Jean-Luc Colombo 2016 "Les Abeilles" Côtes du Rhône Blanc

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Tasting notes
Light yellow with a hint of green. The nose is very fine, offering intense floral notes and fruity aromas. The palate is nicely rounded and fresh with a good complexity. As the wine opens up honey aromas and flavours develop - obviously the bees at work! Perfect with grilled fish, sushi or simply as an aperitif.

Why we recommend this wine
We visited the winery some years back when we were looking for Rhône whites fermented in old oak for added complexity. Although the blend is unusual, it is a good example of what we were looking for.

The wine
An unusual blend of Clairette (80%) and Roussanne (the typical blend in the Northern Rhône is Marsanne / Roussanne) it achieves the same result The vines are situated on the ancient terraces of the Rhône Valley covered in pebbles and sandy clay soil. The grapes are vinified at a low temperature to preserve the fresh primary aromas. The Clairette is aged in a tank, and the Roussanne matures on its lees in oak barrels, aged 2 to 5 years, for 6 months.
“Les Abeilles” (The Bees) is named for the bees that inhabit the vineyards of Cairanne, Rasteau and Vacqueyras in the southern Rhône Valley where this Côtes du Rhône is produced. The bees thrive in these vineyards because no harsh pesticides are used. The Colombo family, life-long beekeepers as well as grape growers, are committed to combatting this global concern and have developed the Bee Helpful Program to help support research to help restore healthy honey bee colonies.

The wine estate
Jean-Luc Colombo inherited an early taste for the pleasures of the table from his mother, a cook from Marseille, and he became an outstanding cook. This naturally led him to the studies of oenology, to learn the secrets of wine and their natural accompaniments with the dishes of his childhood.

This is a true family business with father, mother and daughter all actively involved. They own vineyards in Cornas where they are based, Saint Péray and Côte Bleue - that strip of coast that runs along the Mediterranean from Marseille to the west. They also buy in grapes from other areas of the Rhône.

For many years “organic” methods have been applied in the vineyard but, in 2012, Laure Colombo launched the organic certification process (officially called ECOCERT in Europe). The vineyards have been certified from the 2015 vintage.

Food and wine
Freshness with a hint of oak complexity means fish especially sushi, white meats and soft cheeses. But, perhaps best of all is chicken barley stew; we use a recipe from Weightwatchers which, if you look at the ingredients, you might think is rather bland but it certainly isn't. Also see our guide to pairing food and wine here.

Did you know?
During the aging of white wines on the lees in barrels the supply of oxygen is limited by the atmosphere in below-ground cellars where the temperature and humidity are naturally stable ensures optimal maturing conditions. During the transfer to bottling the wines are protected with neutral gases (nitrogen and carbon dioxide -CO2) in order to limit the need for sulfur-SO2. Oxygen levels need to be as low as possible during bottling to avoid future oxidation, thus preserving the aromatic purity and longevity of white wines.