Great southern Rhones - new wines in store

Two words are used to describe wines from France's southern Rhone Valley - great value. And most of them are too, but the vast majority are also big soft fruity reds, so where does that leave the whites? This year we have been finding out with a growing number of great value (and good tasting) white Cotes du Rhones, which have come our way from importers and distributors of these exceptionally tasty and super good value wines, which tend to be blends of big flavoursome grapes such as Viognier with fresh crisp cut through from Clairette and Bourboulenc, both of which add balance. Cotes du Rhone wines tend to be made from grapes grown around the southern end of the Rhone Valley’s 56,000 hectares of vineyard land, which carpets the region with red and white grapes. It’s most famous for its red wines but the growing quality of white Cotes du Rhone is worth writing home about, hence our wine of the week. Solitude by name... Our wine of the week is, despite its lonely sounding name, made from five different grape varieties - Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. Together, the sum is greater than its parts, as is also true of the reds made at Domaine de la Solitude, which is in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (the first legally defined wine region in France's now extensive appellation controlee system). The Domaine owns 35 hectares of grapes in Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC, 30 of which are devoted to red wines, with the remaining five hectares dedicated to white grapes. Modernisation has come to this winery, which has replaced its large old oak foudres with concrete vats and stainless steel tanks. The winery also uses new, French oak barrels as well as aged barrels for the maturation process. In 1999, the Domaine expanded its output, launching new labels. Pop in store this Thursday from 1pm onwards to find out why this white - the tip of the Domaine's production - is such a winner. We look forward to seeing you at Thirsty Thursday from 1pm onwards. No bookings necessary. Just pop in when the time works best for you.