France’s Rhône Valley is known for its robust red wines based on Syrah in the northern part of the region and Grenache in the south — wines from such prestigious appellations as Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Gigondas, to name just a few.
But did you know that there’s a little-known pocket on the northern edge of the Rhône, or just beyond it, where lighter red wines are made from the under-appreciated Gamay grape?
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The area is Coteaux du Lyonnaise, in the hills not far from Lyon, and as far as the grapes and winemaking are concerned, it has more in common with Beaujolais, its neighbor to the north, where Gamay is the signature variety.
It is here where the Clusel family farms about a dozen acres devoted to Gamay, in addition to the Syrah and the white Viognier it grows in Côte Rôtie and Condrieu, respectively, using organic methods in all.
Clusel-Roch’s 2017 Coteaux du Lyonnaise “Traboules” is about as charming a red wine as you’ll find for summer drinking or just about any time you want a lighter red. It’s fermented and aged in stainless-steel tanks, which gives it an appealing fresh-fruit quality supported by lively acidity.
Along with its red berry and blueberry tastes, there is good complexity, including a wet stone note. The grapes are grown in soils that contain glacial moraines (large pebbles) and granite.
With alcohol at 13 percent, the wine is light enough for fish and vegetable dishes but will hold up to chicken, pork and lamb as well — we enjoyed it with a few slices of grilled steak served at room temperature on a warm evening.
With some top Beaujolais wines now commanding prices of $30 or more, this lesser-known Gamay, produced by an artisanal winery, is a great value at about $20.
“Traboules,” by the way, refers to the old underground passageways in the city of Lyon.