Saint-Péray may not be one of the more familiar Appellations of France but, as regular Bristol Wine Blog readers will know, I’m always keen to seek out wines from these less well-known areas. Sometimes, they are better value than their more fashionable neighbours; at other times they just make good and interesting drinking, perhaps with some unusual and different flavours. The Saint-Péray we enjoyed recently (£14.99 from Waitrose) probably fits more into the second category, although, for the quality, it is by no means expensive.
Saint-Péray is on the west bank of the River Rhône, near the town of Valence and used to produce mainly sparkling wines described by Tom Stevenson (in a 20 year old Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia that I’ve kept for no logical reason) as ‘overrated, having a coarse mousse and made from the wrong grapes grown on the wrong soil’! Well, the same grapes, Marsanne and Roussane, are still being grown in the same soil; the key things that have changed are that, today, more of the wines are made still rather than sparkling and a number of top producers have moved in and transformed the quality of the grapes in the vineyard and the standards of winemaking.
And it was the name of three of these producers, working together, on the label that attracted me to this wine: Pierre Gaillard, Yves Cuilleron and François Villard all make their own wines (Cuilleron’s Condrieu is stunningly good) but also collaborate under the banner ‘Les Vins de Vienne’. I wasn’t disappointed; this is a full bodied, flavoursome, dry, rich white that has spent 9 months ageing, partly in barrel. The oak is quite noticeable, as is the alcohol (13.5%) but neither dominates the spicy palate (cinnamon and ginger came to mind) with its attractive sourness – the kind you get from baked apples. And it might be even better after a couple more years in bottle or, if you can’t wait, decanting.
If this is the wrong grape in the wrong soil, then give me more!