Côtes du Rhône wines are not the fanciest French wine on the block, but they do get around. A lovely glass of wine, while lounging around in the sunny south of France, what could be better!?
On either side of the Rhône river in the south of France, the Côtes du Rhône wines region stretches from Vienne in the north to Châteauneuf du Pape and Avignon in the south.
The vineyards around the Rhône river have existed since Roman times, using age-old techniques that have existed since then. The area uses a majority of Grenache rouge and Syrah grapes for red wines and Grenache blanc and Viognier grapes in white wines and rosés.
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Classification of Côtes du Rhône wines
As with the other French wine regions, a good bottle of Côtes du Rhône wine will have the following initials:
- AOC – Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée
- AOP – Appellation d’Origine Protégée
Note: the Côtes du Rhone AOC wines don’t include the Provence wines (usually rosés) that are produced around the Aix-en-Provence area, which is more south. That area of Provence has its own regulatory body and appellations.
The appellations used in this area are Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Village, Côtes du Rhône (Named) Village and Côtes du Rhône Cru in increasing order of importance. There are no Grand Crus or Premier Crus in this unlike Bordeaux or Burgundy. You can read more about French wine labelling here.
Côtes du Rhône Appelations
1. Côtes du Rhône AOC
Côtes du Rhône AOC is the regular decent bottle of wine that you will get in this region. They are usually reds, but whites and rosés are also available.
As part of the Provençale cuisine, Côtes-du-Rhône wines go well with a cuisine that is rich in by garlic, pepper, or tomato flavors, as well as Provence herbs and olive oil.
The white wines are traditionally paired with seafood, usually fresh catch from the nearby Mediterranean.
Buy Côtes du Rhône wines here.
2. Côtes du Rhône Village
A step above Côtes du Rhone AOC is the Côte du Rhône Village AOC, and above that the AOCS where the Village name is on the bottle.
These Named-Villages include:
- Chusclan (red and rosé only)
- Massif d’Uchaux (red only),
- Plan de Dieu (red only),
- Puyméras (red only),
- Saint Gervais,
- Saint Maurice,
- Signargues (red only),
Village producers are required to adhere to stricter standards than those prescribed for Côtes du Rhône AOC, with specific percentages of each type of grape to be used. The taste is much more complex and consistent year over year, and these wines age well.
Buy Cote-Rotie wines here.
3. Côtes du Rhône Cru
There are 17 crus in this area, that are allowed to are allowed to be recognized by their village name without requiring the mention of Côtes du Rhône on the label. These are:
- Beaumes de Venise AOC,
- Cairanne AOC,
- Château-Grillet AOC,
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC (discussed below),
- Condrieu AOC,
- Cornas AOC,
- Côte-Rôtie AOC,
- Crozes-Hermitage AOC,
- Gigondas AOC,
- Hermitage AOC,
- Lirac AOC,
- Rasteau AOC,
- Saint Joseph AOC,
- Saint Péray AOC,
- Tavel AOC,
- Vacqueyras AOC,
- Vinsobres AOC.
The standards for these wines are the highest in this wine region.
One of the biggest Crus in the area is Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC. “Pape” means Pope in French, and the name literally translates to “new castle of the pope”. This is because in the 14th century, the Papacy of Rome moved to Avignon in Provence for a period of 70 years.
Along with changing the face of Avignon, they encouraged viticulture in the area, making the wine from this region famous. The wines are usually red (though there are some white wines) and sold in dark bottles with a papal stamp on them.
The wines here are usually earthy and tannic, with a hint of spiciness as they age.
Buy Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines here.
5. Luberon AOC
In the southeastern part of the Côtes du Rhone area, is the large Luberon AOC (formerly Côtes de Luberon). The red wines here have notes of blackberries, spices, and truffle, while the white wines have notes of peach, apricot, and lime.
Buy Luberon wines here.
6. Ventoux AOC
Around Mount Ventoux are the wine producers with the appellation Ventoux AOC ((formerly Côtes de Ventoux). The red wines here have distinct notes of blackberries, spice, and licorice, while the rosés have notes of cherries and raspberries. These lovely wines are also excellent for making vin chaud.
The white wines here on the other hand, have more floral tones, rather than fruity.
Buy Côtes du Rhône wines here.
7. Duché d’Uzès
A charming little city in Provence, with its own duke and castle, the duchy of Uzès deserves a mention here because the town is so picture perfect. And the wines are pretty good too.
The reds are dark and aromatic with tones of fruit and licorice, and the rosés with notes of citrus, white flowers and red berries. If you prefer blanc, the local white wines and light and fresh with aromas of apricot and peach.
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So are you ready to try a Châteauneuf-du-Pape or a Côte du Rhône Village? As always, remember to drink responsibly!
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