France’s Southern Rhône valley produces rich, smooth red blends. At one end of the spectrum there’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape, famous and long-lived; at the other there’s Côtes du Rhône, uncomplicated and inexpensive. Today’s wine is from the middle.
The Clos du Joncuas might be the most exciting recent find in our portfolio. Based in Gigondas in the Southern Rhône, sisters Dany and Carol Chastan learned their craft from their parents and grandparents, and have themselves been farming organically for 40 years.
As some of you noticed, we underbought rosé this year. Our entire summer’s worth sold out in 15 days, and by June 1 there wasn’t a drop of pink in the entire warehouse. Turns out all those people sitting at home got thirsty when the weather warmed up!
With most socializing happening outdoors these days, we’re getting lots of requests for wines suited for a patio or a picnic. We ran out of most of our everyday wines back when everyone was busy stocking up on pasta and purell. But we’ve just restocked, and none is more welcome than today’s Côtes du Rhône.
Vinous writer Josh Raynolds calls the Domaine du Tunnel “among the top producers of Cornas.” Star winemaker Stephane Robert farms an envious collection of old syrah vines around the tiny appellation, and his wines very much live up to the hype. He’s humble and quiet in person, but his wines are bold, assertive, and charming.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the Rhône Valley’s most famous terroir. Known for its bold, inky rich wines mostly from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, the town’s best examples improve for decades, and can cost three figures per bottle.
In much of the world, Syrah is a powerful grape that produces soft wines with jammy fruit and low tannin. But in Northern Rhône Valley, the grape takes on an entirely different style. Grown at its northern ripening limit, Syrah finds a more elegant and balanced expression on the steep banks of the Rhône River south of Lyon.
The Northern Rhône produces the world’s most complex and balanced expressions of Syrah. Particularly in Côte Rôtie, at the region’s northern limit, the wines combine inky, black, masculine fruit with extraordinary lift and finesse.
Winemaker Nicolas Haeni’s secret to success comes down to one thing: elevation. The Malmont vineyards are perched high in the hills above Séguret, where cooler air and slower ripening grapes are the key to balance. As the rest of the Southern Rhône struggles to keep their reds below 15% alcohol, the Malmont cuvées boast exquisite and enviable freshness.
Some wines just hit a sweet spot between price and quality. All the way back to our brick and mortar days in Dupont Circle in Washington DC, the Goubert Sablet has been among the best sellers in our lineup. When we left it off our order last fall, we had half a dozen customers write in to express concern.
For many years our pick from Gigondas (as well as Robert Parker’s and Jancis Robinson’s) has been the Domaine les Goubert. The always-excellent wines are even more refined since the family’s daughter Florence took over the winemaking a few years ago.
Our pantry-stocking wine of two weeks ago sold out in a few hours, and we’ve had lots of interest in a second option. As luck would have it, we just received a restock from our offsite warehouse, including some excellent everyday drinkers.
Denis Basset is a charming, energetic, fast talking young winemaker with a knack for channeling his terroir. His organic cuvées from Crozes-Hermitage are popular in Parisian restaurants, and it’s easy to see why -- they’re balanced, honest, refreshing, and focused.
Most of us are getting better acquainted with our pantry these days, stocking up on pasta, canned goods, toilet paper, and other necessities. We won’t go as far as to claim that wine belongs on an “essentials” list, but we’ll put it in the category of “strongly prefer not to go without.”
Last Spring winemaker Eric Chauvin took us out into his vines for our tasting. He believes fervently in organic winemaking, and wanted us to taste his wine en plein air, amid the rich earth from which they spring.