Lifestyle

A Robust Rh?ne For Hearty Winter Drinking


The 2007 Vinsobres, Domaine du Coriancon is a hearty Rh?ne wine that would go perfectly with a rich venison stew by a roaring fire

One of the most remarkable changes in the French wine world over the last decade or so has been the spectacular improvement in the quality of wines from the Rh?ne Valley. The northern Rh?ne has always had its stars, with Hermitage and C?te-R?tie commanding prices that reflect an elevated status. With the exception of Ch?teauneuf-du-Pape, the southern, Mediterranean, part of the appellation has historically been known for what had often been charitably referred to as "peasant" wines. Not quite the stuff that appeals to the sophisticated palates of New York wine lovers??r buyers from British supermarkets. A quick trip through France's countryside will reveal that there aren't too many peasants remaining, which partly explains why there aren't many peasant wines left, either. This is symptomatic of the changes, many of them for the better, that are sweeping the region. Today's local winemakers are a new generation of educated, ambitious men and women who??purred on by the support of Rh??ne's promotional arm??re in the process of executing a dramatic U-turn from quantity toward quality. The trick is to make wines that appeal to the contemporary international market while preserving the region's unique viniferous personality. That this can be done is clearly demonstrated by the latest wine of the week, the Vinsobres, Domaine du Coriancon 2007, a veritable bargain at $18. (The vineyard is located in the villages of Vinsobres, a commune in the Dr??me D??partement of southeastern France.) Pungent and rustic, redolent of the forest in autumn, it's the sort of wine to drink with a rich venison stew on a cold winter's evening or even better, beside a large open fireplace with a wild boar roasting over the glowing embers of old vines. Packed with the flavors of blackberries, overripe plums and dark chocolate, it's a stick-to-your-ribs sort of wine, a wine that offers the best of both worlds??he authenticity of ancient Provence enhanced by the best contemporary winemaking practices. According to the wine's U.S. importer, VOS Selections, the vineyard's owner and fourth-generation winemaker Fran??ois Vallot "uses modernity in the service of tradition." It's a combination that benefits him, the Rh??ne region, and the world's wine drinkers equally well. To find this wine near you: www.wine-searcher.com When to Drink: Now Breathing/Decanting: Half an hour's breathing helps. Food Pairing: Robust winter stews, grilled steaks, venison. Grapes: Grenache 75 percent, syrah 15 percent, mourvedre 10 percent Appellation: Vinsobres Region: Rh??ne Valley Country: France Price: $18 Availability: Reasonable Web Site: www.domainevallot.com

Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to Forbes.com, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town Country, the Robb Report, the Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently Artisanal Editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes the Nick Passmore: Wine of the Week column to Businessweek.com. He is also a judge at the widely respected annual Critics' Challenge wine competition.

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