I am a Rhône lover. You can blame it on Tablas Creek & the Rhône Rangers. They enable this habit, by providing me with amazing information and all of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape varieties to taste. I loved these California Rhône wines and then moved to the wines from the source in the Rhône Valley.
So I was not unhappy at all when the French #Winophiles, said we were going to focus on the Cotes du Rhone and the Cotes du Rhone Villages wines this month.
*We received these wines as media samples, but all opinions are our own.
No other compensation was received.
You can scroll to the bottom to read my colleagues’ articles on the subject. If you would like to get in on the conversation, you can join us on Saturday, September, 18th at 8 am Pacific time or a more reasonable 11 am Eastern time. We will be on Twitter with a live discussion. Just follow and use the hashtag #Winophiles to join us!
History of the Rhône Valley
Let’s start with geology. The Rhône Valley is the valley between the Massif Central and the Alps, they crashed together and the Mediterranean sea flooded the valley. The soils today are clay, limestone, sandy silica, and granite.
Amphorae have been found here dating back to the 1st century BC, showing that residents of the Rhône were making wine at that time. The wine was good and in demand, so it headed North up the Rhône River to supply other regions. These are some of the oldest vineyards in the world.
Today the Côtes du Rhône and the Côtes du Rhône Villages designations encompass 57% of the wine that comes out of the Rhône region with 46% coming from the Côtes du Rhone.
Côtes du Rhône
This is the largest appellation in the area. While it covers much of the region, we focused on the Southern Rhône area. The region winds along the Rhône River with 177 different communes covering about 30,000 hectares. (over 74,000 acres).
The summers here are hot and dry with Mistral winds to keep the vines free of disease. Often tree lines will be planted to protect the vineyards from the strong winds.
Here also you find pebbles and stones that release heat back to the vines at night. You can see how this would make for ripe grapes.
21 varieties are authorized for use in the Côtes du Rhône. You will primarily see Grenache here, with a heavy sprinkling of Syrah and a bit of Mourvèdre. Then Cinsault is used for finesse. White wines must be a blend of at least 80% Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier.
Côtes du Rhône Villages
This AOC was established in 1966 and encompasses 95 villages in the southern Rhône.
The Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC have some stricter rules. The minimum alcohol must be higher (12.5% for red, 12% for white, and rose). They also limit yield to ensure growers are striving for quality, not quantity.
21 of the villages can also add their village name to the wines. These are villages that have proven to have consistently higher quality.
Muscat a Petits Grains
The Côtes Du Rhône Wines
Maison Les Alexandrins
Maison Les Alexandrins is a collaboration begun in 2012, between Nicolas Jaboulet, Guillaume Sorrel, and Alexandre Caso. They look for exceptional sites, sometimes finding old vineyards that may have been forgotten. When they find these vineyards, they work to restore biodiversity.
Maison Les Alexandrins Terrasses de L’Eridan 2017 Côtes du Rhône AOC
This lovely white blend is 60% Grenache Blanc, 25% Viognier and 15% Marsanne. The vineyards are in sites near Cairanne and Jonquières between the rivers Ouvèze and Aigues, where the soils are clay, limestone, and alluvial deposits.
This wine ages 6 months in stainless steel before bottling.
When I opened it, this wine smelled of crisp white peaches, tangerine peel that you have warmed in your fingers, wet stones, and freshly sliced pear.
SRP – $18 abv – 13%
Domaine d’Andezon Les Vignerons d’Estézargues
Domaine d’Andezon is one of the 10 Les Vignerons d’Estézargues growers in a co-operative in a village near Avignon. In 1995, they began vinifying their wines separately and making of cuvée of their best plots. They now practice natural winemaking (they may be one of the very few coops to do this) and are certified Terra Vitis.
Denis Deschamps joined this dynamic coop in 2002 as their winemaker, after consulting for them since 1999. The 10 members hold about 400 hectares around the village of Estézargues and do not intend to become much larger. They want to focus on the local fruit.
