Archive for the ‘Côtes-du-Rhône’ category

Côtes-du-Rhône (Villages)

July 11, 2007

When it comes to the wines from the Rhône Valley most reviews are about the great crus from illuster appellations like Hermitage, Côte Rôtie or Cornas. However, the commodity of this region consists of wines made within the appellation Côtes-du-Rhône, an area of 40,326 hectares that is spread over no less than 171 communes between Vienne, Valence and Avignon. With different soil types, climes, more than 20 permitted varieties and 6000 growers it’s a heterogenous region that produces wines of various style and quality. Most wines are blends of the main varieties Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre although secondary varieties as Carignan and Cinsault are commonly used supplements. According to the regulations Grenache should constitute at least 40% of any blend while the secondary varieties may not exceed 30% of the total. Because of the relatively low price generic Côtes-du-Rhône is a pre-eminent good value introduction to the wines from the Rhône Valley. Even better value and quality can be found in the appellation Côtes-du-Rhône Villages which allows 18 villages to use their name on the label. With a significant lower basic maximum yield of 42 hl/ha – rather than 52 for generic Côtes-du-Rhône – and compulsory minimum components of 50% Grenache and 20% Syrah-Mourvèdre these wines generally show more structure, depth and concentration.

Although the heartland of the appellation is the southern Rhône most négociants from the north produce their own Côtes-du-Rhône. They often bear the distinctive mark of Syrah because the regulation doesn’t prescribe a minimum quantity of Grenache when the winery is based north of the town of Montélimar. This is clearly shown in the Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône 2003 ($27, Negociants Australia) in which Syrah dominates the blend. It gives the wine a fragrant nose of raspberries, cassis and plum supported by spicy and vanilla oak characters. The palate opens with round and smooth red fruit that gives way to a rather fleshy mid-palate with just enough weight and tannins to carry it to the finish. This uncomplicated medium-bodied wine may be miles away from Guigal’s top cuvées, it still gives a hint of what his wines are about: the highest quality. 88 points.

Another good drink is the Perrin Réserve Côtes-du-Rhône 2004 ($29, Negociants Australia) made by Domaine Perrin & Fils from the famous Château de Beaucastel. With 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre this wine is moulded in the typical southern Rhône style. The nose of this deeply red coloured wine runs through dark berries, cherries, cinnamon and pepper but the real bonus is the incredible velvetly palate with a very fine tannin structure and full, fleshy fruit flavours. I reckon this wine is best enjoyed with a good steak aux poivre. 88 points.

The 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône Villages (Valreas) from Clos Petite Bellane ($30, James Busby Fine Wines) is one of the best I’ve had so far. Entirely crafted from 70 years-old Grenache vines this inky coloured wine has a nose of ripe plum, liquorice and spice. The initial roundness of the highly concentrated dark plummy palate quickly gives way to firm, mouthdrying tannins that never get too harsh. The finish is equally firm and concentrated with lots of cracked pepper and a hint of dried herbs. 89 points.   

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