At long last, we have a reprise from the 114 degree days. It is time to again venture outside and perhaps in the evenings, as the stars begin to dot the sky, don a sweater. It is time to dig back into red wines in a different way. A Côtes du Rhône is the perfect way to ease into this season.
The French Winophiles (#Winophiles) are throwing a wide net this month with a venture into the Côtes du Rhône. Led by Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, we will explore these wines. You can read her preview post here.
Scroll to the bottom for the pieces written by my colleagues on the subject and for details on how you can join us to talk about your favorite Côtes du Rhône on Saturday, September 19th at 8 am PDT
The Rhône Valley
The Rhône Valley sits between the Massif Central and the Alps, which long ago was flooded by the Mediterranean. The Greeks brought grapes to the region in the 4th century BC and gradually wine-growing spread north.
In the 14th century, the papacy moved from Rome to Avignon. Vineyards in abundance popped up in the region. In fact, Châteauneuf de Pape was the summer residence of the Pope.
The Rhône river became a means of shipping and the “Côste du Rhône” on the right bank, became famous for its wines. Later in the mid-19th century, it became the Côtes du Rhône and extended to include the left bank.
As you can see, this is a really old wine region.
The Côtes du Rhône AOC
The Côtes du Rhône AOC stretches from Vienne in the north to Avignon in the south taking in some 171 communes over an area of 30,000 hectares. Over such a distance and space you can expect some variety. Within this overarching AOC, you will find many small appellations. But today we focus on the Côtes du Rhône.
Domaine Franck Balthazar
The wine that we enjoyed is from Domaine Franck Balthazar.
This Domaine goes back to 1931 when it was founded by Franck’s grandfather Casmir. Franck’s father René took over in 1950 and eventually moved to bottling their wines in the late 1970s or early 80s. Franck took over in 2002 when the Domaine had just 2 hectares of vines, ½ of which were 100-year-old vines in Chaillot, and the other ½ 50-year-old vines in Mazard.
2018 Côtes du Rhône
This wine is made in a traditional (old school) manner and Franck Balthazar is a purist. The vineyard these grapes come from 3 hectares close to Vinsobres, an AOC on the Aigues River. They plough with a horse and do whole cluster native yeast ferments in concrete.
The wines are aged in 600 liters demi-muids and are bottled unfiltered.
The blend is 75% Syrah and 25% Grenache, 14.1% abv.
Imported by Savio Soares Selections, I picked this bottle up at my favorite local wine bar/shop Garagiste, for $23.
What to pair with a Côtes du Rhône?
Classic pairing for a Côtes du Rhône is Daube, a Southern Rhone stew. Michael is not a lover of stew, so we decided to deconstruct this.
A Daube typically is a stew cooked in wine in a daubière which is a deep casserole dish or a Dutch oven. You would cook the bacon first, then sear your meat, which is cubed. Then you cook up onions, shallots, garlic, carrots, maybe parsnips or potatoes, add a little brandy, put the meat back in, and dump in a bottle of red wine. Top it with a bouquet garni (herbs like thyme, and rosemary), cover, and cook in the oven for a few hours.
Our deconstructed version included bacon-wrapped fillets, roast carrots with thyme and rosemary, potato cakes, and a red wine sauce for the steaks. All the ingredients, just in a different order.
How was the wine? How did it pair?
This is a medium-bodied wine with a pretty big nose. I got volcanic rocks (have you ever smelled a lava rock that has been sitting in the sun?), roasted meat, cigar box, allspice, dried herbs, berry bramble, and a little smoke (think smoke from meat roasting on a grill). In my mouth, again I first found tobacco leaf, then currant, blackberry, and black cherry, dark juicy fruit. While the wine was dry, I sensed a little brown sugar.
There was good acid and tannins that coated my teeth. This was tasty and well balanced. It is young and I bet it will age nicely, but it’s joyful enough now, that you shouldn’t wait.
I did use half a cup of this wine to make my red wine sauce and the steak with the wine was a highlight. My potato cakes might have gone better if they had a bit more fat in them, but I drizzled some more of the red wine sauce on them and that made them perfect. If you like stew, by all means, try the daube, it would be delicious. Really any red meat dish that is grilled or roasted, braised or stewed, would be delicious.
The French Winophiles
I can’t wait to hear about the rest of the adventures that my fellow #Winophiles wine writers tackled! We will be gathering on Twitter on Saturday Morning September 19th at 8 am PDT to discuss Côtes du Rhône wines. You can join in by following and using #Winophiles. Read on to hear more about the Côtes du Rhône!
- A Côtes du Rhône Tasting by Payal of Keep the Peas
- All the Colors of Côtes du Rhône with Famille Perrin by Nicole of Somm’s Table
- A Trio of Côtes du Rhône Pairings by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- A Window Into The Côtes du Rhône Through Maison M. Chapoutier by Avvinare
- Back on the Rhône Again by Christy Majors
- Beef Tongue Stew with a Côtes du Rhône Gigondas by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Côtes du Rhône and Clearwater Camping: Charcuterie in God’s Country from Terri of Our Good Life
- Côtes du Rhône: Essential French Wines by Jill at L’Occassion
- Lamb Meatballs Paired with Côtes du Rhône by Jane at Always Ravenous
- Linda shares Leaning Savory with a 2016 Alain Jaume Côtes du Rhône from My Full Wine Glass
- Rhône Roam for Viognier and Syrah by Gwendolyn at Wine Predator
- Rhône Wine with Brisket by David at Cooking Chat
- Turkey Does the Côtes du Rhône from Andrea with The Quirky Cork
- What the Heck is Côtes du Rhône Villages? by Wining with Mel
Resources & sources
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.