2022 Côtes du Rhône by Louis Bernard and Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné were smoothly wondrous, for sure, as Rhône wines go! Enjoying them had me remembering my journey into France, and longing for it again.
My sashay into France began in Lyon, with no idea at the time, it’s the capital city in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, I just knew I as there. Standing at the junction of the Rhône and Saône rivers, I was beginning my French experience in the Rhône appellation. As I photographed it, I was in awe. I enjoyed Lyon during the day for the joyful, liveliness it’s representing. At night it was also very much alive, with an intriguing life of its own.
This culture connected me with my roots: English and French, with the MacQuarrie Scottish clan thrown in for good measure. While in France for the very first time, it just felt so familiar, including my French DNA, but not so much of the other roots. Hey, I was in Europe, right? Everything about it just screamed my happy French roots. Being pretty shy about it, I just didn’t throw it around. The group I was with had someone so fluent in French, I didn’t even know where to begin, so I didn’t, in language communications. I did, however, let myself be wrapped in it’s familiarity. That may have been a blessing, now that I think of it. I photographed landscapes and details, while everyone else was chatting and taking selfies. I found crevices no one took the time to even acknowledge and enjoyed all of it, for its architectural and artistic splendor. Being a loner allows for so much art appreciation time and other finer things life offers.
Oh, Lyon, how you suited me. Now off to wine country to your south, namely, the Rhône.
Côtes du Rhône, a bit of geography: On the eastern region of France is the Rhône Valley. (The accent on the ô makes it a long ‘o’ sound.) This Rhône region is generally noted for its red wines, primarily made with the Grenache grape. Côtes du Rhône wines are known as basic AOC wines, of the Rhône region, with its red, white, and rosé wines. Generally, red Grenache grapes dominate with rosé and red wines, along with Grenache blanc being the white grape variety. While its history began in 1650, it was established as an appellation in 1937.
WHITE: Côtes du Rhône AOC white wines have floral and refreshing characteristics, with a remarkable texture. It ranges from citrusy (Lemon and super ripe grapefruit fruit with delicious minerality, to almost being nutty, flavors of honey and very mouth
RED: Côtes du Rhône AOC red wine characteristics ~ this is where we hear and also think GSM wines, then throw in a couple of Cs ~ Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre; Carignan and Cinsault. There is a plummyness about these red wines in a blend. Flavors are known to be currants and spices from the soils. The tannins are soft and lingering.
[Map: Paris – Centre: Bourgogne/Burgundy – Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes – Provence Map]
Northern and Southern Rhône: Two Region Within the Rhône Valley
From Paris Wine Cap: “The region is divided into two major, distinct vineyard areas, the northern area (called ‘Rhône Septentrional’) and the southern area (‘Rhône Meridional’), also colloquially known as the ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern Rhône.’ The two vineyard areas are separated by approximately 64km [40 miles], which are planted with fruit.”
So, 40 miles in my life in Northern California: both Napa and Suisun valleys are about 40 miles long. Perspectives makes it more understandable for me.
- The name of the Rhône Valley takes its name from the Rhône River, which develops in the Swiss Alps. It then travels through the Rhône Valley, which divides Northern and Southern Rhône. It continues on, ending at the Mediterranean Sea, just west of Marseille.
- Soil conditions: North has granite and argili-calcairous soils. The South is chiefly sandstone, limestone, alluvia, loess, and quartzite shingle.
When French wines arrive as samples, the first thing I think of is French onion soup, also known as “guess what I’m having for lunch.” It was the Côte du Rhône 2022, Appellation D’Orogine Protégée, Louis Bernard, I chose for our soup. And it was simply délicieuse. The Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné will be with roasted, herb chicken.
And, BTW. they don’t have to be samples, just to think French onion soup. I had been craving it for a few days, with our wet, damp weather we were having in Northern California’s Sonoma County.
Paul Jaboulet Aîné Madison Fondee en 1834, Parallel 45 Côtes du Rhône Appellation Côtes-du-Rhône Controllee 2022.
Located in the middle of the Rhône region, Paul Jaboulet’s wine brand is located 92 miles south of Lyon, and 74 Miles north of Louis Bernard’s location, situating these wines into Mid Rhône. Also is the importance of the 45 Parallel, besides the name on the bottle. This geographic location marks the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole, in France as it is all over the globe, in both hemispheres. Interesting to note, the Mediterranean climate is considered normally 30 to 44 north and south latitudes. It rides the edge, but is considered to have many famous wines coming on this parallel. This one was no exception. I enjoyed every drop, sampling more each day, until it was over.
The white wine has substance and elegance, wrapped in liquid pleasure. It’s a really delicious Rhône wine, and was enjoyed with the roasted, herb chicken.dish. The Paul Jaboulet Aîné is labeled as “not a finished product,” but a sample made to represent the final blend, as closely as possible is what it followed with, for its introduction. It was really distinctive, more on the Meyer Lemon side, with a bit of an almond finish. Really delectable and stimulating, with me wanting more. I got all I could, very enjoyable. (House wine…)
From Fine Vines: “Côte du Rhône 2022 ~ Some history from: “Larry and Wheeler: “Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné“ is a stalwart of the Rhône Valley. It is one of the most famous names in the region, with a heritage that stretches back centuries. Their flagship wine is Hermitage La Chapelle. This iconic wine from the Northern Rhône takes its name from the 13th century church on top of the hill of Hermitage and is made from 100% Syrah, harvested from their best vineyards: Les Bessards, Les Rocoules and Le Méal. The domaine was founded by the Jaboulet family in the 19th century who started with just a few vines in Crozes-Hermitage, home to their superb Domaine de Thalabert vineyard, and they went on to become one of the finest producers in the Rhône valley.
