Malcolm Jolley finds great value in a wine made by a famous wine consultant.

Xavier Vignon pours one of his wines in Toronto, March 2016.

Xavier Vignon is a well known oenologist and wine maker in the Southern Rhone Valley, who lends his expertise to some of the region’s more upmarket labels, not least in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He also makes under his own label from grapes he sources around that part of the world, and while his top end wines command a typically high market price, his everyday wines offer great value and show what a sophisticated winemaker can do at the other end of the luxury spectrum. The Xavier Côtes du Rhône 2016 ($17.95 – LCBO# 297317, which is part of the September 29 Vintages Release.

The Xavier Côtes du Rhone is an even blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre in the classic Châteauneuf model. For me it’s the Grenache that stands out, full of bright round and dark red fruit that hovers over the blacker and blue notes from the Syrah and Mourvèdre. I have written before that I believe the Southern Rhône is having a bit of a moment, in part because there are just that many more older Grenache vines around. If there was anyone in Provence who knew where to source older Grenache vine grown grapes, at a good price, it would be Monsieur Vignon. It also doesn’t hurt, I guess, that 2016 was a good hot and dry year, but hand of the winemaker is most evident in this wine in that underated quality: balance. Despite a declared alcohol by volume of 14.5%, there’s no heat to this wine, just fruit, acidity and a touch of savoury minerality. It goes down dangerously well, and at $18 I suggest it’s well worth a try.