Hear from our Rhône Regional Chair James Lawther MW on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

The 2012 vintage was the most markedly on view on our Rhône panel this year. And with two Trophies and six Golds from 2012, it’s the vintage that will be of most interest to consumers in the coming months. There’s a freshness and balance (alcohol degrees are lower), which provides drinkability and charm. Conversely, the 2011s generally failed to excite and the 2013s appeared either too young or light and simple (only the more modest would have been in bottle by our April judging). These comments are mainly aimed at the southern Rhône as, barring Crozes-Hermitage, the north was significantly underrepresented.

What should we buy from here?

2012 is the vintage to look for, along with any of the outstanding 2010s that are still left on the shelf. It’s increasingly difficult to find quality and value under £8, but generic Côtes du Rhône makes a fair stab at it. Just above £8 the wines are even better, highlighted by our Trophy winner. At the other end of the price scale, Gigondas (and Gabriel Meffre) looked a winner with a Gold and a Silver, giving Châteauneuf-du-Pape (with two Golds and a Silver) a run for its money. A consistent flight of St-Joseph was a timely reminder that this northern AC can also deliver.

What should we leave on the shelf?

It’s too early to judge 2013s, especially from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and other named communes, so be wary of those that are already in bottle (the best won’t be available until 2015). Generic Côtes du Rhône-Villages is a catch-all category that provided some highs but plenty of lows. There’s more security when the village name is appended at the end. Lirac still fails to fire: the wines presented were dull and flaccid. Ventoux, too, didn’t curry favour, but this could have been related to the mass of 2011s and 2013s.

What should we keep an eye on?

Costières de Nîmes caught the eye this year. Both white and red fared well, the latter either Syrah-dominated or with a more even blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. It’s nearly 10 years since Plan de Dieu became a named Côtes du Rhône-Villages but the wines are going from strength to strength (the Aldi Gold is a bargain). Vinsobres was promoted to cru status in 2006 but has yet to become a household name – though with more entries in future years likely, I’m sure it will have something to offer. Finally, Châteauneuf-du-Pape white has become more and more interesting (witness the Gold) and is not over-priced at £15-£30.

Written by Decanter