‘White Rhone has been misunderstood for years,’ said Decanter’s Rhône expert John Livingstone- Learmonth. ‘But this tasting shows that the wines can now be considered as serious, with quality and real character.’
Ben Llewellyn agreed: ‘Southern Rhône growers and winemakers are taking whites more seriously, which means we can take them more seriously too.’ And that was evident in the quality of the 127 wines tasted, said Marcel Orford-Williams. ‘An extraordinary performance – just one corked wine and no oxidation in any. Very few regions could match that in terms of quality control.’
Scroll down to see the best wines from the panel tasting
In terms of vintages, Llewellyn said 2014 had an ‘easy charm; generous without being overt, fresh without being acidic’. Orford-Williams felt 2013 was a concentrated vintage but the wines were probably now in a dumb phase, so needed a bit of time to open. But as the older wines submitted showed, they do have ageing potential, and offer great drinking as both aperitifs and versatile food wines.
‘These are not like Sauvignon Blanc or fresh, zippy wine-bar wines,’ said Livingstone-Learmonth. ‘Even professional tasters often don’t know what to expect with white Rhône and can’t handle the lack of obvious acidity. But that makes them great-value wines for anyone interested in food and wine pairing.’
Llewellyn said wine lovers would notice the improvements in quality to value ratio. ‘The southern Rhône used to be a ‘buyer beware’ region for whites because of clumsy, lazy overuse of oak, overextraction and heavy lees,’ he said. ‘But now growers are putting as much effort into their whites as the reds, and you can really taste their success.’
Top southern Rhône whites from the panel tasting: