Anthony Rose: The best value in the northern Rhône is usually to be found in Crozes Hermitage reds of pure syrah'

Beyond the thick city walls of Avignon and its historic Palais des Papes, the ancient gnarled vines of Châteauneuf du Pape and the satellite districts of the Rhône are poised for their annual cycle of renewal. Only the white spring flowers and lilac blossom that add an extra splash of colour to the patchwork of vines rooted in soils of white pebble, golden sand and brown clay hint at the abundance to come in this warm southern- French region fed by the mighty Rhône river.

The climate has been kind to the Rhône valley in recent years, with a series of good to excellent vintages in both cooler north and sunny south: 2009 is a warm vintage of ripe, powerful wines, while the first 2010s I tasted this month seem endowed with the perfect balance of fruit and freshness. With one or two exceptions, the wines of the Rhône may not come with the fancy address of a Bordeaux château or Burgundy domaine, but a leap in quality combined with favourable vintages has helped the local vigneron steal a march on his more prestigious competitors when it comes to good-value drinking.

Red wines here are based on the aromatic, spicy, black pepper-scented syrah grape in the north with blends of grenache bringing red-berry and white-pepper flavours the closer you get to the Mediterranean. Whites are increasingly excellent, so let's hope that more of the blends based on marsanne, roussanne, viognier and clairette will see their way to the UK. For a taste of a fine Rhône dry white, try the 2009 Saint Péray, Les Vins de Vienne, £13.99,, a wine whose ripe, concentrated appley flavours and vivid freshness are based on the marsanne grape.

The best value in the northern Rhône is usually to be found in Crozes Hermitage reds made of pure syrah clinging to the riverbank's terraces. A mature example, perfect now with pink-roasted lamb or rose veal, is the delightfully spicy 2007 Crozes Hermitage Rouge, Terre d'Eclat, Domaine de la Ville Rouge, £15.95, Jeroboams shops, London, with its twist of black pepper. If you find that too pricey, console yourself in the arms of the more youthfully exuberant 2009 Gaillard Syrah, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, £9.99, buy 2 = £7.99, Majestic, a Crozes in all but name for its perfume and voluptuously juicy black peppery fruit.

The complexities of the southern Rhône's broader palette of blends and numerous villages may be harder to unravel but they'll repay the effort. Good value extends from the affordably cherryish glugging qualities of the 2009 Sainsbury's Côtes du Rhône Villages, £5.99, or darker berry-fruit concentration and mouthwateringly spicy qualities of the 2007 Domaine de Cassan Tradition, Beaumes de Venise, £8.49, Waitrose.

Current 2009 offers from independent specialists are well worth a look for juicy reds such as the Perrins' fragrant and succulently dark cherryish 2009 Vinsobres Les Cornuds, £75-£80, a case, in bond (duty and VAT to be paid on delivery), Goedhuis & Co (020-7793 7900), Divine Fine Wines, Birmingham (0121 745 6999). For a star in the making, Domaine Santa Duc's 2009 Vacqueyras, Les Aubes, £108 a case, in bond, Berry Bros & Rudd (0800 280 2440), is a wonderfully intense grenache-based red full of garrigue herb and spice and rich cherry and blackberry fruitiness; a divine red to get you dancing merrily away on the Pont d'Avignon.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Researchers have said it could take only two questions to identify a problem with alcohol
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style