Domaine d’Andezon Les Vignerons d’Estézargues Rouge 2018 Côtes du Rhône AOC
This wine is from old-vine (30-60 yrs) Syrah (90%) and Grenache (10%). Soils here are unlike the rest of the region where you find clay soils topped with a meter of galets. Here the soils are pale chalky and sandy. The region is hot and windy.
Hand-harvested and sustainably farmed, they destem and wild ferment. This wine macerates for about 28 days then goes into concrete for 5 months. It is unfined and unfiltered.
There were wafts of red and black plums, fresh herbs, candied fruit, and white pepper for my nose. On the palate, it was first and foremost plums, followed by dark cherries, crushed raspberries, blackberries, and spice. There was a peppery note like arugula or white pepper and a hint of violet.
SRP $14 – abv 14.5%
Domaine Paul Autard
Domain Paul Autard was founded in the 1970s in the village of Courthézon by Paul Autard. Jean-Paul Autard began running his father’s vineyard when he was 17. Today he and his daughter Pauline, continue the family tradition of winemaking.
In addition to the Côtes du Rhône they have make wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Vin de Pays de Méditerranée.
All parcels are vinified separately.
Domaine Paul Autard Rouge 2018 Côtes du Rhône AOC
This wine is a classic blend led by Grenache at 70% with 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. The grapes are hand-harvested and twice sorted then destemmed. They are lightly crushed and do a wild ferment in Stainless steel. Blending happens in January with additional Stainless Steel aging until bottling. The average vine age is 45-75 years.
The nose was cherry syrup, and raspberries with hints of dry sweet herbs and black peppercorns and a whiff of smoke. In my mouth, the cherries were darker with dark plum and cinnamon.
SRP $15 – abv 14.5%
The Côtes Du Rhône Villages Wines
Domaine Chamfort‘s vigneron is Vasco Perdigao. Originally from Portugal, he now owns 16.5 hectares in Sablet, a village in Gigondas. This estate is converting to Organic Viticulture for the ECOCERT label. 2021 will be their first vintage as certified AB, the French Agriculture Biologique label.
In addition to Sablet, they make wines from Vacqueyras, Rasteau, and Séguret.
Domaine Chamfort La Pause Rosé 2020 Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet AOC
Sablet is one of the Côtes du Rhône Villages that are allowed to include the geographical name. The village of Sablet takes its name from “sand”. The village is built on a sandy mound. This Village AOC has 300 hectares of vineyards.
- a resident of Sablet invented the grafting machine, which was so important after phylloxera.
- On the third weekend of July, Sablet holds a famous Book Festival, which fills the city with booksellers and binders, illustrators and writers as well as winegrowers. I mean, what is better than a good book and a glass of wine!
Rosés are just a small portion of the production in the region, so I feel lucky to have received one. This wine is 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah from an ancient terraced vineyard. The vines are 20-50 years old and the soil is limestone and sand with galets, (those large pudding stones). It is made in the saignée method.
I smelled strawberry that was perhaps still a little green, watermelon, yellow peach, nectarine, raspberry and orange peel. There was a floral note that was a bit elusive as well as some chalk dust. In my mouth, I got nectarine and tart cherry.
SPR $19 – abv 14.1%
Louis Bernard sources from respected vineyard owners that they have developed long-term relationships with since 1976. The winery is now run by a young team based in Gigondas.
They focus on Grenache and are committed to sustainable practices.
Louis Bernard Rouge 2018 Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC
A blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah grown in sand, marl, clay, and limestone, this wine is hand-harvested and destemmed. Each lot is vinified separately. After fermentation, it ages 10 months before bottling.
It hit my nose with fresh berry compote right off the stove as it cools. There were cherries, plum, and blackberries, and a hint of something minty, plus sweet baking spices, with cardamom and star anise. In my mouth, there was cherry soda, not quite cherry cola, but a bit brighter, with notes of cherry candy.
SRP $14 – abv 14.5%
Rotem and Mounir Saouma
Rotem and Mounir Saouma also own Lucien Le Moine in burgundy and have a Burgundian style. They purchased five hectares around the lieu-dit of Pignan in the Rhône, when they began their winery and since have added property in eight vineyards. This allows them a diversity of soil types to play with in the cellar. In addition, they utilize barrels, foudres, concrete, and eggs, each to match the terroir of the individual plots.
