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Agly Brothers B Cotes du Roussillon 2006
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Agly Brothers, named as a playful take on Ron and Michel making wine together from vineyards along the River Agly, is nurtured biodynamically and made with simplicity from vines grown near the Southern French town of Latour de France, located in the Côtes du Roussillon. Literally translated as ‘The Tower of France’, this small village borders the ancient kingdoms of Catalonia and France. Mature vineyards lay abandoned in this area of steep, arid slopes due to the high cost of farming, thus it is the quest of the Laughton and Chapoutier families to rediscover and fully express these exceptional, low-yielding sites. This wine is the beginning of that quest.
This dynamic partnership also yielded a Shiraz vineyard in Central Victoria’s Heathcote region, the home of Jasper Hill. Planted in the spring of 1998, this tiny vineyard was established on virgin red Cambrian soils and planted with both Australian Shiraz clones, selected by Ron, and French Syrah clones, imported by Michel from cuttings off his famous Hermitage vineyard. The label depicts ‘La Pleiade’ (The Pleiades, Seven Sisters), a small, wispy star cluster in the constellation of Taurus that can be viewed by the naked eye from both partners’ home vineyards in Tain l’Hermitage and Heathcote. Revered in legends by ancient cultures of most civilisations, including the Gauls and Aboriginal Australians, the Greek mythology of the Pleiades is linked to the seven beautiful daughters of Atlas and Pleione and their pursuit by Orion.
Typically though if as a baby Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the term Cotes du Rhone actually doesn’t merely apply to the flatter outskirts of that and other more major southern Rhone appellations, it also includes the fringes of well-respected northern Rhone appellations. White can be produced under the appellation name, but very little is actually made.
The region offers some of the best values in France and even some first-rate and age-worthy reds. Red varieties include most of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape varieties like Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsaut, and Counoise, as well as Carignan. White grapes grown include Grenache blanc, Roussanne and Viognier, among others.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of spice, Rhône red blends originated in France’s Southern Rhône valley and have become popular in Priorat, Washington, South Australia, and California’s Central Coast. In the Rhône itself, 19 grape varieties are permitted for use, but many of these blends, are based on Grenache and supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre, earning the nickname “GSM blends.” Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape are perhaps the best-known outposts for these wines. Other varieties that may be found in Rhône blends include Carignan, Cinsault, and Counoise.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache, which often forms the base of these blends, is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit, a plush texture, and often high levels of alcohol. Syrah supplies darker fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy, and meaty notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume as well as body, tannin, and a healthy dose of color. New World examples will lie further along the fruit-forward end of the spectrum, while those from the Old World taste and smell much earthier, often with a “barnyard” character that is attractive to many fans of these wines.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. Depending on the weight and alcohol level, these can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes—they play equally well with beef, pork, duck, lamb, or game. With their high acidity, these wines are best-matched with salty or fatty foods, and can handle the acidity of tomato sauce in pizza or pasta. Braised beef cheeks, grilled lamb sausages, or roasted squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the Rhône red blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin, and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, or even Tempranillo make an appearance.