Domaine Brun-Avril, Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014

Domaine Brun-Avril

Deep vivid red. Highly complex ripe red and dark berries, pungent flowers and a smoky minerality builds in the glass. Sweet and expansive on the palate, offering intense raspberry, cherry and cassis flavors that become spicier and livelier. Finishes very long and chewy, with repeating florality and steadily building tannins. The Avril family has been in Châteauneuf since the fourteenth century (15 generations and counting). Domaine Brun-Avril, however, was established in 2008 and is run by husband & wife team, Nathalie Brun and Jean-Jacques Brun. Their 5 hectares were part of an inheritance, one that changed the course of their lives. After deciding that they wanted to preserve the family's holdings, they studied viticulture. Despite being new winemakers, their style is old school. The vines are located in the northern part of the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in an area called Farguerol. There are two varietally distinct but neighboring plots. The Grenache is planted on a pre-dominantly clay-sand hill covered with large pebbles. The plot is 3 hectares with vines now averaging 100 years old. Co-planted in the plot is also some Mourvèdre (approximately 10%), a practice meant to promote diversity in the final blend. The Mourvèdre was planted in the place of a Grenache vine after it died and was ripped out. The Syrah is planted on a pre-dominantly clay-sand and silt hillside with an eastern exposition. The plot is 2 hectares with vines averaging around 20-25 years old. Despite there being two distinct parcels, the Avrils believe the harmony of the whole is better than the sum of its parts. They only make one wine a vintage.
Syrah/Shiraz, Mourvedre, Grenache
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Rhone Valley

Rhone Valley

The Rhone Valley is a key wine-producing region in the southeast of France. It follows the north–south course of the Rhone river for almost 150 miles (240km) from Lyon to the Rhone Delta (the Bouches-du-Rhône), near the Mediterranean coast.

The length of the valley means that Rhone wines are the product of a wide variety of soil types and mesoclimates. The region's wine-producing areas cover such a distance that there is a widely accepted division between its northern and southern parts. Rather neatly, they are separated by a gap of 25 miles (40 km) between the towns of Valance and Montelimar, in which almost no vines are grown.

This Rhone Valey region is dived in two subregions: Northern Rhoen and Southern Rhone. The smaller northern section focuses almost entirely on Syrah for red wines and Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne for whites, while the larger south employs a much longer list of varieties. The most notable of these are the red varieties Grenache and Mourvedre, which are combined with Syrah to produce the so called 'GSM' blend so characteristic of the southern Rhone. While the granite-blessed slopes of the north are paired with a continental climate, the rocky, sandy soils of the flatter south enjoy the warmer winters of a Mediterranean climate.


France – the home of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire and Champagne – is arguably the world's most important wine-producing country. For centuries, it has produced wine in greater quantity – and of reportedly greater quality – than any other nation. Wine is ingrained in French culture at almost every level of society; it is the drink of both the elite and the common people, and a key symbol in Roman Catholicism, France's majority religion.

The diversity of French wine is due, in part, to the country's wide range of climates. Champagne, its most northerly region, has one of the coolest climates anywhere in the wine-growing world – in stark contrast to the warm, dry Rhone Valley 350 miles (560km) away in the southeast. Bordeaux, in the southwest, has a maritime climate heavily influenced by the Atlantic ocean to its west and the various rivers that wind their way between its vineyards. Far from any oceanic influence, eastern regions such as Burgundy and Alsace have a continental climate, with warm, dry summers and cold winters. In France's deep south, Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon enjoy a definitively Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot summers and relatively mild winters.

France's appellation system was created in the early 20th century and has since been imitated in many other countries. This complex system of laws ultimately defines each wine region and its boundaries and imposes strict rules around winemaking practices. Protecting the names of French wines and guaranteeing the quality and provenance of the products themselves are its key objectives. No other country has developed its appellation system to such an extent; as of 2012, there were more than 450 controlled appellations under the AOC titles and a further 150 Vin de Pays/IGP titles.