The white wines of the Rhône Valley have always been something of an acquired taste. The top wines that float above their respective appellations (here I am thinking Hermitage from Chave and Sorrel, those recently-offered Condrieu wines of M Vernay and Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the likes of Beaucastel, Rayas and Clos des Papes) are much sought-after, but are nonetheless still seen as being somewhat niche-y.
There is now something of an evolution occurring in some quarters of that mighty river valley. Reining in the white wines without compromising density and expression. Bottling something that is not lost in its own baby-fat. I thought it only fair to share these new developments with you, changes exemplified by the first wine listed below.
And the second? Well, that is simply a stunningly-made and joyful expression of the grapes from which it is made, the place from which it comes.
Both are drinking supremely well right now, but will also keep for a couple of years, ergo I would suggest taking delivery of some to enjoy soonest and squirrelling away a smidgeon for delayed gratification...
2016 Les Gressannes, Domaine Champ Long
£66 in bond per 6 Drink now-2021
This is 50:50 Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. Aromas are well defined, of peach and spice and a slight whiff of something like pine. The palate is a thing full of intent: dry and direct, gripping very nicely into the long finish. And then, at the back, the freshness emerges and lends a sense of energy and definition. This is a wine of texture and class i.e. a very modern take on white Ventoux and none the worse for it.
N.B. The 2015 vintage of this wine was commended at the Sommelier Wine Awards
2016 Les Contours de Mairlant, Francois Villard
£69 in bond per 6 Drink now-20
This is 85% Marsanne and 15% Roussanne. A very pretty thing to look at...and to smell, with scents of orange and almond arising with a swirl. This manages to be both crisp and very ripe, tasting of yellow pears. It's a dry wine and a very direct one, with a core of lightly saline, mineral refreshment. Above all it is very, very delicious.