Wine Talk with Alice Swift
Alice’s 2018 Picks for the Spring
With the beautiful spring weather right around the corner, what better time than now to have equally beautiful wine from Southern Rhône, such as rosés or Châteauneuf du Pape? And by rosé in this case, I am not referring to the domestic white zinfandel, which does have its right time and place. Rather, why not travel across the Atlantic Ocean, to Tavel and Châteauneuf du Pape, France, where some of the greatest Rhône wines are produced?
The terroir is quite unique in Southern Rhône, with a large variety of soils such as red clay, gray clay, white clay, yellow clay, sand and limestone. Even more telling of the region are the famous “galets roulés,” which translate to the rolling (galets) stones (roulés). These are the smooth river rocks that line the soil in the vineyards (see Figure 1).
There are four main soils in Tavel and Châteauneuf du Pape, but they each cross over or have some overlap.
1. Galets Roules soil is very hard, and results in wines with higher concentration and higher alcohol.
2. Limestone soils result in wines with higher acidity and aroma, angular tannins, and lots of minerality.
3. Red Clay is very water-retentive, and iron-rich, resulting in powerful and tannic wines great for aging.
4. Loess/Molasse is a sandy soil, which is warm and fast-draining, with wines that are more light-bodied and floral with elegance.
Tavel has soils of Lauzes (flattened calcareous soil), Galets Roulets, Sand and Red Clay, whereas Châteauneuf du Pape has soils of Sandstone, Galets Roulets, Shingles/Clay and Limestone. In addition to the complex soil types, Southern Rhône is prone to receiving a large quantity of sun exposure while having the least amount of rain. Their resulting grapes have more sugar, thus producing more alcohol, so wine blending is generally needed in order to balance out the high alcohol content, which adds to the complexity of the wines.
Another famous climate aspect of Southern Rhône is the Mistral, which is an intense wind whose currents are upwards of at least 60 miles per hour. This high intensity wind prevents frost and mold from appearing due to the prevention of humidity.
This spring, why not stop in your favorite wine shop and check out their selection of wines from Southern Rhône? The selections vary depending on your location, but you should be able to find rosés from Tavel and Châteauneuf du Pape wines in most boutique or specialized wine shops.
Until next month, Cheers~!