Some Ventoux 2016s – and a few good value supermarket Rhônes

If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you’ll know that I write an annual report on the wines of the Rhône Valley. It’s a huge region, split into various quality levels, from the regional AOC Côtes-du-Rhône, to AOC Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages, to AOC Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages with named village, then at the top are the Crus, such as AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are however seven ‘Other Rhône Valley Appellations’ as they’re known, satellites encircling the Southern Rhône. Here’s a map:

Much as I’d like to feature these in my report, the overall volume of wines to taste would be too large to manage as things currently stand, so I have to leave them out. It’s a shame, as these lesser-known regions have some really exciting wines. Ventoux in particular is one of the most exciting appellations in the whole of the Rhône Valley. Thankfully, two key producers have sent me their 2016s to taste – see below for tasting notes. Both Domaine de Fondrèche and Château Pesquié come highly recommended: you can read more about them here.

I’ve also recently tried the 2016s from Les Dauphins, a range of wines made by large co-operative Cellier des Dauphins and widely available in UK supermarkets, tasting notes also below (their Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages 2016 is particularly good value).

Domaine de Fondrèche
Tasted September 2017

Domaine de Fondrèche Rouge 2016
50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre
Tank sample. Clay limestone soils, 18 months on fine lees, 1/3 in stainless steel, 1/3 in foudres, 1/3 in oval tanks.
Vibrant dark colour. Gravelly, brambly fruit, good intensity, brooding style. Exceptionally smooth on the palate, with that tell-tale Ventoux needle of fresh acidity running through it. Lovely purity and depth of fruit. The overall impression is very dark fruit, very silky, then brisk freshness. A well made and stylish wine that clearly expresses its origins.
Usually around £15 in the UK; good value.
91 points
2018 to 2022

Domaine de Fondrèche ‘Nature’ 2016
30% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre, 10% Cinsault
No added sulphites. Clay limestone soils, 6 months on full lies before release.
Clear, clean, expressive nose. Perhaps a touch gamier than the classic red but not in a bad or faulty way. Lighter in body, still with piercing acidity. Not quite as rich and round as their classic red, not quite as long either, but perhaps slightly fresher.
Usually around £16 in the UK; fair value.
91 points
2018 to 2022

Domaine de Fondrèche ‘Persia’ 2016
90% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre
Tank sample. Clay limestone soils, 12 months on fine lees in barriques and foudres.
Slightly more expressive than the classic red, with greater depth of aroma. Medium-bodied, with perfectly ripe tannins. Very well balanced, with intense fruit and bright acidity. The oak is perfectly balanced and integrated, just a touch of toastiness on the finish, but it’s barely there. Long finish. A sleek panther of a wine.
Usually around £21 in the UK; fair value.
93 points
2019 to 2024

Domaine de Fondrèche ‘Il était une fois…’ 2016
80% Grenache planted in 1936, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre
Tank sample. Clay limestone soils, 12 months on fine lees in oval tanks and foudres.
An immediately enticing and already detailed nose of wild strawberry, raspberry and sage. A medium-bodied, very fresh and dynamic style of Grenache, thanks in part to the high acidity. A delicate mineral register adds to the texture and brightness. Powerful, and powerfully fresh. There is some evident oak in tannin and toast on the finish, and it’s well judged.
Usually around £30 in the UK; fair value.
94 points
2018 to 2026

Domaine de Fondrèche ‘Divergente’ 2016
Old vine Syrah (Sérine clone, planted 1955)
Tank sample. Clay limestone soils. 12 months on fine lees in a new foudre.
From its weight and subtle herbal liquorice aroma, this is clearly Southern Rhône Syrah. Aromatic and vibrant with violets in the background. Medium-bodied, brisk style with a mineral glint. Straight like an arrow, with the same dynamic thrust. The equal of some good Northern Rhônes, though different in style. Rapier-like freshness, a stone dagger.
Usually around £38 in the UK; fair value.
95 points
2019 to 2030

Château Pesquié
Tasted September 2017

Château Pesquié ‘Quintessence’ Blanc 2016
Roussanne, Clairette
Bright pale gold. Honeyed pear with yellow flowers and almond and a touch of shortcrust pastry. Full-bodied, but shot through with bright acidity, leading to a neat finish. A touch of positive bitterness on the finish, like celery. Powerful but fresh and measured; resplendent.
Usually around £23.50 in the UK; fair value.
92 points
2018 to 2021

Le Paradou Grenache 2016
Made by Château Pesquié.
Unexpectedly dark in colour for an inexpensive pure Grenache. Broad-brush strawberry and fresh herbs. Lush, juicy texture, all pulled together by some pretty strident acidity – almost too much. Young vine simplicity, young vine vibrancy, Ventoux energy.
Usually around £10 in the UK; very good value.
89 points
2018 to 2020

