Famille Perrin has produced a brand new Châteauneuf du Pape exclusively for Co-op stores.

This Co-op exclusive collaboration with the Perrin family, Close Encounters, pays homage to Randall Grahm, who, back in 1984, was himself paying homage to the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape when he released his now-legendary blend of Rhône varietals called ‘Le Cigare Volant’ – meaning ‘flying cigar’, or French slang for UFOs.

Eccentric Californian winemaker Grahm introduced his signature wine to kickstart the ‘American Rhone’ movement in 1980’s, as a tribute to the quirky, yet clearly effective by-law that prohibits UFO’s from landing in the vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape.

Having altered the blend (dropping Mourvedre), Grahm bid farewell to Le Cigare (as he/we know it) in 2018. Co-op and Famille Perrin have now created their own homage to his endeavours from the vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape, also from 2018, to pass on the Rhône baton.

Close Encounters is described as “a brilliant blend” of the three principal Rhône varietals. “Sumptuous” Grenache opens with kirsch cherry, dark berry notes and garrigue. This is wrapped beautifully around a deep Syrah core providing both weight and structure and a finishing on a note of wonderous elegance from the marvel that is mature Mourevedre.

Launching in 400 Co-op stores this month, for £20 a bottle, the name and label commemorate the wacky 1954 mayoral decree which prohibited the landing of UFOs in the vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape with a tip of the hat to Grahm’s iconic wine.

Ben Cahill, Co-op wine buyer said: “We are delighted to have ‘lift-off’ with such a fun and exciting project. Exclusive to Co-op, it’s a respectful, if playful, nod to one of the great US winemakers from our friends at Famille Perrin – a serious wine which we think is out of this world.”

Marc Perrin, Famille Perrin, said: “Randall’s Le Cigare Volant was a pioneering reference and catalyst for all things Rhone in California. We accompanied this belief by establishing our own Tablas Creek winery in Paso Robles.

“As good friends, to mark this occasion with creativity, originality and general bonhomie we are over the moon to land this wine at the Co-op.”