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Louis Bernard Cotes du Luberon 2007
Blend: 65% Grenache, 35% Syrah
Côtes-du-Lubéron became an appellation d'origine contrôlée in 1988. Since then, great improvements have been made in the quality of its wines through rigorous vinyard selection, stringent varietal requirements and lower yields.
Vinyards are located on both southern and northern exposures of calcareous mountains called the "Lubéron". The climate, cooler than that of the Rhône Valley, explains the importance of white wine production in this region (25%).
Peter Mayle's best selling book A Year in Provence has contributed to the popularity of this beautiful region. As a result, Lubéron wines are becoming increasingly sought-after. Its white wines are well-rounded, with a clean, crisp finish.
La Chartreuse de Bonpas is a medieval fortified convent located near Avignon in the Provence region of France, on the Durance River. According to legend, the area was originally called "Maupas" (bad passage) because it was dominated by dangerous bandits. In the 12th century, a holy man named Sibertius arrived with soldiers, built a convent, and chased away the evil bandits. Thus, the name was changed from "Maupas" to "Bonpas" (good passage) and became known as a safe haven allowing travelers a secure crossing of the Durance River .
Today, this historic monument is surrounded by 45 acres of A.O.C. Cotes du Rhone vineyards and is home to Louis Bernard. Visitors can tour the chapel, stroll in the beautiful French-style gardens, and enjoy wine tasting in the ancient cellar.
A long and narrow valley producing flavorful red, white, and rosé wines, the Rhône is bisected by the river of the same name and split into two distinct sub-regions—north and south. While a handful of grape varieties span the entire length of the valley, there are significant differences between the two zones in climate and geography as well as the style and quantity of wines produced. The Northern Rhône, with its continental climate and steep hillside vineyards, is responsible for a mere 5% or less of the greater region’s total output. The Southern Rhône has a much more Mediterranean climate, the aggressive, chilly Mistral wind and plentiful fragrant wild herbs known collectively as ‘garrigue.’
In the Northern Rhône, the only permitted red variety is Syrah, which in the appellations of St.-Joseph, Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie, it produces velvety black-fruit driven, savory, peppery red wines often with telltale notes of olive, game and smoke. Full-bodied, perfumed whites are made from Viognier in Condrieu and Château-Grillet, while elsewhere only Marsanne and Roussanne are used, with the former providing body and texture and the latter lending nervy acidity. The wines of the Southern Rhône are typically blends, with the reds often based on Grenache and balanced by Syrah, Mourvèdre, and an assortment of other varieties. All three northern white varieties are used here, as well as Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourbelenc and more. The best known sub-regions of the Southern Rhône are the reliable, wallet-friendly Côtes du Rhône and the esteemed Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Others include Gigondas, Vacqueyras and the rosé-only appellation Tavel.
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.