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Chateau des Tours Vacqueyras Reserve 1995
This charming appellation within the Côtes du Rhône Villages was second only to Gigondas to earn its own village appellation status. Its wines may be red, rosé or white—though hardly any is white. Its high winemaking standards follow many of the same rules as Chateauneuf-du-Pape. But for Vacqueyras red wines, half of the grapes have to be Grenache and the remainder is usually a combination of Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault.
While they can be robust and rustic in style, typically a great Vacqueyras red combines delicate aromas with intense fruit and a bright, crisp texture. They certainly don’t lack any character and show an abundance of black cherry, wild berry, plum, fig, baking spice, and a touch of game or smoke.
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.