“This impressive producer of superb, expertly crafted Rhône wines sets the standard for excellence that others aspire to follow. Jaboulet is renowned for its remarkable Hermitage La Chapelle, a wine that routinely fetches vast sums at auction, particularly for the older, rarer vintages. However, that is not to suggest that Jaboulet is a one-trick pony – far from it. All the wines produced here show remarkable consistency, especially the examples from the northern Rhône appellations.”
Appellation d’Origine Protégée, Louis Bernard
BACK LABEL: “As of 1976, Mr. Bernard traveled throughout the Rhône Valley in search of exceptional winegrowers producing wines of great authenticity, and true to their terroir. Generous, convivial, accessible, are the descriptions that come to mind when discovering these inspiring lines. With Lewis, Bernard wines, enhance every moment. This wine of the southern Rhône Valley is lively and expressive. Its nose combines white fruity aromas with floral hints. The mouth is well balanced with fruity flavors and a fresh lingering finish. Serve it between 50° and 53°F on its own, with seafood, cod brandade, white meat, or mixed salads.”
And from their Website history of Louis Bernard, under Our Origins. “Louis Bernard, now based in Gigondas, was founded in 1976 in the heart of the Rhône valley, the home of Côtes-du-Rhône and many legendary wines. With an inventive and unconventional approach based on quality-oriented partnerships, Louis Bernard brings together wine properties with a common ambition: to get the best from their vines and their expertise in order to produce great wines.”
They are also committed to sustainability: “For over 20 years, our winery has been engaged in an active and voluntary process in favor of a development respectful of its environment and of humans.” In terms of sustainability and humans being in the process, I have to hand it to Europeans, cautious in using chemicals and creating small dwellings within their vineyards. In these small shelters, people can daily catch a break, while working their land.They are welcoming, when it’s hot… earthen floor, stone walls.
And, we did have their Côte du Rhône 2022 ~ Appellation d’Origine Protégée, Louis Bernard with our French Onion Soup, and it was a seamlessly delicious pairing.
The following is from the Importer, if you crave more.
The Rhône Valley is unquestionably home to some of the greatest red wines in the world, making its white wines gorgeous hidden gems with amazing variety and depth of flavor. Known for their expertise in blending, winemakers in the Côtes du Rhône AOC and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC highlight the best of each grape variety to result in white wines with a well-balanced synergy that over delivers expressiveness and character.
Making up a small portion of the production under the Côtes du Rhône AOC and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC, white wines are growing in prominence, with more producers seeing the potential in these blends. The white wines of the Côtes du Rhône AOC and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC must be a blend of at least two of the principal varieties, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Bourboulenc, with the option to include additional secondary varieties such as Piquepoul and Ugni Blanc
Winemakers of the Côtes du Rhône AOC and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC are able to use the best of the wide range of grapes and terroirs across the Rhône Valley Vineyards to produce high-quality white wines that are incredibly food friendly. These are some of the most common white grapes that are used in the Côtes du Rhône AOC and Côtes du Rhône Village AOC with some background on why they are important to the final blend:
- Expressive and versatile, Viognier brings its luscious mouth-coating texture and honeyed floral aromatics to blends. Tending towards showing generous stone fruit, such as apricot, peach, white peach, and nectarine, it can be produced in styles from lively to creamy, depending on the terroir and the winemaker’s particular vision. Intensely perfumed, ranging from crushed rose to sweet honeysuckle, it provides an aromatic lift to its blends and varieties with higher acid help elevate its flavors.
- Marsanne is rarely seen outside of blends but is arguably one of the most prestigious and well-known white grapes of the Rhône. Full-bodied and structured, it lends depth and complexity to its blends with lighter flavors and aromas such as melon, stone fruit and beeswax with an earthy minerality.
- One of the more difficult-to-grow varieties, Roussanne is late ripening, does not tolerate drought or wind, and is very susceptible to mildew. Often blended with the bold structure of Marsanne, it contributes its high acidity and aromatic intensity of herbal tea, fresh flowers and honey to the blend. Drawing on powerful ripe fruit flavors of Meyer lemon, pear and peaches, it grows throughout the sun-drenched Southern Rhône and is a part of some of the best wines in the Côtes du Rhône.
- Rich and loaded with green flavors like Asian pear, green apple, unripe mango and dried green herbs, Grenache Blanc can develop beautiful brioche and lemon curd notes but is very sensitive to oxidation. Blending it with other varieties helps improve its ageability and provides additional acid to lift its gorgeous flavors. An incredibly complex variety, Grenache Blanc can be made into a leaner style with notes of green almond, floral honeysuckle and white peach or in a creamy, dense wine with baked apple, honeydew melon and persimmon.
- Clairette grapes are light and fresh with flavors of apple, citrus and stone fruits, but it also tends to oxidize quickly and often relies on the acidity of other varieties for balance. One of southern France’s oldest varieties, it grows well on the stony, infertile soils, producing juicy grapes in the Mediterranean climate.
- An ancient variety first mentioned in the 16th century, Bourboulenc ripens late, but retains its acidity well and is resistant to rot. With citrusy, spicy and smokey flavors, it provides complexity when blended as well as the supportive structure to create blanched wines.