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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 thought of as a baby Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the term Côtes du Rhone actually doesn’t merely apply to the flatter outskirts of the major southern Rhône appellations, it also includes the fringes of well-respected northern Rhône 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, Cinsault, and Counoise, as well as Carignan. White grapes grown include Grenache blanc, Roussanne and Viognier, among others.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, red Rhône blends originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre typically form the base of the blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. With some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in Priorat, Washington, Australia and California.
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 is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit and a plush texture. Syrah supplies dark fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy and earthy notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume and earthy flavor as well as structure and a healthy dose of color. New World examples tend to be fruit-forward in style, while those from the Old World will often have more earth, structure and herbal components on top of ripe red and blue fruit.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. These can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes, playing equally well with beef, pork, lamb or game. Braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork and squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the red Rhône 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 make an appearance.