Fall is my favorite season. All the leaves from the trees and plants change into multi-colored displays of art and fall away. It creates naked, and vulnerable branches, showing the true scenery underneath.
It also represents a beautiful cycle of life: loss, regeneration and regrowth once the spring season comes around.
The dead leaves and branches on the ground disappear and turn into part of the soil, which are used as seeds and fertilizer later once the cold welcomes the warmer weather.
It’s also the perfect time to start making hot chocolate, and lighting a fire in the fireplace. The season is about a sense of comfort, warmth and reflection. We put away our light whites, roses and welcome with open arms bold and gutsy red wines. With the staunch reds come the comforting cuisine: Pies, meat stews and all kind of bean soups.
It is during this time of the year that I drink a lot of Rhone wines. Ever since I started drinking wine, I have fallen in love with the sultry Rhone Grenache and the silky Syrah from the Northern Rhone. Although I must confess that I have a preference for wines of the Southern Rhone. Not only they are bolder in flavors but also are better for your pocket. This applies particularly to the wines of the Côtes du Rhônes villages appellation.
Cotes du Rhone wines are divided into two levels of quality, Cotes du Rhone Villages, which is a higher level of classification and Cotes du Rhone, which is less prestigious, as its terroir is not at the same level as the wines from Cotes du Rhone Villages. To produce wine with either designation, the vineyards must be located in any of the following 18 villages that make up the Cotes du Rhone appellation: Cairanne, Visan, Puymeras, Séguret,Saint-Gervais,Valréas, Vinsobres,Roaix, Sablet.
Vinsobres was first populated by the Romans. There exist some controversy about the origin of the village name. Some references say the name comes from Vinzobrio, the oldest recorded reference from 1137. It comes from the pre-Celtic vintio (height), and the Celtic suffix briga (mountain). Other sources say the name probably originates from Latin “vin sobris” or “vin sobrio” meaning “wine and work.”
For certain, the wines of Vinsobres have known since the early 17th century. Monseigneur de Suarés was a big fan of these wines his motto was ” Vinsobres or sober wine, drink it soberly”
Vinsobres is a small village (population around 1153) on a big hill (604 – 1,706 feet elevation) with a 12th century priory about 14 miles north of Sablet across the L’Eygues River in the French department of the Drôme. Since the southern part of Drôme is regarded as Provence, the area is called Drôme Provençale.
Vinsobres, along with Beaumes de Venise, were recently promoted to a stand-alone appellation in 2006 and now overtake Cairanne, Rasteau and 12 or so other Côtes du Rhônes villages in the local hierarchy. This is mainly due to the relative altitude of the vines being recognized for giving complexity and structure to the wines.
Despite be extremely hot temperatures in the summer, the cooler climate means that wines of Vinsobres stand apart from those of their neighbors, with higher acidity levels than, say, the classical Châteauneuf. That gives a fresher feel to the wines and a concise definition to the flavors, which tend towards blackcurrant, black cherry and peppery spice. Syrah does particularly well in Vinsobres.
The extra acidity combined with the tannins produce reds that can stand the test of age awell: although I’ve read on the wine literature that Vinsobres should be drunk young.
By now, you must have figured out that I only talk about the red wines of Vinsobres. However, there are some pretty whites and rosés made around the village, but none of them are allowed the Vinsobres appellation. When the red wines were granted their own appellation contrôlée in 2005, backdated to the 2004 vintage, the rest were “relegated” from their former status of “Côtes du Rhône Villages Vinsobres” and are sold as simple Côtes-du-Rhône or CdR Villages without the village name appearing.
Here are two Vinsobres that I recently tasted with a beef stew and a side dish of homemade tagliatelle. Both proved to be quite conforting for a rainy Saturday evening.
Domaine Jaume Vinsobres Altitude 420 2013. SAQ: 12194501. $20.30
The history of Domaine Jaume began with Henri Chauvet and Baron Le Roy, who together created the concept of “appellation contrôlée” in France in the 1920s. Henri Chauvet’s son-in-law Pierre Jaume was the pioneer in the birth of the estate, but it was his son Claude who was the first to estate-bottle the wines. Grandsons Pascal and Richard continued the legacy in the 1980s, and have continued to develop Domaine Jaume.
Altitude 420 is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, grown on a windswept terrace in “Les Collines,” one of the four Crus of Vinsobres, which towers over the medieval village. One third of the wine matures for four months in one year-old barriques, and the rest in stainless steel tanks. In the glass, the wine has a deep royal purple color, almost black at the center
Dark colour. Fresh black cherry fruit on the nose. On the mouth, sour black cherry flavours, very good intensity, licorice and peppermint leaf. Medium body with an excellent complexity for the price. 92/100
Perrin & Fils Les Cornuds Vinsobres 2013. SAQ: 11095981 . $20.95
Jean-Pierre, François and Pierre Perrin from the famous Perrin Family present this fine wine, inspired by the memory of their grandfather, Pierre Perrin. Using the same techniques employed at Château de Beaucastel, the Perrins have added their grain of salt to the appellation of Vinsobres.
On the nose, a mosaic of jammy blackberries, violet and rose flowers with hints of white pepper, this Vinsobres it’s medium to full body, elegant and nicely focused. It has good acidity, with a good outline of good fruit, and should drink well for 5-7 years. 90/100