produced there. Another testament to regulatory flexibility and the continued quest for high-quality wines in the region is the recent elevation in 2016 of Cairanne from a Village wine to a Cru.
The U.S. is already the third-largest importer of Rhône Valley wines, accounting for 14 percent of the region’s exports, according to Rhône Valley Vineyards, and its range of expressions gives the region an advantage. While the classic wines from long-treasured appellations are still sought after, unique and lesser-known grapes and areas are gaining recognition. Consumers are also looking beyond Provence for rosé.
Rhône Valley rosé production has been steadily increasing. In 2018 rosé made up 16 percent of the region’s wine production, according to Rhône Valley Vineyards. “The rosé category is diverse within itself,” said Fabunan, who added that “the depth of color and flavors range vastly.” Attendees tasted three examples of Rhône Valley rosés, which highlighted both lighter, fruit-fresh styles and bolder, savory bottlings: Domaine de la Cadenette from Costières de Nîmes ($13); E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône ($15); and Prieuré de Montézargues Tavel ($20). The Costières de Nîmes delivered a lighter-bodied, fruitier wine, while the Côtes du Rhône displayed more stone fruit and minerality; the Tavel was the boldest, with dark cherry fruits, dried herbs, and more texture.
Known for its high-quality offerings, the Rhône Valley reveals its versatility in complex Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (GSM) blends as well as aromatic Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette, and Viognier Crus and structured rosés with ageability. From the sparkling Jaillance Cuvée Impériale Clairette de Die attendees had upon entering the tasting, and throughout all the tables of Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, additional AOCs of the Rhône Valley, and Crus, there was a style and price point for every wine drinker. The Rhône Valley’s winemaking and the cultural heritage of the southeast of France, truly second to none, are worth celebrating.
With that same celebratory spirit, Rhône Valley Vineyards just launched RVV Wine Bar, a monthlong campaign to take over Manhattan. RVV Wine Bar showcases the wines, history, and passionate producers of this renowned French region at four legendary restaurants throughout the city. Each restaurant will host a weeklong series of events, ranging from happy hours to tastings and trade dinners.
“The Rhône Valley has an almost magical mystique to it—from its natural beauty to the classic wines produced there. It’s a region where you can really start to understand how terroir impacts the character of a wine,” says Mandy Oser, the owner and wine director of Ardesia Wine Bar in Manhattan. The RVV Wine Bar campaign will highlight complex GSM blends, aromatic Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette, and Viognier Crus, and structured rosés with ageability.
The campaign will also include the CDR Fest on June 23—a feast of culinary flavors and Côtes du Rhône wines at to kick off summer in the city.