Wine Leslie Williams
The Minneapolis rock band Semisonic have a catchy song called ‘Chemistry’ that references a love affair conducted in an apartment on the the River Rhône. It’s one of those songs that once heard lingers in the head, but for wine lovers it has extra resonance as who wouldn’t want to spend some time on the banks one of Europe’s great wine rivers. (I am happy to dismiss the suspicion the reason this affair took place on the Rhône is because it rhymes with “own, alone, burned and explode”!)
Despite providing such rhymes there are few songs about the Rhône, but perhaps there should be given that the valley it created provides us with some of France’s best wines. From heady exuberant Condrieu to austere majestic Hermitage and Côte Rôtie in the North to the luscious supple intensity of the best Châteauneuf-du-Papes to the everyday pleasures of Côtes-du-Rhône. Sadly the American wine writer Robert Parker’s love of the region has long pushed the great wines out of reach of ordinary mortals but there is plenty of pleasure to be found in the smaller appellations.
It is worth explaining the Southern Rhône a little. The basic appellation is Côtes-du-Rhône which is further divided into Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages and further divided into villages, some of which are allowed to put their name on the bottle. At the top are Cru villages that have been promoted to appellations in their own right such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Cairanne and the most famous wine village of them all Châteauneuf-du-Pape. While Syrah rules the North, it is Grenache that is Queen of the South although its ripe fleshy fruits are often tempered by the addition of some brooding Syrah, racy Mourvèdre and up to ten other varieties. Rhône Wine Week begins today and there are a number of wine tastings, dinners and events over the next seven days. Visit rhonewineweekireland.com for more and there may still be tickets left for a dinner I’m hosting with The Menu’s Joe McNamee in Greenes on MacCurtain St where head chef Bryan MacCarthy will be matching his food to the fleshy wines of Château Pesquié.
Diary: November 8, Rhône Wine Week Dinner at Greenes Restaurant, Cork. Tickets: €65; www.greenesrestaurant.com. tel: 021-4552279.