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stirring the lees with james molesworth

The Southern Rhône Ahead: Is 2016 the Next Great Benchmark?

Back to France for a preview of the newest highly touted wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and more
Photo by: James Molesworth
Domaine Giraud's vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape's Les Gallimardes lieu-dit

Posted: Jun 27, 2017 12:30pm ET

What better time of year than late June and early July to visit France's Southern Rhône Valley? The sun is blazing, the trees that shade the town plazas are fully leafed out, the cicadas are in full throat and the vineyards are chugging their way to another harvest. Just add a glass of pastis and the seduction is complete.

I am a bit overdue for a tour through "Le Sud," as my last go round here was in June 2014. Since then, the region has experienced two stellar vintages in 2015 and '16. The former is a fruit-powered year, rich and lush and hedonistic, similar in style to 2009. Just before heading over here I tasted through dozens and dozens of newly released 2015s; look for my full report in Wine Spectator's Nov. 30 issue.

The younger vintage, 2016, has even more buzz. Producers are likening it to the classic 2010, with its powerful fruit but greater emphasis on structure and spine. With that in mind, I figured I'd better get over here and do some barrel tasting and see if the hype is merited.

As always, when I visit domaines to taste, there are no formal reviews of the wines (not to mention the 2016s are still in barrel). Instead, I'm here to get a feel for the vintage's quality and style, and chat in depth with the producers in person. So as usual, follow along on my blog here as I check in at domaines over the next two weeks, with some names you already know, as well as with some new faces. 

Follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at twitter.com/jmolesworth1, and Instagram, at instagram.com/jmolesworth1.

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