Tag Archives: rhone

Cotes-du-Rhone Showdown

In the search for a perfect value red to serve at my sister’s wedding next spring, we’ve started to pick up some bottles to taste. Since we visit the Rhône region often, I think it appropriate that she include a wine from the area. So off I went to find a great value Rhône wine. Focusing on reds, we ordered three to taste over this past weekend: a Côtes-du-Ventoux, a Côtes-du-Rhône and a Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, all about the same price range ($12-$13). I gathered a well-rounded tasting panel of baby boomers (my parents and my aunt), Gen-Xers (myself) and millennials (my sister and her fiancé). Here is how these wines fared:

Wine #1: ’08 Delas Côtes-du-Ventoux
2008 was not a terrible year in the Rhône, but it was not fantastic, either. While the wine had good berry fruit on the nose and palate, it was just “okay” by my Rhône standards. The rest of the panel felt the same – definitely drinkable, but the fruit flavor was a bit stewed and lacked freshness. I like a good red Rhône to brighten the palate with fresh fruit and spice. This wine just did not do that. I really enjoy Delas and the ’07 Côtes-du-Ventoux was delicious. I am next up to order the ’09 as this ’08 was disappointing.

Wine #2: ’09 Delas St. Esprit Côtes-du-Rhône
I had high hopes for this wine. Delas + excellent 2009 vintage = yummy, right? Well, the rest of my panel thought so. They really enjoyed the spice and dense fruit and a touch of floral notes. I liked this wine, but didn’t love it. Something about it was almost “candied” to me and again, it lacked that fresh, vibrant fruit I want from my red Rhône wines. But it got a big thumbs up from most everyone else and it was good for the price.

Wine #3: ’09 Perrin Côtes-du-Rhône Villages
Hands down my favorite. This wine has that fresh fruit and vibrant acidity I was looking for in a red CDR. It is balanced, well-structured and yet smooth. It has a touch of spice and sweet herbs (like rosemary) that really rounded out the flavors. This is the wine I drank all night as it was a great food match. It almost made up for the fact that the 2004 Beaucastel Chateaneuf-du-Pape (also by the Perrin family) I opened the other night was corked… but not quite.

The verdict? All three wines were good. The Delas CDR received “very good” and “great” reviews from the group, as did the Perrin CDR. When we took a vote for the favorite, the Perrin won.

Roads of the Rhone

The Rhone Valley is one of my favorite wine growing regions in the world. Perhaps part of this reason is because I have the privilege of visiting the area almost every summer. Not only are there delicious warm summers with fields of wild lavender and rosemary wafting to your nose, but there’s some pretty spectacular wine as well.

Two things that make the Rhone stand out to me – diversity and quality. The northern and southern Rhone are so distinctly separate, both in geography and style, that were there not a river to connect them, they would easily be two separate appellations.

I drink more southern Rhone wines by far, which I assume is true for most people. Northern Rhone wines are known for being a bit more structured, age-worthy, collectible and expensive. Thus our value-driven wallets and drink-it-now palates are drawn to the south, where these styles of wine abound. And yet, the northern Rhone has some excellent wines that could be considered great values.


A quick northern Rhone cheat sheet: Syrah is the exclusive red grape, though most regions can blend a small percentage of white grapes into the wines (except Cornas, which is 100% Syrah). Viognier is the exclusive grape of Condrieu, while Marsanne and Roussanne join Viognier in most other northern Rhone white wine blends. Vines are trained high on steep, terraced slopes with granite-based, gravelly soils.

A few gems to look out for in the north:
Crozes-Hermitage – the little step-sibling to Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage is a great way to introduce your palate to the northern Rhone style, at a lower price tag. Guigal and Delas make some excellent examples.

St.-Joseph -Though Cornas is one of the more talked-about regions in the north, I love to find a good St.-Joseph. Sometimes they are a bit less… rustic than a Cornas and more approachable. They can range from great value to slightly collectible (see Guigal).


Southern Rhone cheat sheet:Grenache is the primary red grape, though almost all wines are blends, and include red grapes such as Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. Whites are more rare, but are also blends, with Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Clairette leading the make up of most blends. Vines are often bush trained over flat terrain, with a warmer climate than the north.

Gems of the south:
Yes, I love a great Chateauneuf-du-Pape or a refreshing Tavel or a spicy Gigondas. But a few others I look out for are:
Cairenne – I think Cairenne will eventually be elevated to “cru” status, just as the Cotes-du_Rhone Villages Vinsobres was in 2004. Cairenne, one of the 18 Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages, is totally worthy of a try – it has the depth and complexity of many cru wines from the southern Rhone, but often with a lower price tag. Domaine Alary is a favorite of mine, but most Cairenne labels deliver beyond expectations.

Cotes-du-Ventoux – move over Cotes-du-Rhone, this is where you can find the new values! Offering refreshing and fruit-driven whites as well as rich and fruit-driven reds, this is a region I am watching. Loving that more and more wines are coming in from here.

It is Rhone Week at Wine.com, so it's a good time to stock up.

No matter what your palate, the Rhone most likely has something to satisfy it.

