A new Rhône discovery that represents a real insider's tip.
From €9.90, £10.50
This is not only a wine of the week, but an entire appellation of the week: Duché d'Uzès. It's a small area of 271 hectares, mostly to the west of the town of Uzès, north of Nîmes and west of Avignon.
In a typical year, the appellation produces 11,000 hl, equating to around 1.5 million bottles, which might sound like a lot, but is 25% less than the 2014 vintage of Guigal's red Côtes du Rhône, so it is perhaps forgiveable that I hadn't heard of Duché d'Uzès until attending a masterclass at the recent trade fair in Avignon, Decouvèrtes en Vallée du Rhône.
Most unheard-of appellations remain so for a reason, but the wines I have tried from Duché d'Uzès suggest that it deserves greater recognition. However, with fewer than 50 producers making wine there, it is inevitably tricky to find a wine that is well-distributed enough to qualify as a wine of the week.
However, Domaine Camp Galhan's Les Pérassières is available in Belgium, Ireland and France, and now in the UK via The Wine Society (with some previous vintages available via Yapp Bros) – and it epitomises why I am so keen on this little appellation.
The blend is 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache, which is a typical for the region (the regulations require minimum 40% Syrah and 20% Grenache). Consequently, it inevitably draws comparison with the northern Rhône, and for very good reason. When I tasted it at the recent Wine Society tasting, I was delighted to discover the signature smoked meat and black pepper aromas of Syrah, as well as the ripe bramble fruit and herby garrigue style more readily associated with the south. In short, it is Crozes x Châteauneuf, and gets the best elements from each style, with finely woven tannins, soft acidity and a long, smoky persistence.
There is plenty more to say about Duché d'Uzès, which I will save for a forthcoming article about the undiscovered terroirs of the southern Rhône, but suffice to say that the reds are really worth seeking out by all aficionados of red Rhône. Finding this level of typicality and complexity at around £10 per bottle is rare indeed, and there are several neighbouring producers I could recommend for the same reasons – Chabrier, Domaine Le Sollier and Collines du Bourdique, for example – but none of them is easy to find internationally.
The best distributed producer of Duché d'Uzès appears to be Mas des Volques, whose Volcae cuvée is available in Australia ($21.99), Switzerland (18.50 Swiss francs) and the USA ($19.99) among others. This is a more concentrated, extracted sort of style – it's very tasty, if rather less subtle and nuanced than others I have enjoyed from the appellation – but is still worth seeking out to experience the potential of this appellation. To judge from Wine-searcher.com, the appellation's wines seem to be relatively difficult to find in the US so far alas.
In the official press pack for Duché d'Uzès, it is written that
For over 20 years, winegrowers in the Uzège have been making every effort to bring their terroirs and wines into the limelight to win the recognition they deserve. The journey has been a long one, fraught with pitfalls and obstacles, full of hope one minute and disappointment the next.
For once, this is a refreshingly honest account from a marketing department. The wines of Duché d'Uzès do indeed deserve greater recognition, and Domaine Camp Galhan's Les Pérassières proves it. Snap it up while you can!