The Rhône Valley

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Maison Ughetto-Audoin: 44.163231, 5.004180
Domaine Martine & Christian Rouchier: 45.075694, 4.811553

The Rhône Valley has been making outstanding wines since Roman times. Bright meaty reds, voluptuous whites, lovely bubblies, all grown on very dry, hot stony soils, offering unique characteristics and delicious flavors. Vinotas Selections has discovered some high-quality growers who are offering fantastic wines at great prices.




Maison Ughetto-Audoin

Who doesn’t love the bacon fat, blue fruit and earthy notes of a great Cornas? The Norther Rhône is the epicenter of quality Syrah in the world, and so it was a thrill to discover this small négociant house specializing in Organic wines.

Born in 2010 as a partnership between two friends, Eric Ughetto and Lionel Audoin, Maison Ughetto-Audoin focuses on high-quality, small production Organic wines. Eric is a winemaker, and Lionel is both a professor of Philosophy as well as a part-time winemaker. Both men are originally from the Rhône Valley and have worked in the wine industry for decades, so they use their connections and friendships to find the best grapes they could.

At harvest, they make sure all their growers harvest by hand, and do a field selection. A final selection is made at the winery to ensure that only the healthiest grapes are used. Wild yeasts are allowed to ferment the wines in cement and stainless steel vessels, and 4-5 year old lightly toasted French barrels are used sparingly depending on the cuvée. Lastly, they are unfined and unfiltered with a drop of sulfur at bottling for stability.

The results are fresh and lively yet rustic like we love them from the Rhône, really gorgeous vins de terroir that proudly proclaim where they are from.

WINES

The Maison Ughetto-Audoin’s Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône comes from a plateau on pebbly clay and chalk soils between the Aigue and Ouvezes rivers. Hand-harvested, the grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts, then spend 20 months half in vats and half in neutral barrels. The resulting wine offers hints of raspberry, and earthy herbs, on a rustic but elegant medium peppery frame with meaty accents and a long finish.

Their Cornas was grown on the layered granite hills of the right bank of the Rhône river. Hand-harvested, it was fermented with local wild yeasts and spent 14 months in barrel. Unfined and unfiltered at bottling. It offers lovely bright dark red fruit, meaty, herbal and earthy notes on a medium body with black pepper accents, ending with a long finish and fruity tannins.




Domaine Martine & Christian Rouchier

Talk about a tiny domaine: this winery is all of 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres), located in and around the town of Saint-Jean-de-Muzols, in the northern part of the Rhône Valley.  Domaine Martine & Christian Rouchier was started in 1971 when Louis, Christian’s father, bought a small plot and started planting in the Le Luc lieu-dit.  The vines were grown on granite and gneiss, as was the other lieu-dit, La Chave, which had already been densely planted (6000 vines/ha) to Syrah in 1958.

Christian took over as winemaker in 2007 after having served in various roles for the family winery, and quality has soared since then.  He is a firm believer in making wines as naturally as possible, so the winery’s been certified Organic since 2013, even though he is practicing Biodynamic.  A horse is used to work the soils in the vineyards, and indigenous yeasts ferment the whole clusters of Syrah in cement tanks.  Malo takes place in old barrels, where the wines then sit on their lees for 16 months.  Bottling is done according to the lunar cycle, unfined and unfiltered.

The Domaine Martine & Christian Rouchier La Chave is a spicy, black peppery beauty showcasing meaty, earthy blue fruit on a medium-bodied frame, ending with a long, long finish.

The Domaine Martine & Christian Rouchier Le Luc is a fascinating study in terroir, as it’s grown on slightly similar soils as the La Chave, but just different enough to have a unique taste.  From slightly younger vines (46 years old as of 2017), this wine is somewhat similar to its older brother with more olive notes, black pepper and blue fruit on a medium-bodied structure that has a quartz mineral background.