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Perrin of Chateau de Beaucastel: the two Rhone valleys

The Northern and Southern Rhone could be separate planets. As Marc Perrin explains, everything, from your football team to how you fry your onions, is different in the south.

Speaking at a London tasting of the superb 2009 vintage (tasting notes to come later on Decanter.com), director and winemaker Marc Perrin was emphatic.

‘We want to become THE Southern Rhone specialist,’ he told me. ‘All the big names in the Rhone are from the north: if they are in the south they are negociants.

‘But we want to be able to control production, and the only way to do that is to buy or lease. We own all our vineyards at Gigondas, Vaqueyras, Cairanne.’

Perrin & Fils is a force in the Rhone. From the entry-level (and winner of a clutch of respectable Decanter World Wine Awards) Vieille Ferme through Villages wines, the excellent organic Perrin Nature and up to the splendid Beaucastel Cairanne, Rasteau, Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Chateauneuf, and some extraordinary Roussanne, their range is highly respected.

Perrin is an evangelist for the south. ‘People think of the Rhone as one valley, but there are two Rhone Valleys. North and south. They are quite different.

‘The north is granite, the south is clay and limestone. The north is sloping, the south is plateau. The north is mainly Syrah, the south is blends of a dozen different varieties. The barrels are different – we have barriques in the south.

‘The food is different – in the north they use butter, in the south it’s olive oil. The accents are different.’

And in case you’re in any doubt as to the different planets these two valleys occupy:

‘We even support different football teams. In the north they support Lyon, in the south it’s Marseilles.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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