St Péray: Cut from a different cloth

St Péray on the left; Cornas on the right
St Péray on the left; Cornas on the right

A quick intro to the wines of St Péray…

Like a beauty pageant, the major wine regions of France try on many different styles in an attempt to please the masses. But they all have a weak spot. The reds of Alsace rarely excite; Burgundy seldom attempts sweet wines; and in the Rhône, it’s the sparkling wines that often disappoint.

For over a century, the little valley of St Péray in the Northern Rhône was tasked with making fizz; it has a cool microclimate which gives its wines refreshment value. Some producers made good wines, but hardly on a par with Champagne. But all along its talents lay elsewhere. More and more winemakers are now turning their hands to still wines, and some are truly world class.

They only make whites in St Péray, using either Marsanne, Roussanne, or a blend of both. As still wines, both varieties give full-bodied, rich results but with different aromatics. Marsanne offers mango, apricot, almond and honey; Roussanne gives pear, quince, acacia and spice. A touch of oak ageing can add further honeycomb and vanilla detail.

For years, St Péray was like a tailor churning out cheap sequined dresses. But it gradually became apparent that, with the right touch, the luxurious raw materials available could be crafted into something altogether more couture. The best St Péray winemakers now make broad shouldered, silky wines, but with elegance and balance.

Though the wines are often full and round, they use their acidity and minerality to retain freshness and precision. St Péray is a tiny appellation and is still discovering its new-found talents. As time goes by, it’s catching the eye of more and more wine lovers. But for now, you can enjoy Lanvin style for French Connection prices.


Paul Jaboulet Aîné St Péray ‘La Sauvagère’ 2012 (The Wine Society, £11.95)

Subtle mango and apricot aromas with a hint of spice. Full-bodied and refreshing despite the low acidity. Not an intensely flavoured wine, but a beautifully textured and balanced one.

Domaine Bernard Gripa St Péray ‘Les Pins’ 2012 (Vine Trail, £19.15)

Lime flowers and lovely pear fruit. Full-bodied, with lots of energy, freshness and vitality. Long, pure, clean, mineral finish. No excess fat – an example of just how fresh and elegant St Péray can be.

Domaine du Tunnel St Péray ‘Cuvée Prestige’ 2012 (Berry Bros & Rudd, £29.95)

Fresh cream and macadamia nuts on the nose. Lots of body and intensity of flavour, taking fruit from the Marsanne and spice from the Roussanne. Plenty of acidity, with a cleansing mineral edge on the finish. Very clean, very long, very impressive.


First published in Living France magazine.