Malcolm Jolley spots a top value from a renown winemaker.

Late last year I met the celebrated Southern Rhône winemaker Stéphane Vedeau and tasted through his excellent estate label of Côtes du Rhone and Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, Clos de Bellane for this post. In the course of that interview, Vedeau explained that he also made wine using sourced grapes for his other label: La Ferme du Mont. While the Clos de Bellane wines are great value for their quality (i.e. a $60 C-d-P), the Ferme du Mont line is a wonderfully affordable way to taste one of the regions most celebrated vignerons and celebrants of the Grenache grape.

Vintages is selling La Ferme du Mont Côtes du Rhone ‘Première Côte’ 2016 (LCBO# 251645) for $18.95 a bottle. The blend is 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre. For just under $20 it packs a lot of juicy dark red to black fruit, with a pleasantly modest seasoning of acetone. C’est un vin typique, but typical of the higher status village or AOC Rhônes like Gigondas or Vacqueras. Did I mention it’s a bargain and worth trying?

Vedeau’s Première Côte is actually just the latest in a series of good value Southern Rhône reds from 2015 and 2016 that have been coming through Vintages this summer, all hovering around the $20 mark. I have a theory on this, which is we are just now beginning to see the (literal) fruits of plantings done by, or under the supervision, of the new wave of winemakers in the 1980s and 90s. Grenache, in particular, is thought not to make very good wines until it’s quite mature, as in the order of 20 years or more. As time has gone on, and growers have switched from quantitative targets to qualitative ones, the share of wine being made in and around the Southern Rhône from older vines. With a vine lifespan of about 50 years, this means we’re just at the beginning of the golden era. Let’s hope the prices don’t creep up as quickly as the quality, and get as much as we can now, just in case!