Let’s face facts, most Cotes-du Rhone wines, whether red or white, are pretty dull things indeed. The Rhone valley is a veritable paradise for viticulture in terms of terroir and there’s plenty of land to farm which means that most growers and/or producers have lots of easily arable, flat land to produce easy, early drinking wines that go a long way to help to pay the bills and allow for the all the extra work necessary to produce the big gun wines like Chateauneuf-du-Pape. And while it’s natural for producers to have some qualitative space between their everyday wines the special occasion/collectible bottlings, for far too many of them, this gap looks more like a chasm.
Well, none of these issues apply to this little beauty, and would it were the case with more of its ilk. This particular cuvee` is made from 45% Viognier, 45% Roussanne and 10% Clairette. And while this complement of grapes in these percentages is not a clear heresy, most white Cotes-du Rhone are dominated by Grenache Blanc, which when grown on the right sites, with the cooperation of the vintage conditions, and handled well in the cellar, can make very fine wines, but Grenache’s propensity to flabbiness and high levels of alcohol can often make for flat and often “hot” wines that are too big to sip alone, but too unstructured to match well with most foods.
That said, Viognier, like Grenache Blanc, is also quite acidity challenged, but unlike Grenache Blanc, Viognier is highly scented – almost aromatically so – and with a deep and rich mouthfeel that Grenache Blanc cannot match. So to bolster the wine’s structure, enter Rousanne, which is very characterful in its own right (with lots of earthily green aromas) and has plenty of fresh acidity, and the splash of Clairette which is cripser yet, and with a directly honest stoniness that serves as sort of rudder for the big personalities of the two main varieties. Further, this cuvee` is vinfied in old-school cement vats, which natrually micro-oxygenates the wine and imparts a subtle and charming rusticity, and in following the same philosophy, the wine sees no wood whatsoever, with which all of that Viognier, could make the wine too rich and heavy.
So to allow this forthright but still very pretty wine to shine, I chose some simple dishes to put next to it: a cabbage soup with yellow tomatoes and rice et al. and the bistro classic croque madame with oven-roasted potatoes.
Domaine Les Aphillanthes Clementia Blanc Cotes du Rhone 2013
Coppery medium golden color. Expressive, clean and elegant nose of apricot nectar, sliced peach, lemon zest, lilies, merengue and hay. The palate is full and lightly unctuous with a balancing softly fresh acidity that reveals well-delineated “sweet” flavors of yellow cherry, key lime, pineapple, jasmine tea, crushed pine nuts, nutmeg and tonic water. The wine finishes good length and flavors of tonic water and bitter almond.