Vacqueyras: the Solange of the Southern Rhône?

You’ve almost certainly heard of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but what about its neighbour, Vacqueyras? I often liken the relationship between these two appellations to that of Beyoncé and Solange. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last 20 years, EVERYONE knows the empire of Beyoncé, but people who know music are also very aware of the talent that her lesser-known little sister possesses.

Sure, if you want to turn up on a Friday night throw back some shots and hit play on “Single Ladies”, but if you’re looking for a track to vibe to as you’re cruising along the freeway on a mid-summer afternoon, I’ll gladly take “Losing You” by Solange.

If you’re looking to flex, pop the cork on a three-figure Chateauneuf, but if you’re looking for a more subtle, very reputable, and high quality wine to complement your lamb shanks, opt for the bottle of Vacqueyras.

Most people are aware of the immortal and mighty Chateauneuf-du-Pape (and rightfully so), but wine-saavy folks are also aware of the rustic beauty of the wines from Vacqueyras.

Vacqueyras’ coming out party occurred in 1990, when it was differentiated from the more generic Côtes du Rhône villages, by being awarded its own cru appellation. Like all appellations, it is subject to its own winemaking rules. Again, when we’re talking about reds, the Southern Rhône produces GSM blends. For the Vacqueyras appellation, their winemaking rules stipulate that only half of the wine must be made from the Grenache varietal. Vacqueyras is known to produce rustic wines – a term used to describe a wine that is earthy, with coarse or ‘chewy’ tannins. When used in the correct context, it is typically a positive descriptor.

I’ve highlighted a recent bottle below:

2014 Lavau Vacqueyras

I’ve provided the grid of my tasting notes below, but to summarize, this wine was an absolute treat. The wine follows through on its propensity for being rustic – the earthy notes are present, and the tannins, while very present as well, didn’t punch me in the face… they came on slowly but strongly. The brickish colour around the edge of the wine indicates that the wine is aging. This age carried through on the nose and palate, adding tertiary aromas and flavours. The alcohol is high, at 14%, but incredibly well-integrated – you don’t get that “hot” sensation from it. This one a treat for sure. Importantly, it didn’t break the bank – it comes in at a VERY reasonable $25.95.

Winemaker’s notes can be found here: https://www.lavau.fr/en/wines-lavau/

VarietalsGrenache (50%), Syrah (40%), Mourvèdre (10%)
Colour  Medium Garnet
AromasBlackberry, blueberry, raspberry, violet, lavender, cinnamon, vanilla, oak, black pepper, “granny purse” leather
StructureAcid: high
Tannin: high, creeper tannins
Body: med+
Alcohol: high (14%)
Finish: Long
FlavoursBlack cherry, blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, black pepper, leather, black licorice (anise), violet, oak, vanilla, baking spices, earthy/forest floor
Assessment of qualityVery good.
NotesThis one requires a fair amount of decanting in order for the aromas and flavours to open themselves up – around 30 to 45 mins. The structure and flavours indicate that this wine would do incredibly well if aged in bottle for another 10-15 years. $25.95, Vintages  

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