 

Year in Review – Top Appellations of 2009 Part 1: Cotes-du-Rhone

We love to watch the trends of our buyers at Wine.com. Though they don’t always represent what is going on through the country, it is kind of cool to see what’s going on with our customers and why they are buying what they are buying. This week I’m going over our top 5 appellations this year, giving you the facts on the region and the wines!

village cdr

#1: Cotes-du-Rhone.  Known for value and quality, the Cotes-du-Rhone is full of easy-drinking wines that are perfect for food. This year, the region was up 151% in sales. Why the growth? A few reasons. First, some stellar back-to-back vintages – ‘06, ‘07 and ‘08 are all particularly touted as excellent. Excellent vintages can mean that the “starter” wines of a region, such as Cotes-du-Rhone in the Rhone Valley, can offer incredible quality for the price.

CdR facts - 

- The appellation of Côtes du Rhône encompasses much of Rhone region, not to mention much of the wine!rhonemap_crop
- Two-thirds of the wine produced in the Rhone Valley is of the Côtes-du-Rhône appellation. 
- Over 23 grape varieties permitted in production 
- Most all of this appellation is in the Southern Rhône, as the wines are blends, though there are some Cotes-du-Rhone areas in the Northern Rhone.
- Red wines are based on Grenache, which must constitute at least 40% of the blend
- Whites focus on Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne, occasionally with some Viognier.

There is one higher level in the Côtes du Rhône called Côtes du Rhône Villages. These wines are from specific village areas that have higher standards the wine must reach to receive the village label. For example, reds from this appellation must con tain at least 50% of Grenache. Some villages to take note of are Cairanne, Rasteau, Seguret and Sablet. I am a particular fan of Cairanne.

The wines of Cotes-du-Rhone are delicious and often easy drinking. They combine good, ripe berry fruit with layers of spice and sometimes a touch of earthiness. Acid and alcohol are usually in balance (careful on some of those 2007 wines as the alcohol can be a big high!) and tannins are low to medium in the reds. These factors make CdR wines perfect for a variety of foods in a variety of seasons. So grab a bottle or two and see why this region continues to grow!

Rhônes that Rock

It’s Rhone month! For a few reasons – first, November is Rhône month for our wine clubs and we’ve been tasting some of the delicious wines cdr logogoing out in the Wine.com club shipments and I promise, if you are a wine club member, you will be pleased. Second, it’s the time of year for Rhône wines. The cooler temperatures and the warm wines are an excellent pair. And finally, on a personal note, my mom just passed her Rhône Master Level exam through the French Wine Society – one of only 10 who received scores over 80%! So, in honor of our  wine club theme AND Mom, here are a few Rhônes that rock.

Côtes-du-Ventoux – A couple of our wines in the wine clubs this month are from the Cotes-du-Ventoux. And I’m officially a fan! I’ve tasted the La Vielle Ferme Cotes-du-Ventoux before and for $8, it's hard to beat. But after expanding my Ventoux repertoire, I get excited laVFerme about this region. A fairly large area situated on the east bank of the Rhône river, this is what I’d call and up-and-coming region, though they’ve been making wine there for centuries. I say up-and-coming because more merchants/producers in the Rhône getting this juice in bottles that are making it out of the country. The wines are similar to Côtes-du-Rhône – based on Grenache and blended with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault (they also use Carignan here). Taste is similar to Côtes-du-Rhône wines as well, though the Ventoux wines are a bit fuller-bodied and seem richer on the palate – a bit more savory if you will. The majority of the wines here are red, though they do make some refreshing whites and some tasty rose. Delas, La Vielle Ferme and Chateau Pesquie – all are fantastic wines and values.

Vinsobres – A newly appointed “cru,” Vinsobres was upgraded from a Côtes-du-Rhône Villages to its own appellation in 2005. 50% Grenache is required in the blend. We tasted the Perrin & Fils Vinsobres Les Cornuds 2006 recently and it was excellent… Warm and inviting, dark red fruits, dried herbs, excellent balance of acid and tannin, long finish. What  you love about Rhône wines is in this bottle.

cos de nimes

Costières de Nîmes– Another “up-and-coming” region, this area is on the other side of the Rhône– the right bank. It’s making reds and whites, but what stand out to me are the delicious white blends from here. Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne – the usual suspects for making Rhône whites. But he ones I’ve tasted have a higher proportion of Roussanne, the delicate, highly aromatic grape of the region. This in turn leads to wonderfully aromatic wine with a full mouthfeel and lingering finish. Reds and rose wine are also great in these parts.

St. Joseph – St.Joseph, on the right bank of the Rhône River on the north side. 100% Syrah, making a wine with excellent structure. The ones I have tasted a bit less abrasive than the more edgy Cornas. These wines offer big, black fruits and lots of peppery spice, with an excellent tannic structure and a quite a finish. If you’re looking for something to pair with game, hearty stews or a hard cheese, these wines are a great match. Guigal makes excellent St.Joseph wines, but for value, try the Delas or the St. Cosme.

 

Interested in learning more about the Rhone? Visit www.rhone-wines.com