Côtes du Rhône Wine

I am not a wine aficionado.  A quick category check on The Hip Flask homepage – below on the right, just above the badges – will show how infrequently I write on wine as compared to beer, spirits, or my catch-all miscellaneous category.  Yet when I do enjoy wine, on occasion and usually with dinner, I’ve returned several times to southern France’s Côtes du Rhône region.

As always, a little background first – which, in this case, is more for my benefit, a novice oenophile at best.  This wine-growing region, referred to as an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in French, is located in south-central France, along the valley formed by the Rhône River.

Geographically, the Côtes du Rhône AOC lies between the French towns of Vienne and Avignon.  The AOC is divided into two areas – northern and southern.  “If the north is cool, discreet, noble, and expressed in different shades of just one red grape, the south is the antithesis: warm, exuberant, heartily earthy, with myriad grape varieties.”  The town of Montélimar could be used to generally separate the northern sub-region from the southern.

However, another introductory distinction is present.  Although Côtes du Rhône “is also the label given to a broad base of generic wines…accounting for over 40,000 hectares of vines and nearly two million hectoliters of wine in an average year,”  Côtes du Rhône Villages is an important and distinct category, representing “a distinct step up from generic Côtes du Rhône… The villages appellation covers 96 Southern Rhône communities, of which 16 are allowed to print their village names on the labels.”

While all this French wine bureaucracy and geography is fun to me, it’s not really that important when a glass sits before you.  The Rhône’s most common grapes, Grenache and Syrah (or a blend of the two), are really what’s important in the end.  As it turns out, I’ve enjoyed each bottle of Côtes du Rhône wine I’ve had, regardless of price.

Here are a few bottles I’ve recently enjoyed, either out at dinner, with friends, or at home with my family:

– Valréras “Cuvée Prestige” Côtes du Rhône Villages 2010

– Alain Jaume & Fils Réserve Grand Veneur Côtes du Rhône 2009

– Domaine Ferraton Côtes du Rhône 2007

– Caves du Fournalet Côtes du Rhône 2010

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Read more and reference quotations at DK’s Wines of the World, 2004 Edition pages 119-135.  Wikipedia’s Côtes du Rhône AOC page also provides a particularly helpful introduction as well as a superb map.

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Published in: on January 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 Comments

  1. I hope future 2012 posts go more into wine and winemaking. I am sure there are historical references that can be tied in as well, as you have so elegantly done with beer and spirits.

  2. Yo THF!

    My wine drinking has definitely diminished over the past few years. I used to be somewhat in to it, but then beer and whisky took the spotlight. That being said, there is a time and a place for wine, and Cotes du Rhone has proven to be one of my favorites time and again. It has that tannin rich red wine thing that I love without going overboard like would happen with a big Cabernet (no offense to Cabernet. I enjoy them, but sometimes, they’re a bit too much). Thanks for the info!

    Cheers!
    G-LO

  3. i’ll have to keep an eye out for those labels. It’s interesting that you noticed that you were enjoying a lot of wines from that region, without being a particularly wine-obsessed individual. I did a winery tour in that region a few years ago, and enjoyed the wines there a lot. My favourite wasn’t an official Cote du Rhone wine, though it was made in that region – a Muscat. Really nice aperatif wine that wasn’t as sweet as some dessert wines I’ve tried.


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