Sun-kissed, beautifully ripe, and stacked with juicy blackberry, peppery raspberry and crunchy red berries – 2018 has been hailed a va-va-voom of a vintage year, with seamless tannins offering a smooth ride all the way.
This is great news for lovers of fruit-forward, soft, friendly reds, that wheel out endless pleasure with every lip-smacking sip – like most examples from the southern Rhone regions. Grenache is in the driving seat, with syrah and mourvedre bolstering the chassis and glossy framework with their spicy aromas, body and structure.
“2018 in the Rhône Valley must count as one of the great vintages. In a nutshell, the 2018 Rhônes are concentrated and richly flavoured, with well-defined flavours,” says Ewan Murray, PR manager, The Wine Society.
“Despite undoubted power, they have retained both charm and elegance. A winning formula for sheer enjoyment!”
Here’s six of our top picks to snap up now…
1. Delas Grignan-les-Adhémar 2018, France (£8.50, The Wine Society)
With a solid core of crunchy blackberry and cherry fruit, and a lovely perfume of blackberry fruit, this intensely fruity red is fabulously smooth, highlights the vintage’s essential ripeness and with its embossed coat of arms, looks and tastes the part. From the northern end of the southern Rhone, if you had to put it into two words, Delas is downright delicious.
2. M&S Côtes du Rhône 2018, France (£6, Marks & Spencer stores)
“We’re really pleased with our 2018 Côtes du Rhône. In fact, we’ve had some really great vintages from the region recently, starting back in 2015 and delivering every year since,” says Belinda Kleinig, M&S Winemaker. “2018 in particular was an exceptional vintage. With perfect conditions for the grapes, this gave us a juicy, bright, easy-going wine with delicious notes of mulberries and spice.”
We couldn’t agree more – and with its deliciously satisfying finish, this little gem from the Côtes du Rhône (the largest appellation in the southern Rhone) earns bonus points for sheer drinkability and purse-friendly price point.
3. Terres De Galets Côtes du Rhône 2018, France (£5.75, Sainsbury’s)
Lighter tasting, with a sunny-ripe, spiced red berry/soft fruit friendliness, this top drop definitely scores on the value front – especially when you consider how much you normally have to pay to get your hands on a bottle this well packaged.
4. Berry Bros & Rudd Côtes du Rhône Rouge by Rémi Pouizin 2018, France (£11.95, Berry Bros & Rudd)
Another delectable drop that immediately establishes itself among the elite of the everyday drinking Rhône reds. As Fiona Hayes, Berry’s wine buyer, writes: “This Côtes du Rhône has been specially made for us by Rémi Pouizin, the talented winemaker and owner of Domaine Dieu-le-Fit.
“Made with exclusively organic grapes, the wine displays real purity of dark-berried fruit, with subtle spicy notes and a black-olive twist that is so typical of this region. Its juicy fruit core is wonderfully balanced by refreshing acidity and crunchy, chalky tannins.”
5. Creation d’Emilie Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2018, France (£25, Laithwaite’s Wine)
Laithwaite’s also cite 2018 as a great success and the vintage was especially kind to famous appellations like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which escaped the worst of a wet spring and reaped the benefits of a hot, dry summer and sunny September.
“2018 is, again, a very good vintage. Unfortunately, yield was down in southern Rhône following a devastating attack of mildew,” says Jehan Sacaze, wine & spirits buyer, Laithwaite’s. “However, the remainder of the growing season was dry and hot leading to juicy generous reds. My pick is Châteauneuf-du-Pape Creation d’Émilie.”
Silky, seductive and a head-turner of a Rhône red, we couldn’t agree more.
6. Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2016, France (£12.99, Waitrose)
In spite of all the hype, if you’re curious to try a Côtes du Rhône from a previous vintage, the 2016 (next best vintage and perhaps more generally available) from this renowned and important producer offers an excellent comparison.
Rounded, deeply flavoured and positively glowing, this wine has it all. A perfect parcel of grenache, syrah and mourvedre, peppery black raspberry and cassis fruit is spiked with sweet spice, and a velvety smooth ripeness and luxurious, silky finish places this label at the front of the grid.
Taste tip: Some 2018s haven’t been bottled yet, with early-bird ‘en primeur’ tastings, and the chance to reserve top-notch wines before they’re released, ongoing. Check-out fine wine merchants for offers.