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St-Peray - what's that?

The southernmost appellation of the northern Rhone is not a name that many wine enthusiasts know or a wine that is commonly seen on the shelves. There are some decent sparklers bubbling out, and have been since the 1820s, but now the still whites are making a name for themselves in this tiny appellation - different sizes abound on this font of all knowledge, the internet, but it seems that it is between 55 and 90 hectares (by way of contrast, Chateau Lafite claims 112 hectares).

Earlier this year, I visited Pierre Gaillard, one of the northern Rhone's great risk-takers, who was clearly very pleased with his St-Peray (indeed, he has reason to be pleased with the whole range but the St-Peray seemed to be one he was especially proud of) and it was easy to see why. It is a wine grown just south of Cornas on clay and chalk, giving acidity and tension to the wine. The Marsanne/Roussanne blend give the wine delicate floral characters, complexity and balance.

Yesterday, I was flicking through the September issue of Decanter when I spotted an 'Expert's Choice' review of wines from St-Peray. Matt Walls is quite a good reviewer, of Rhone wines anyway, so it was pleasing to see that he awarded 93 points to Gaillard's St-Peray, one of the highest scoring and, certainly, the cheapest in the line-up.

'Majority Marsanne. Bay leaf and pine needles on the nose, almost peppery - very lively and inviting aromatics. A squeeze of citrus over the rich apricot fruit; very long and perfectly balanced. Good tension in the wine; this is very well done.' (Matt Walls, Decanter 09/17)

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