The Pleasures of Côtes du Rhône Reds

Great value red wines from France

One of the greatest red wine values today remains Côtes du Rhône, made primarily in the southern Rhône region of France. Grenache is usually the principal grape, giving the wine perfume and bright fruit. It is almost always blended with a combination of Syrah, for depth and spice, and Mourvedre, which provides dark fruit and tannin. These are light- to medium-bodied wines, with little or no apparent oak flavors. In some ways they drink like Pinot Noir, but are less burnished, with pronounced brambleberry flavors and a camphor-like quality. When shopping, you’ll likely see wines called Côtes du Rhône Villages, which is technically a step up in quality as the wines are restricted to approved wine-growing communes. In either case, vintages since 2009 have been awesome.

Pierre Amadieu Roulepierre Côtes du Rhône, 2010, $11
Dry, with dusty black fruit scented with allspice and juniper. This is really lovely with blackened fish.  

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône, 2010, $16
A generous style with liquorious fruit that recalls Framboise. Despite this, there’s a healthy snap to this wine that shows well with herb-roasted chicken.     

Monteuil La Levade “Vieilles Vignes,” Clos du Mont Olivet, 2010, $19
This is like a Chateauneuf-du-Pape in miniature, bursting with red raspberry fruit and spice. The wine is supple yet incisive, a terrific match for grilled sirloin and asparagus.       

Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône Villages, “Vaison La Romaine,” 2010, $18
Texier is a “natural” winemaker, which means he farms organically and sustainably, and produces wine with minimal intervention, using minimal sulphur and relying on natural yeasts. The result is a wine with gorgeous fruit and a slightly woodsy flavor. 

Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

Read more Off the Vine columns here

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