Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Lirac – the big names of France’s Southern Rhone region turn out some of the most exciting Grenache-based red wines in the world. But with growing fame comes growing prices, so value seekers need to get off the Rhone’s main wine path a bit and explore some of the Valley’s lesser-known villages, vineyards, and vigneron.
Which is why we were at the bi-annual Rhone Valley wine show in Avignon last March: looking for value. We found it in Ventoux, Vinsobre, Plan de Dieu and – in this case – in the slightly obscure Cotes du Rhone Village of Sablet.
The name refers to the village’s sandy soils (Sablet = Sand) dotted with patched of clay, a soil pattern shared with Gigondas which rises up just to the south of Sablet. As in Gigondas, Sablet’s soils drain water very, very, quickly, forcing vines to drive their roots deep into the earth in search of water and nutrients. It’s a touch warmer here than in Gigondas, giving more ripeness and supple textures but still showing better than average minerality and power.
Young Pablo Hocht, assistant winemaker at St. Cosme in Gigondas, has done a brilliant job of capturing and celebrating Sablet’s potential – if on a micro-scale! – in this luscious 2013 Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet.
We’ve tasted a lot of Rhone reds made with less care and delivering much less pleasure but still somehow selling for $30+. The value in this satisfying, honest, and just plain delicious red is off the charts. Get some while you can.