Rotem and Mounir Saouma Inopia Rouge 2017 Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC
The name “Inopia” means “made from nothing” in Latin. They purchased a forgotten plot near Orange in 2011 They planted 12 different varieties including Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, Syrah, and Cinsault.
They hand harvest, do a one-week whole cluster maceration and a fermentation with no punch-downs or pump-overs. The wine ages in a combination of French Oak Foudres, concrete eggs, and 500-liter barrels for 18 months. It is unfined and unfiltered.
They do suggest decanting to release the CO2.
Intense spices were first to my nose, followed by red fruit, anise, lavender, and black plum. In my mouth, that lift of something cool and minty, followed by cool black cherry, plum, and blackberry notes with a hint of brininess.
We put together a cheese and charcuterie board to pair with each of the flavors of the wine including Truffled almonds, prosciutto, Salame Milano, calabrese and Toscano, goat cheese, aged Gouda, Grand Margaux brie, white peaches, black and red plums, strawberries, blackberries, black cherries, walnuts, and arugula.
To pair with the white and rose we did an arugula salad with peaches, strawberries, goat cheese, and a white balsamic dressing with dried orange zest, thyme, olive oil, and honey topped with sliced almonds.
For the reds, a New York Strip and a Rib Eye, marinated in soy, balsamic, Worcestershire, Cardamom, Herbs de Provence, black pepper, olive oil, & minced garlic. We did a side of roasted red potatoes in herbs and smoked gouda. All the reds went beautifully with the meat and the Louis Bernard was especially good pairing with the gouda in potatoes.
As we nibbled on the cheese plate certain bites amplified the wine. The Paul Autard melded with the raspberries, dark cherries, and pepper. The Inopia picked up the notes of the black cherries and black plum as did the Anderzon. The salame calabrese was wonderful with the Inopia and the Louis Bernard brought out the floral notes in the Grand Margaux brie.
Overall these are delicious wines at very reasonable price points that will pair with a plethora of dishes!
The French #Winophiles
My colleagues’ at the French #Winophiles all received different Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages Wines, so there are many more wines and pairings from the region to explore below!
- Jeff from Food Wine Click! thinks we should Embrace the Base of the Côtes du Rhône Pyramid.
- Cindy of Grape Experiences suggests we Sip Wine from the Côtes-du-Rhône… then Visit the Rhône Valley.
- Cathie of Side Hustle Wino exclaims OMGigondas.
- Mel of Wining with Mel introduces us to The Wonderful World of Chapoutier in Côtes du Rhône.
- Terri of Our Good Life tells you What You Need to Know about Côtes du Rhône Wines.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla Assembles an End of Summer Cheeseboard with Domaine Chamfort Sablet La Pause Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019.
- David of Cooking Chat shares Grilled Sirloin Steak and Cotes du Rhone
- Jen of Vino Travels takes us on A Journey Through the Cotes du Rhone
- Jane of Always Ravenous shares Cote du Rhone Wines: Tasting and Pairing
- Nicole of Somm’s Table says Bring on the Cotes du Rhone
- Katrina of The Corkscrew Concierge explains Why You Should be Drinking White Rhone Wines
- Linda of My Full Wine Glass introduces us to Red, white and pink-The colors of Cotes du Rhone wine
- Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairings shares Cotes du Rhone and Perfect Fried Rice
- Jill of L’Occasion is Feeling Satisfied with Cotes du Rhone
- Susannah of Avvinare shares A Fresh Look at the Cote du Rhone
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares A month’s worth of celebrations with Cotes du Rhone.
- Liz of What’s in that Bottle? tells us that Côtes du Rhône Offers Fancy, French & Affordalicious Wines
- Payal of Keep the Peas shares Everyday wines from the Cotes du Rhone.
- Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator shares “White, Red, Rose? Cotes du Rhone paired with squash souffle and Instant Pot Cassoulet“
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.