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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > FRANCE: Rhône

Winner Details


The rise of the Rhône has been one of the big stories of SWA down the years – and so it was again this year, with Golds and praise galore

While it’s perhaps no surprise to see a sizable submission of reds from around the region doing well, in a sense the story here has been the rise of the whites. From being a niched category that over-performed, it’s now one of the largest white sections in France.

The high points were some outstanding cheap whites for the money, backed up by a handful of really excellent top-end wines. ‘Compare what you get here with what you get from Burgundy,’ mused one taster. While Alex Sergeant of The Harwood Arm described the £20 Clos La Roquète as being ‘the best value wine not just of this flight, but of the whole day’.

One big advantage of the whites was that, even at the upper prices, they were pretty much all ready to drink now, making them a very useful addition to the wine list.

‘It was an amazing flight, the quality and complexity in the wines was very high, with a lot of food compatibility,’ enthused Diana Rollan of Hakkasan London. While Kyri Sotiri of Soho Wine Supply described the Critics Choice-winning Saint Cosme as, ‘Layered and complex, but with a freshness too; a really good example for anyone who likes a more sophisticated level of Viognier.’

The reds were, surprisingly, patchier than they have been of late. Apart from a couple of well-priced efforts from Jean-Luc Colombo, one of which won a Food Match award as well as Gold, the general Côtes du Rhônes were a big disappointment

‘There were a lot of clumsy, chewy wines, with dried-out fruit and tough tannins,’ sighed Hakkasan’s Christine Parkinson. ‘There was little of the beautifully scented fruity character that you find in good Côtes du Rhône. They seemed to be trying much too hard to produce Northern Rhone wines in the South, rather than allowing the natural vibrancy of the fruit to show through.’

The Southern Rhône wines, too, were rather disappointing this year. ‘Southern Rhône usually delivers food-friendly wines – but not here,’ grumbled Etrusca Restaurants’ Luigi Buonanno. ‘There’s a danger when famous names don’t perform, as customers get disappointed.’

No such caveats with the Northern Rhône flights, however, which dominated the reds to an astonishing extent, with 10 medals, two of them Gold.

‘They tasted of Syrah the way that Syrah doesn’t taste anywhere else in the world,’ said team leader Richard Bampfield MW.

There was, as The Rib Room’s Louise Gordon pointed out, ‘good consistency through the price range’, with good cheap wines and also (not always the case with A-list regions) wines improving as the price tags got heftier.

And many congrats to Domaine du Monteillet, which picked up both Northern Rhône Golds, and a Critics Choice for its Les Grandes Places. ‘That’s just sex in a glass,’ said Galvin La Chapelle’s Andrea Briccarello priapically. ‘It’d be great with spiced lamb.’

‘The northern Rhône reds in particular were just delicious. And the nice thing was that there were outstanding wines at both ends of the scale,’ concluded Hakkasan’s Christine Parkinson.

‘I really enjoyed the entry-level whites – they were all blossom and white fruit and nice acidity at a good price. They really deliver.’
Christophe Richelet, Viajante

‘With their lovely stone-fruit character, and gentle structure, white Rhônes are good for customers who don’t like lots of acidity.’
Philippe Moranges
, Hakkasan Hanway Place


‘The whole northern Rhône flight was really good. Exactly what you would want: power and finesse, and all ready to drink.’
Richard Masterson
, Ubiquitous Chip