This spring, I had the opportunity to gather a group of wine enthusiasts on AmaWaterways’ Colors of Provence Rhône River cruise. Along the Rhône in the famed Rhône Valley, from Avignon to Lyon, we indulged in cultural experiences, flexed our palate muscles at a few wineries, relaxed on our cabin’s veranda as we gazed at the starry sky, danced the night away after glorious dinners, and so much more. As you can imagine, friendships were solidified and memories were made while we sipped and sailed.
During the week-long cruise, our group enjoyed three wines that were elegant expressions of the Rhône Valley. And because I’m a firm believer that wine should be enjoyed with food, each wine was opened at dinner and paired with an array of magnificent dishes.
Rhône Valley Wine #1: You Won’t Believe the Color
What better wine to open than Château d’Aqueria Tavel 2021, a rosé that oozed depth and breadth with every sip. A blend of 45% Grenache, 20% Clairette, 15% Cinsault, 8% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, 4% Bourboulenc, and 2% Picpoul, aromas were intense and complex. And that stunning color! After we finished admiring the ruby red in the glass, it was time to taste. Notes of spice, red berries and white fruit were threaded with precise acidity. Balanced with a lingering finish, the wine was a brilliant match for fish with vegetables and sauce, but it could also pair effectively with lamb curry, paella, Thai food, an array of regional cheeses, and the palate of the heartiest of red wine drinkers!
The story of Château d’Aqueria began in 1595 when Louis Joseph d’Aqueria purchased the land in Tavel, already known for its flourishing vineyards, from the monks at the Abbey in Villeneuve les Avignon. His son, Robert d’Aqueria (hereditary Count Palatine) built a home that was renovated in the 18th century to be the magnificent Château of today. Although the property changed ownership numerous times, grape growing and production never stopped. For more about Château d’Aqueria, please click here.
Rhône Valley Wine #2: Centuries of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
As the AmaKristina sailed towards Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I knew that it was the perfect time to open Château la Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017 ($60). Everyone enjoyed the energetic notes of wild, ripe strawberries, raspberries, dark plums, black cherries, herbs, and a hint of anise on both the nose and palate. A blend of 40% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 18% Mourvèdre, and 7% Cinsault, lush tannic structure and bright acidity were the foundation upon which this rich, concentrated, balanced wine held court. We sipped and savored the Châteauneuf-du-Pape with lamb chops, but consider duck fillet or beef stew as delicious complements. For the record, the wine could easily be cellared until 2035.
One of the oldest and largest estates of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château la Nerthe extends over 90 ha (220 acres) around the castle. The vineyard of Château La Nerthe was born in the 14th century when vine culture spread over the area. Château La Nerthe, based on the work of Commander Joseph Ducos who was the owner of the estate after the phylloxera crisis, is at the root of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard as it’s known now. Baron Leroy de Boiseaumarié, from that experience, established in 1936 the first French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For more info, click here.
Rhône Valley Wine #3: When Beaujolais Gets Fancy
When we docked in Lyon, a stone’s throw from the vineyards of Beaujolais, I popped the cork(s) of Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent 2019. Made of 100% Gamay, aromas of ripe raspberries, roses, spice, and orange peel were intense and rich. Soft tannins and vibrant acidity framed fresh notes of red fruits and dried herbs with hints of granite. Balanced and concentrated, this full-bodied wine is guaranteed to please and pairs wonderfully with roasted vegetables, burgers off the grill, beef stew, thick fish with an aioli sauce, and of course, your favorite cheeses. Each of us raved about the Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent 2019 at dinner with a tender, melt-in-your-mouth pork loin.
Moulin-à-Vent, one of the Beaujolais Crus, boasts the classic monument, the windmill, surrounded by vineyards planted on pink granite rock. Gamay is cultivated on (mainly) pink granite soils layered over deep soil rich in manganese and metallic oxides. Strong winds blowing throughout Moulin-à-Vent affect the maturation and concentration of the fruit. Wines from Moulin-à-Vent are full bodied and complex with floral aromas and rich red fruit. Known for its ability to age, these serious wines help define prestige and power. Of note: Château des Jacques was purchased by Maison Louis Jadot in 1996. For more about Château des Jacques, click here.