Vacqueyras: The Southern Rhône’s Stealth Appellation

“While its more famous neighbors have long been on the radar of wine lovers and collectors, Vacqueyras and its wines continue to fly under the radar. That is likely to soon change, especially given the consistently fine value these wines offer and the uniformly high quality of recent and upcoming vintages. At this point, no one who follows the wines of the southern Rhône Valley needs to be reminded that 2015 and 2016 are epic vintages across the region, with 2017 close on their heels. Now, with yet another outstanding vintage, 2018, likely waiting in the wings, there’s never been a better time to explore this still underrated (and, happily, in most cases underpriced) appellation, whose wines, at their best, can rival top-notch Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Just how under-the-radar is Vacqueyras in the US? I informally polled over a dozen experienced sommeliers, retailers and collectors over the last year, and none of them could name more than a few producers who are based in or are specialists of the appellation. The good news is that they were able to list a number of Vacqueyras wines made by wineries based in Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and, of course, négociant bottlings. Keep in mind that these are people who could probably rattle off 90% of the producers of Cornas, Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie and most of the domaines that work in Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph, not to mention Châteauneuf-du-Pape and even Gigondas. That’s good news for consumers, as lack of attention tends to keep prices low, but Vacqueyras and its best producers deserve better, especially in the 21st century. In Vacqueyras, the inclusion of a high percentage of complementary varieties generally gives Grenache a bit more up-front structure in the early going than most other wines in the southern Rhône Valley. Paradoxically, that structure falls off fairly quickly, typically making the wines approachable after just a few years in bottle. The wines then tend to hold up well until age 8-10, although I’ve tasted a number that were drinking admirably as they approached their second decade of life. While few examples of Vacqueyras are built for long-term cellaring, as is the case with many examples from Gigondas and, particularly, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, they are definitely not easygoing, drink-on-release wines. Also, not many are made in the world-beating, flamboyant, large-scale fashion of a number of wines from neighboring appellations. As such, the best Vacqueyras deliver plenty of satisfaction for wine lovers who crave a more traditional style of southern Rhône wine, with generally lower alcohol levels and modest oak influence. They are also extremely food-friendly, and pair well with strongly seasoned foods as well as lighter fare, especially poultry, which is often overwhelmed by rich, full-throttle wines unless the sauce is up for the battle. I especially like Vacqueyras with mushroom dishes or preparations that involve truffles (when I can afford them!) as the Mourvèdre and Syrah that’s widely used here brings a degree of earthiness to the wines. Think pastas and risottos and you’re on the right path. Full-flavored cheeses are always a great call as well.” --Josh Raynolds, Vinous , Vacqueyras: The Southern Rhône’s Stealth Appellation, February 2020 To read Josh’s full report and read all about how the 2017, 2016, and 2015 vintages performed and the predictions for 2018, check out the full article on Vinous now. Below is a selection of notes from the report.

Le Domaine Montirius

Garrigues Vacqueyras Grenache Blend 2017

Delectable Wine
9.3

Brilliant ruby. Spice-accented red and dark berry preserve, floral and smoky mineral qualities on the expressive nose; a hint of succulent herbs emerges with air. Shows very good depth as well as energy to the sweet black raspberry, cherry and licorice flavors, which deepen steadily through the midpalate. Supple tannins build slowly on a long, spicy finish that leaves cassis and cracked pepper notes behind. Raised in concrete vats. (Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2020)
— 4 months ago

Domaine de la Colline Saint-Jean

Vieilles Vignes Vacqueyras Red Rhone Blend 2016

Delectable Wine
9.3

Opaque ruby. Highly expressive, mineral- and spice-accented boysenberry, cherry and floral scents show fine delineation and a subtle touch of garrigue. Silky in texture and impressively concentrated, offering intense red and blue fruit preserve and exotic spice flavors and a sexy hint of candied lavender. Fine-grained tannins give gentle grip to a very long, focused finish that leaves floral and cherry preserve notes behind. All concrete. (Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2020)
— 4 months ago

Famille Perrin

Les Christins Vacqueyras Red Rhone Blend 2016

Delectable Wine
9.3

Brilliant ruby. Aromas of ripe cherry, singed plum, candied flowers and licorice; a spicy, smoky mineral topnote adds urgency. In a broad, generous style, offering plush red and dark berry preserve, violet pastille and cracked pepper flavors and a sweetening suggestion of cola. Round, pliant tannins give gentle grip to an impressively long, smoky finish that strongly echoes the cherry and floral notes. (Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2020)
— 4 months ago

Gabriel Meffre

Laurus Vacqueyras Red Rhone Blend 2016

Delectable Wine
9.4

Limpid ruby-red. Powerful red and dark berry and cherry cola scents are complemented by exotic spice, incense and floral pastille notes. Sappy and densely packed, offering vivacious black raspberry, cherry liqueur, violet pastille and spicecake flavors energized by a core of juicy acidity. Smooth, harmonious tannins build steadily on the impressively long, penetrating finish, which leaves behind smoky mineral and juicy dark berry notes. Raised in 275-liter oak casks for 15 months. (Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2020)
— 4 months ago

Château de Montmirail

Cuvée l'Ermite Vacqueyras Grenache Syrah 2017

Delectable Wine
9.1

Inky ruby. Assertive dark berry and cherry compote scents are complicated by suggestions of candied flowers, spicecake and licorice. Concentrated yet lively on the palate, offering sappy dark fruit and candied violet flavors that fan out slowly on the back half. Shows very good energy, increasing sweetness and steadily building, chewy tannins on the persistent finish. All concrete. (Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2020)
— 4 months ago

Roucas Toumba

La Grande Terre Vacqueyras Red Rhone Blend 2017

Delectable Wine
9.0

Deep shimmering ruby. Smoke- and spice-accented cherry and black raspberry on the nose and in the mouth. Juicy and appealingly sweet, offering pliant red and blue fruit flavors and subtle hints of succulent herbs and licorice. Round, even tannins add gentle grip to the finish, which lingers with very good, spicy tenacity. (Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2020)
— 4 months ago

Domaine le Sang des Cailloux

Cuvée de Lopy Vacqueyras Red Rhone Blend 2016

Delectable Wine
9.3

Deep shimmering ruby. Smoke- and spice- accented ripe cherry and black raspberry qualities on the nose, along with a suave floral nuance that emerges with air. Juicy and appealingly sweet, offering impressively concentrated red and blue fruit preserve flavors and hints of succulent herbs and candied licorice. Round, even tannins add shape to a long, floral-tinged finish that leave a sappy boysenberry note and a touch of smoked meat behind. (Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2020)
— 4 months ago

Les Halos de Jupiter

Vacqueyras Red Rhone Blend 2017

Delectable Wine
9.2

Deep bright-rimmed magenta. Mineral- and smoke-accented cherry, black raspberry and garrigue scents pick up a sexy incense nuance as the wine opens up. Sweet, seamless and energetic on the palate, offering intense red and blue fruit, spicecake and floral pastille flavors that deepen through the back half. Concentrated yet light on its feet, playing power off delicacy with a smooth hand and finishing impressively long, sweet and subtly tannic. (Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2020)
— 4 months ago

Domaine Santa Duc

Les Aubes Vacqueyras Grenache Blend 2016

Delectable Wine
9.3

Bright violet. A complex, highly perfumed bouquet evokes succulent red and blue fruits, exotic spices and candied flowers. Palate-staining, intense raspberry, boysenberry and spicecake flavors take a sweet turn on the back half. Finishes extremely long and spicy, with repeating florality and steadily building but deftly interwoven tannins. Aged in foudres and clay amphoras. (Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2020)
— 4 months ago