Valley of wine-producing villages

Neil Courtier

Neil Courtier

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Côtes du Rhône is a region-wide appellation for red, rosé and white wines covering the length and breadth of the Rhône Valley in eastern France. It includes more than 170 villages, following the course of the Rhône river southwards for 125 miles from Saint-Cyr-sur-le- Rhône to Avignon.

A small proportion of the appellation’s wines are white, but the classic Côtes du Rhône wine is a fruity, middle-weight red blend based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

The Côtes du Rhône appellation was introduced in November 1937, to provide a catch-all title for good-quality Rhône wines from the valley’s lesser-known and less-prestigious viticultural areas. In 1966, it was joined by the complementary Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation – granted exclusively to those Rhône villages producing wines of consistently high quality.

Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes form the core of most red Côtes du Rhône wines. The three grape varieties work so well together that the blend has been welcomed in other warm-climate wine regions around the world, like GSM in Australia.

Grenache almost always dominates the blend, particularly in the southern half of the valley, where the vast majority of Côtes du Rhône wines are made. Syrah contributes structure and spicy notes, while Mourvedre brings its dark, chocolatey notes and intense colour.

The typical white Côtes du Rhône Blanc is relatively full-bodied, with notes of candied citrus fruits, acacia, herbs, straw, wax and possibly a hint of honey. The principal grapes used in Côtes du Rhône white wines are Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier.

On the shelf

Côtes du Rhône Blanc – Les Becs Fins – Tardiau-Laurent 2015, £11.95 Corney & Barrow (Newmarket) Aromatic – stone-fruits and peaches, with racy acidity and a trace of minerality. Enjoy with trout or baked salmon.

Côtes du Rhône – Rosé – Leon Perdigal 2015, £8.99 (£7.99 mix six) Majestic A delicate pale rosé, with red-fruit aromas which follow through on the palate and meet citrus notes and fresh acidity. Try with prawns or shrimps.

Côtes du Rhône-Villages – Cuvée Reserve 2015, £3.99 Aldi Stunning value, honest, everyday wine. Medium-bodied, berry-fruits, a lick of peppery spice. Drink with bangers and mash.

Asda – Extra Special - Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2015, £5.50 Another great value bottle for early drinking – soft, strawberry/ summer berry-fruits, finely toned acidity and pretty decent length too.

Côtes du Rhône – Chemin Des Papes 2015, £7 Morrison’s A nose and palate of strawberries, blackcurrants, spices and redcurrants. Generously fruity and forward.

Sainsbury’s – Taste the Difference - Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2015, £7 From the excellent Chapoutier stable, Grenache based, with a healthy 30% Syrah in the blend, a wine with really good structure and presence, with flavours of blackberry, cherry and clove.

Côtes du Rhône – E. Guigal 2012, £11.49 (£9.99 mix six) Majestic –Top-quality Côtes du Rhône, made from old-vine Syrah and Grenache – aromatic, full-bodied with a core of dark plum fruit and savoury cracked white pepper. Try with a beef stew, or moussaka.

-- Neil Courtier is a freelance wine educator and writer. He runs wine courses and tutored tastings for groups and individuals, in Bury and Cambridge. More details: 01359 270318/ grapesense1@aol.com/ www.grapesense.com