Check out this Rhone Double!
When you enjoy a glass of Côtes Du Rhône, either in a sunny back-garden or a warm sitting room, you'll hardly be thinking of a frosty night. But frost has had a major influence on the wine story in the area. In 1956, the famous Mistral Wind (still an influence here), battered the region for three weeks, reaching a velocity of over one hundred kilometres per hour and dropping to a temperature of minus 15 degrees centigrade.
The majority of the region's olive trees suffered serious frost damage but the vines resisted so well that the majority of the local farmers decided to turn over primarily to vine cultivation.
Domaine Chaume-Arnaud Vinsobres (AC) 2016, 14.5%
€24.80 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny
Dark ruby is the colour of this Vinsobres. But it is the aromas that make the first big impression. “Rich and profound” according to importers Le Caveau. Rich for sure. “Takes your breath away” is the verdict of a taster here. But nothing alien in the mix, just lots of dark fruit (plum, cherry).
And the palate is also a winner. No shortage of that fruit, hints too of liquorice plus a good wash of spice as well. Full-bodied and juicy while the finish is fresh and elegant with supple tannins. This very drinkable and vivid biodynamic wine is Very Highly Recommended.
The blend is 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Cinsault. Until 1956, olive trees outnumbered vines in the towns of Vinsobres and St Maurice, but one night in February of that year, all the olive trees perished by frost. After that, vines came to dominate and the area’s previous diversification began to wane. Chaume-Arnaud though are working their way back to the old model and so you’ll see olive trees, cereals and tomatoes keeping the vines company on the estate, run now by Valérie Chaume-Arnaud and her husband Phillipe and their son Thibault
The altitude, between 200 to 450m, and the cool wind from the nearby Alps (the Pontias) keeps the temperature lower than the neighbouring villages and contributes to the natural freshness and complexity of the wines.
Vinsobres wines owe their richness to the assembly of the qualities of richly varied, complementary terroirs. The appellation's soil here is very stony, red to brown in colour, and their warmth allows the vines to flourish early with a high concentration of grapes. Made mainly of Grenache and Syrah, they produce dark red wines with a complex, harmonious nose with spiced flavours that are suitable for ageing.
Vinsobres is one of nine cru villages in the Southern Rhone of which Chateauneuf du Pape is the most famous; others include Gigondas and Vacqueyras, Tavel (for rosé) and Beaume de Venise (for Vin Doux Naturel).
Domaine Chaume-Arnaud Côtes Du Rhône (AOC) 2018, 14.5%
€19.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny
This Côtes Du Rhône has a dark ruby colour. Aromas are rather intense, dark fruit prominent. On the palate it is fruity and juicy, excellent acidity too. A very friendly wine, one you really want to carry on with. A very good example of the AOC and Highly Recommended.
The fruit for Côtes Du Rhône (CDR) comes from a much wider area, spreading over 170 communes. By contrast the CDR Villages area covers about 100 communes. The exclusive Crus, including the Vinsorbes above, number 19, Cairanne the most recent to be elevated.
The grapes for this Chaume-Arnaud are Grenache (60%), Syrah (20%), Cinsault (20%), and are harvested by hand having been grown on stony ground. Grenache offers fruitiness, warmth and body. Syrah donates a hint of spice as well as depth of colour. Cinsault brings finesse to the party and is ideal for making young fruity wines.
The family have eschewed the use of all chemical and synthetic products, respecting instead the rhythms of nature to intensify the life of the soil and maintain a harmonious equilibrium. And it shows in this very drinkable, very digestible wine.
Serving temp recommended is about 14 degrees. Try with venison and wild boar. You won’t find these everywhere but do check out Ballinwillin Farm in North Cork - they also have an online shop.