Two wines from the Rhône's Vidal-Fleury
The region - Rhône
The Rhône is one of France's great rivers. rising in Switzerland and draining into the Mediterranean in the Camargue delta; if its wine have a defining feature, it is that of being substantial.
As a vineyard, the Rhône divides neatly in to the North (cooler, smaller, more prestigious, more expensive) and the more diverse South.
The North makes red wines from Syrah and whites from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. By contrast, the South produces an array of red, white and rosé wines, often blends.
The Côtes du Rhône appellation covers all of the southern Rhône; the reds are usually dominated by Grenache, whites are more varied.
The history - Vidal-Fleury
Located in the Northern Rhône's Côte-Rôtie, Vidal-Fleury is the oldest continuously operating wine producer in the region.
It was founded by Joseph Vidal in 1781 and visited by Thomas Jefferson, then United States Ambassador to France, in 1787.
In the 1890s, Gustave Vidal married a young lady named Fleury and the estate became Vidal-Fleury. the bride's dowry was invested in replanting the vineyard after the devastating attacks of phylloxera.
In in 1984, with no heir to take on the estate, it was sold to the Guigal family who had a long and close history with Vidal-Fleury, allowing the the business to flourish whilst still operating independently.
The most substantial changes have taken place more recently; anew winery was opened in 2008 and a new winemaker Guy Sarton du Jonchay joined the company to set about reviewing and improving the Vidal-Fleury range.
The grapes - Viognier (white)
Viognier is something of a sun-worshipping hedonist; high in alcohol and low in acidity, it is full-bodied, perfumed and rich. Until relatively recently, Viognier was something of a niche grape - hard to find and expensive to buy - but it is starting to make a home for itself around the world.
The Grapes - Grenache (red)
Grenache is a thin-skinned, low acidity / low-tannin red grape that needs warm temperatures to ripen and is most commonly blended with Syrah and Syrah and Mourvèdre - the classic "GSM blend".
Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2019 Vidal Fleury (£12 Majestic)