In the wine world, sometimes it seems like all roads do, in fact, lead to the Rhône . Named for the Rhône river, which flows for 500 miles from the Swiss Alps to the Mediterrean, the Rhône Valley wine region begins in central France, just south of Lyon and follows the water’s path to the sea. Its 150 miles encompass 71,0000 hectares under vine across more than 30 different AOCs. Syrah starts here, and at least two dozen other grapes are generally identified as ‘Rhône varietals.’  Rhonê is also responsible for pioneering all kinds of blends, most famously Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre or GSM, and winemakers the world over - California’s Rhonê Rangers for instance -  have taken inspiration from the region and sought to echo the power and complexity of its best wines on compatible terroir. Greek settlers planted the first vineyards in Rhône around 400 BC, near present day Marsailles, but it was their Roman successors who laid the ground work for widespread viticulture in the Rhone Valley.  A thousand years later, Pope  Clement V moved the Roman Catholic papal seat from Rome to Avignon, and legend suggests that a knight returning from the Crusades built a small chapel on hill overlooking the river. The “Castle of the Popes” and the small pilgrim’s chapel today stand as respective and enduring symbols for two of the Rhône greatest wines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage. 

     Rhône can be divided into two parts that are a study in contrasts. Northern Rhône is precise and compact, composed of   8 AOCs nestled into 40 miles of steep hillside overlooking  the river, and responsible for just 5% of all Rhône wine. Syrah is the only allowable red grape in the region and it is grown (along with a minuscule amount of white, mainly Viognier, most notably in the Condrieu AOC) in a cool continental climate, with signifiant seasonal temperature shifts. Southern Rhône on the other hand, is sprawling and amorphous. As the Rhône river passes Montélimar, the valley flattens and widens and the climate becomes Mediterranean - hotter and drier but still heavily influenced by the mistral winds from the Alps. Vineyards begin to take up more of the landscape, extending out from the river banks to encompass much of the surrounding area. There are 12 white and 14 red varietals allowable in Southern Rhône wines, ranging from the near ubiquitous Grenache (Blanc and Rouge) to the almost non-existent Calitor and Picardan. Aside from the aforementioned Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhône wines aren’t as prized or expensive as those from the North, but the sheer size and variety of viticulture in the area means there is lots of space and freedom for intrepid vignernons to do interesting things at reasonable costs. 

     This month we are excited to feature two of our favorites. Corrina Faravel of Martinelle Winery,  a pioneer in the Ventoux appellation, supplies the red blend. Named after the mountain that dominates the local landscape and provides one of the most grueling stages of the Tour de France, Ventoux also boasts some of the highest altitude and coolest climate sites in Southern Rhône; an intriguing combination of Northern weather and Southern terroir. Our white selection comes from Domaine Maby in Lirac. Situated in the low-lying hills directly across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Lirac has a similar soil composition of large round quartz boulder pebbles called galets roulés. These galet soils help to absorb valuable moisture and retain heat during the day which is then slowly reflected back on the grapevines at night, resulting in better and more even grape ripeness. Both producers are dedicated to organic, sustainable agriculture and represent some of the best that Southern Rhône has to offer.


The PlumpJack Wine Team 

Martinelle Ventoux Rouge

Region / Country of Origin

Ventoux, Rhone, France

About the vineyard: Martinelle occupies 11.5 hectares on the eastern slopes of the imposing limestone cliffs of the Dentelles de Montmirail, east of Gigondas. The landscape is marked by steep hills, and vineyards share space with olive and pine trees with aromatic herbs growing among vineyard rows. All the vines are planted on southeast-facing terraces, which meet the sun the moment it crests over Mount Ventoux, and yet are protected from the afternoon’s intense heat. Vines are cared for according to organic principles, and the estate was officially certified by Ecocert in 2015. 

About the Winemaking: Hand-harvested, with grapes sorted in the fields and at the cellar. Destemmed and lightly crushed; fed via gravity into unlined cement tanks and fermented on indigenous yeasts. After malolactic conversion, the final blend (65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 13% Mourvèdre, 2% old-vine Carignan, young Counoise, Terret Noir and Vaccarèse) is assembled and aged further in cement tank. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.  

Tasting Notes:  Aromas of red berries, garrigue, light pepper. Bright and fresh, with flavors of raspberry and red plum. Extremely long finish.

Winemaker: Corrina Faravel

Price:  $25 bottle/$270 case

Suggested Food Pairing:  

Grilled Chicken or Steak


Mediterranean Inspired dishes

Domaine Maby La Fermade Lirac Blanc 2019

Region / Country of Origin: Lirac, Rhone France

About the Winery: The Maby family’s roots in the region go back to the 19th century. Initially produced in the family home, the wine was sold throughout the region under the name of “Clos du Palai”, in reference to the location of the vineyards. After the Second World War, Domaine Maby was officially launched by Armand Maby, who developed a modern, functional winery and acquired new plots of vines.In 1946, the first bottles bearing the “Domaine Maby” label were produced. In the 1960s, Armand was joined by his son Roger and his sons-in-law. The estate was further extended, onto the Tavel appellation and also the magnificent pebbled terroir of Lirac.

About the winemaking: Committed to organic viticulture, Domaine Maby favors natural methods in the maintenance of its vines.Each of the stainless steel vats in the Maby cellar is assigned to a plot, so as to adapt the vinification methods to the particularities of each type of grape or terroir. The temperature is controlled to the nearest degree, which guarantees precise management of the fermentation. The choice of a low temperature (11-14° C) for the whites and the rosés makes it possible to extract and preserve the aromas as well as possible.

Tasting Notes: Composed of 55% Grenache Blanc, 15% Clairette and 30% Picpoul, the wine presents a bright, clear gold color with a greenish hue followed by seductive nose of yellow plums, apricots and flowery notes. Powerful on the palate with subtle aromatic presence. Great freshness and balance overall. 

Winemaker: Roger Maby

Price: $24 bottle/ $259.20 case

Suggested Food Pairing: 

Thai cuisine

Grilled chicken skewers

Fruit-centric desserts

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