For many of us, the term “happy hour” brings to mind bland beer and basic cocktails. But the hours between five and seven p.m. are ideal for hosting an elegant and stylish get-together, as long as you choose the right wines for the occasion.
Situated in the south of France, the Rhône Valley is known for producing high-quality, well-balanced wines. And with a diverse range of grape varietals and blends to choose from, you really can’t go wrong.
Here’s our guide to serving Rhône Valley wine at your next gathering.
Consider offering your guests a progression of wines, starting with rosé. Ranging in hues from pale blush all the way to ripe watermelon, rosé is fun and fresh, making it the perfect drink with which to kick off your after-work party.
Sun-soaked Tavel is the only appellation in the Rhône to produce nothing but rosé. Try the Château d’Aquéria Tavel 2014 ($21.95), a dry, medium-bodied wine with hints of lavender and rosewater.
Or look to the southeast Rhône, where the region of Ventoux produces easy-drinking rosés that are made for sharing with friends. One to try is Ogier Côtes du Ventoux Rosé ($12.95), a medium-bodied wine with notes of pink grapefruit and strawberry.
Next, move on to serving white wine. Grapes grown in the Luberon region benefit from the warm Mediterranean climate, making for elegant white wines, to which the Vermentino grape adds a distinct citrus bouquet. Try Marrenon Doria Luberon 2012, ($17.95) an aromatic blend of Vermentino and Grenache Blanc.
If you fancy a full-bodied white, you’ll enjoy Domaine de la Janasse Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2014 ($21.95). This rich Grenache Blanc blend from the Côtes du Rhône pairs well with both hard and semi-hard cheeses.
Finally, offer your guests red wine. You may not think of it as a typical happy-hour drink, but the versatility of Rhône Valley red wine makes for easy drinking-and even easier hosting.
The prestigious Crozes-Hermitage appellation is known for well-balanced, fruity Syrah, a grape that has a long history in the Rhône. M. Chapoutier Petite Ruche 2012 ($24.95) is a full-bodied, complex wine bursting with juicy black fruit, making it a terrific accompaniment for heartier appetizers like lamb chop lollipops or charcuterie.
For another superb Syrah, try Domaine Eric & Joel Durand Empreintes Cornas 2012 ($36.25). This medium-bodied wine hails from Cornas, an appellation on the right-bank of the Rhône where the only grape permitted is the highly-prized Syrah.
For a full-bodied, smooth red, pick up Les Amouriers Signature Vacqueyras 2012 ($26.95), a blend of Grenache and Syrah with a touch of Mourvèdre. This spicy-smoky wine is from Vacqueyras, a region set at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains, where the red wines are characterized by notes of preserved fruit and spice. Pair these robust wines with aged cheddar or with bacon-wrapped dates.
Similarly full-bodied, Famille Perrin Les Cornuds Vinsobres 2013 ($17.95) is a blend of equal parts Syrah and Grenache. This voluptuous wine dishes up a bouquet of violets and raspberries, as well as a pleasant fresh acidity, all at a terrific value. It’s typical of Vinsobres, a small, sun-filled appellation that produces ruby-red, nuanced wines.
As a rule of thumb, plan on serving half a bottle of wine per person over a two-hour period. And don’t forget to toast to your guests’ good health: À votre santé!
*NOTE: All prices LCBO