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Value Rhône reds: Top 10 under £18

Reds from northern and southern Rhône, at prices that won’t break the bank. See the top 10, and Judge Matt Walls analyses the results...

Value Rhône reds: Top 10 under £18

The Rhône might be one of the classic wine regions of France, but it remains just as fruitful for the bargain hunter as for the serious collector. Rhône reds in particular have long had a reputation for delivering good value and this recent tasting of inexpensive reds largely confirmed it.

At this price level, the named village wines performed strongly and ‘generally showed their individuality and quality’, according to panel judge Joanna Simon. Cairanne performed particularly well – justifying its recent elevation from Côtes du Rhône-Villages to AC status – with Plan de Dieu and Massif d’Uchaux not far behind.

There were plenty of solid wines from southern Rhône crus like Vinsobres and Lirac. Though better known, Vacqueyras and Rasteau and were less reliable. Good-quality Châteauneuf-du-Pape has long sat outside this price bracket, and it seems that Gigondas, once seen as ‘the poor man’s Châteauneuf’, is heading the same way.

One surprise was the quality of some of the straight AC Côtes du Rhônes. As you might expect at this most basic level, quality oscillated wildly; but there are some delicious wines if you know what to buy.

Little from the northern Rhône fell into our price bracket but the cheapest Crozes- Hermitage. Most that we tasted were from the tricky 2013 and 2014 vintages; quality was inconsistent, but a handful delivered.

That we weren’t tasting richer vintages may have been a blessing: we found few examples of jammy fruit or unbalanced alcohol. ‘I was very impressed with the wines’ freshness,’ said Decanter’s Christelle Guibert. ‘Overall I felt the oak was very well managed, with only a few exceptions.’

Simon summed up our impressions well: ‘Overall, it was a solid performance, especially in the price range.’

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