This month, the French Winophiles wine writing group is uncorking wines from France’s Côtes du Rhône region and I am EXCITED! France is my “spirit country,” so I always love sharing French wine inspiration! And don’t let the “Frenchness” put you off – of the six samples I received, most are well under $20! So you can drink fancy and French affordaliciously. So pop a cork and let’s get to know this region a little bit.
First, let’s get our bearings. The Rhône Valley cuts a swath along the Rhône River from north to south, starting about 20 miles south of the town of Lyon and ending 120 miles south of Avignon. It’s divided into Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône, separated by a 30-mile gap. Northern Rhône wines are going to be Syrah if red, and Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne if white.
The Southern Rhône opens up the playing field, offering a buffet of 24 grapes and the wines are mostly blends, as opposed to single varietals. The biggie is Grenache – both red and white. Where does the Côtes du Rhône come in? Well, it’s an AOC (appellation original controlée) that covers a lot of the Southern Rhône Valley, including 98,000 acres spanning 90 villages! It’s huge! Nested within the Côtes du Rhône, you will find some familiar AOCs (such as Gigondas) whose wines usually carry a heftier price tag.
But we’re here to talk about the magnificent wines of the Côtes du Rhône, so let’s get tasting!
Alain Jaume Bellissime Rosé 2020 $15 Ooooh, this wine was a delight on a hot summer day recently. It’s 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault pronounced “sahn-so”) and 20% Syrah. It’s exactly what you want from a French rosé – strawberry, watermelon, and a little bit of white pepper. It’s medium weight with a soft texture – a total porch pounder, if you ask me. (And sorry – my only pic of the bottle is up top, in the lineup.)
Chateau Beauchène Blanc 2019 $17 This is 100% Viognier and when a friend and I popped the cork, we were like, “Hello! Flower show in a glass!” It’s super floral and peachy with a hit of almonds. It’s a weighty white with a rich texture and would be a dream alongside sautéed scallops with lemon butter, fried chicken or goat cheese. If you like Chenin Blanc or dry Gewürztraminer, I think you’d love this.
Louis Bernard Rouge 2018 $14 Wow what a fun red! It’s big and sexy, dripping with black fruits, dried violets and rose petals with well-muscled tannins. It’s made from 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah. It’s a complex, full-bodied red with clear notes of black olive tapenade, blackberries, and eucalyptus. If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, Australian Shiraz or Malbec, this is right up your alley! I wished I’d had a grilled rack of lamb. But all I had was … cheese and crackers!
Lavau La Décelle 2018 $14 Here we have a 50/50 blend of Grenache and Syrah. YUH-MEE!! Holy what the roast pork, this wine is gorgeous! You’re going to immediately get some roasted cherries and plums – almost like a compote – and then a wave of dried blueberries and a bit of cocoa / mocha on the finish. Damn, it’s delicious! And its $14, for cry eye! If you like Cab, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec – you’ll like this. It’s a crowd-pleaser of a red wine and would go with the afore-mentioned (and now craved) pork tenderloin, or a burger or a fancy steak.
Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuvée Philippine 2018 $18 Now we’re looking at 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah. And folks, this is live tasting, as I’m using my Coravin to rock through these beauties. (The Coravin lets you extract just an ounce or so of wine without opening the bottle – this little needle pushes right through the capsule and the cork, you pour out a taste and pull the contraption off the bottle – and the tiny needle hole in the cork closes back up – it’s freaking brilliant and I can’t believe it took me so long to acquire one.)
Anywho! Here we go: I’m getting more black than red fruits – boysenberries, brambleberries – wait – roasted strawberries – and also some floral – rose petals. Fine tannins are well-integrated, making for a silky texture. It’s really beautiful. It’s bold, yet elegant in its finesse. I want a pan-seared filet mignon or a pile of bacon. It’s another red wine lover’s wine – if you like almost any red wine except for Pinot Noir (which is super light-bodied), you will LOVE this.
Eric Texier Chat Fou Rouge 2019 $24 This is 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault and 20% Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne (yes! A little white Grenache is going to make this interesting!) On the nose, you’ve got a cherry festival happening, with some almonds waiting to get in. It’s lighter-bodied but showing some spice and freshness that makes it fun to drink.
Winemaker Éric Texier is not your usual French winemaker, having come from a career as an engineer in the nuclear industry. He’s self-taught, when it comes to winemaking and I think he is less constrained by tradition and very passionate about making playful, fun wines that are delicious to drink and great with bistro fare. I’d drink this alongside a Croque Monsieur, a cheese bowl of Soupe à l’Oignon (French Onion Soup) or a burger. The name “chat for” means “crazy cat” – and how can you not love a wine with that name?
Want More? Check out the Côtes du Rhône website if you want to geek out a little more. And follow them on Instagram @cotesdurhone.
But Wait There’s Even More!
There are more posts on Côtes du Rhône wines by my fellow French Winophiles writers. Thanks to Côtes du Rhône Wines for supplying samples for many of our posts! We’re gathering on Twitter on Saturday, Sept. 18, 10-11am CDT and you can find us by searching for #Winophiles . Drop in and join us!
- 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.
- Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles talks about Côtes du Rhône & Côtes du Rhône Villages – a plethora of flavors to pair with!
- 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 theFarm shares A month’s worth of celebrations with Cotes du Rhone.