After a series of very good to excellent vintages, namely 2004, 2005 and 2006 in both the Northern and Southern Rhône Valley, it looks like the early 2007 releases confirm the hype surrounding the vintage.
Although often difficult to give generalisations regarding the quality of wines from the whole valley, it looks as though the Southern Rhône has come out better than the north, with some critics describing the 2007 wines as amongst the greatest ever produced in certain appellations in the south, particularly Châteauneuf du Pape.
In the north, whilst there are some outstanding wines, more careful selection is required as some of the wines contain green, vegetal streaks.
The early portents for the vintage in the region were not good. A dry, sunny spring was followed by a wet, cool summer with little sign of the grapes gaining in sugar levels and phenolic ripeness.
In the last few days of August however, everything changed. The sun shone all the way through September and into early October, and of equal importance, the Mistral (the northerly, dry wind) blew throughout the month. These two natural factors helped to dry, ripen and concentrate the grapes resulting in both improved sugar levels and excellent levels of acidity.
What is clear with the early released wines is that they contain a delicious fruit character, probably not seen since the 1998 vintage, which make them hugely drinkable at an early stage.
There is little in the way of strong fruit tannins, due to the cool summer but very importantly there is a terrific acidic backbone to the wines, rendering them fresh and lively on the palette.
Whether this will be a keeping vintage is open to debate but what is absolutely certain is that it is one that will give a huge amount of immediate pleasure.
From the south, keep an eye out for everything from basic Côtes du Rhônes to good villages, such as Cairanne, and all the way up to Châteauneuf du Pape. In the north the most impressive wines have emerged from Crozes-Hermitage, St.Joseph and Côte-Rôtie.