I had purchased a bottle of Côtes du Rhône wine this past week. While enjoying it with a couple of friends the following question was raised; “What does Côtes du Rhône mean”? My friend had been enjoying Côtes du Rhône wines recently due to introductions from me but was unsure as to exactly its meaning. Without getting into excessive detail I gave him a super-quick overview which included the endorsement from me that if I had to be limited to one region of wine the rest of my life it would be Côtes du Rhône wines. Now granted I would not like this scenario to play out as I enjoy drinking wines from all over the world. But put a pistol to my head and these are these are the wines I would throw down. I have included a basic primer below for anyone interested in Côtes du Rhône wines. Enjoy!..............
Côtes du Rhône Wine
This wine growing region is in southern France generally, but not exactly bisected by the Rhone river. The region is responsible for approximately 14% of the annual wine production of France. The main red grape in the region is Grenache (Grenache Noir) which accounts for 55% of production. The primary white grape is Clairette; responsible for 35% of annual production. Red wine styles range from full body (north) to medium body and light and fruity (south). White wines are generally full bodied and dry (north).
Rules for grape proportions
§ White wines: a minimum of 80% of the main grape varieties.
§ Red and rosé wines:
§ The main grape variety (Grenache Noir) must make up at least 40% of the blend for wines from south of Montélimar.
§ The supplementary grape varieties (Mourvèdre and Syrah) must together make up at least 15% of the blend, although this rule is not applied to small producers who produce their own wine from less than 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) of vineyard area.
§ The main and supplementary grape varieties must together make up at least 70% of the blend, and the accessory grape varieties are therefore restricted to a maximum of 30%.
§ Marselan is not allowed to make up more than 10% of the blend.
§ The total proportion of white varieties (all of then accessory) may not exceed 5% for red wines, and 20% for rosé wines.
The rules for the red wines mean that varietal (100%) Grenache Noir may only be produced by small producers under the Côtes du Rhône appellation. North of Montélimar, varietal Mourvèdre and Syrah wines may be produced.
There are four levels of distinction associated with the Côtes du Rhône region. Each level increases in exclusivity and as a general rule quality.
Côtes du Rhône
This is the base or generic level of wines from this region. There are 171 communes (municipalities/villages) that produce the grapes used in Rhone wine production
Côtes du Rhône-Villages
The next level on the Rhone wine scale is Côtes du Rhône-Villages. This designation is allowed by 95 authorized communes. The Grenache grape is required to be present in not less than 50% of the blend with 20% of either Syrah or Mourvedre. A maximum of 20% of other authorized varieties is permitted.
Côtes du Rhône Villages (named village)
Next in the hierarchy are Côtes du Rhône Village appellations that are authorized to include their village name on the label. There are 18 villages that are allowed this distinction.
This is the most demanding level of distinction. There are 15 crus that are allowed to be recognized by their village without requiring the mention of Côtes du Rhône on the label. A feature of this nomenclature is the wine is named only after the village and not a after a chateau (which is typical for wines from the Bordeaux region). These crus include such famous names as, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côte-Rôtie AOC, Crozes-Hermitage AOC, Hermitage AOC, Saint Joseph AOC and Saint Péray.