Château Pesquié ‘Terrasses’ 2016
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah
300 metres altitude, a blend of the various terroirs of the estate (gravelly soils covered with pebbles, limestone, sands and clays more or less rich in iron oxides). Crushed and destemmed.
Plenty of plum, strawberry and damson, the Grenache makes itself known. Medium weight on the palate, with a lovely smooth texture and ample ripe tannin. Drinkable, juicy and expressive, altogether a very well-balanced wine. Pleasurable and well made.
Usually around £12.50 in the UK; good value.
90 points
2018 to 2020

Château Pesquié ‘Edition 1912M’ 2016
70% Grenache, 30% Syrah
300 metres altitude on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, clay and limestone soils.
Aromatically lighter and breezier in style than the Terrasses. Light-bodied, very fresh, with very fine tannin. Piercing acidity – a bit too high for my taste but the quality here is nonetheless good. Pleasantly expressive, if not particularly complex.
89 points
2018 to 2020

Château Pesquié ‘Quintessence’ 2016
80% Syrah, 20% Grenache
Tank sample. Clay and limestone soils at an altitude of 250 to 350 metres, 50+ years old vines, low yields. Crushed, destemmed, aged 12 to 15 months in barrels: 40% new, 60% two to three years old.
Darkly coloured. Violets, blackberries; restrained nose. Almost minty. Medium- to full-bodied, with a gently rounded palate, but very fresh and lively still. Neatly structured, with generous fruit, but it’s not overly fat. Lovely texture, very ripe, plentiful tannins. It satisfies and quenches despite its size.
Usually around £25.50 in the UK; fair value.
92 points
2018 to 2024

Château Pesquié ‘Artemia’ 2016
50% Syrah, 50% Grenache
Tank sample. two single vineyards, one Grenache, one Syrah. The Grenache parcel is one of the most elevated of the estate, southeast oriented, an amphitheatre of pebbly limestone soils. The Syrah parcel is planted at 340 metres, southwest oriented, on old alluvial soils. Destemmed, malolactic in barrel. Aged 18 months in barrels, 50% new and 50% of second and third year.
Herbal nose – liquorice and sage. Full-bodied, slightly gummy in texture. Both parcels complement each other nicely. Ripe, balanced. Not overly full or extracted. Closed and hard to judge right now, but clearly a very good wine. I’d like to revisit this in a couple of years.
92 points
2020 to 2026

Château Pesquié ‘Ascensio’ 2015
95% Grenache, 5% Syrah
Finished wine. Single vineyard. Clay and limestone at 1000 feet altitude. Around 20% whole cluster, aged two years in cement tank (no oak at all). About 25 hl/ha.
Very appealing, deep, slightly gamey, very ripe nose. Black cherry compote and a hint of something resinous. Mouthfilling, juicy and round but not overly full-bodied or overripe, it remains bright and vibrant. Long finish. Full of life and energy. (Note that this is 2015, not 2016)
94 points
2019 to 2024

Les Dauphins
Tasted January 2018

Les Dauphins Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc Réserve 2016
65% Grenache Blanc, 15% Marsanne, 10% Clairette, 10% Viognier
Quite oaky nose, not entirely convincing; a kind of smoky cashew, with a touch of reduction. Medium-bodied, the acidity is a touch on the low side. Ample on the finish, rich. Not terribly long in flavour. A bit lacking in energy and concentration, but not bad – just not terribly memorable.
£7.99 at Tesco; good value.
86 points
Drink by the end of 2018

Les Dauphins Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge Réserve 2016
70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre
Attractive, brambly, lightly spicy nose. The Syrah makes itself known. Medium-bodied, fairly fresh with good acidity. The finish is a little short considering the vintage. Definitely Côtes-du-Rhône though. Simple but fresh, juicy and drinkable.
£7.99 at Tesco; good value.
87 points
2018 to 2019

Les Dauphins Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Rouge 2016
60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Carignan
Slightly darker fruits than their Côtes-du-Rhône Réserve, the nose draws you in a bit more. Juicy, with good concentration of fruit and more of a noticeable tannic structure, which gives length to the fruit. More of a food wine this, but quite drinkable without. Well balanced, fresh, drinkable. Well worth the extra quid.
£8.99 at Waitrose; good value.
89 points
2018 to 2019

Les Dauphins Vinsobres 2016
50% Grenache, 50% Syrah
Deep, dark, spicy and smoky. Good intensity and grippy with ripe tannins. Fairly serious, dry, savoury style for a supermarket wine. This has real structure, and that fresh/spicy style that you’d expect from Vinsobres. Good freshness and tannic weight.
£11.99 at Waitrose; good value.
89 points
2018 to 2020