Wine Les­lie Williams

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Food - Con­tact Les­lie Williams at wine@ex­am­iner.ie

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.

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