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This week I am in france between the Northern and Southern rhone to tackle the vast world of Rhone Valley wines. From tomorrow until the 13th, I will be heavily inmersed in Rhone wines, which is one my favorites. This trip was sponsored by the Inter Rhone wine association.

Despite a sleepless flight from Montreal and a quick ride by van to Avignon, I find myself highly captivated by the quirky roman-gothic style of the city. With a sunny day and mild temperatures, and a unexpected brunch the trip is off to a good start.

Sunday brunch was a very informal affair at the Cloitre St-Louis, next to the Avignon Grand hotel, where I am staying for the next two days. Elegant brunch french fare starring roasted fish, black ink risotto with an assortment of focaccias, charcuteries and quiches.

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Got a chance to taste two wonderful whites Domaine de la Mordoree Lirac Blanc 2011 and a white Cairanne Cuvee D’Estevenas Corinne Couturier 2007. La Mordoree was a refined and quite elegat wine, showing intense floral, white nectarines and pear aromas. Round and fresh, it still has the lenght to age a decade or two.  An assemblage of 30% Grenache Blanc, 15 % Viognier, 15% Rousanne, 10% Marsanne.

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The Cairanne 2007 was powerful, rich and oily. Exotic aromas of guarana, passion fruit, with a hint of lemon confit and orange marmalade. Tight and potent with an unexpected brutish in a good way youthful finale. A predominant blend of Rousanne  with the rest Marsanne and Clairette Blanche  So little we know of the white Rhones and so much we need to discover still. Specially that they can age so well.

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Later on the evening, I went on to an informal party hosted by the Cairanne and Rasteau delegation AOP. The Cairanne appellation in the Côtes du Rhône recently obtained cru status, joining well-known names such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Crozes-Hermitage. Rasteau AOC was elevated to Côtes du Rhône Cru status in 2010.

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The informal tasting was a great opportunity to learn about Cairanne and Rasteau side by side. There are barely 17 wines of both appellations combined at the SAQ which is like a drop of water in the ocean, compared to the depth of wines tasted.

The Cairanne whites were lovely with pretty fruit undertones bringing to mind white nectarine and citrus fruit. On the palate, there were bright, elegant and quite balanced. Terrific companion with fish and seafood.  I will deeply miss these wines when I come back home.

The reds were quite terrific as well. My preference goes for the Cairannes which had lovely textures, silky and refined with lovely tannins. In contrast, the Rasteaus had more structure and weight on the palate.

Both wines respective aromas were amazing as well. More ripe red fruit with earth notes, in contrast with the dark-blue fruit notes of the Rasteau. Both wines also displayed licorice and balsamic and other anis influenced notes. These are the wines to drink with Mediterranean roast read meat dishes.