#newwinethisweek Week 38 – Côtes du Rhône

Mike may have got the better of me last week with Malbec but this week he is back on my Christmas card list as he has gone for spicy Côtes du Rhône from the Southern Rhône Valley!




The smell of lavender, fennel, dried rosemary and thyme fills the air of the Southern Rhône, where spicy Grenache is the champion grape. Wines made with Grenache have brambly fruit flavours and lovely spicy and herby notes, often with lashings of black pepper and after a few years they start to smell like Christmas. This is a very inviting region with extremely inviting wines. The classification system is straightforward, although not always a true indicator of quality; it pays to know the winemaker as well as the classification, as a good winemaker’s Côtes du Rhône can be far superior to a bad one’s Chateuneuf du Pape.

There are a plethora of grape varieties planted in the area. For reds you’ll find Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan, and quite a few others. But the Southern Rhône is also home to a whole host of white varieties: Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Viognier and Picopoul, to name but a few. In fact there are a total of 18 varieties permitted in the blend of Chateuneuf-du-Pape!

Check out this awesome map from winefolly.com

Check out this awesome map from winefolly.com

The classification starts with basic Côtes du Rhône, which stretches over 200km and covers over 83,000 hectares of vineyards; this is our focus for the week. The next step up the quality pyramid to Côtes du Rhône Villages (approx. 3,000ha), which is a selection of 95 communes making better quality wine. Next it’s the “named” Côtes du Rhône Villages, which over the years have consistently produced better quality wines and are allowed to append the village name to the label; there are 18 of these villages, my favourites being Sablet and Cairanne. Finally, we come to the “Crus”; these are villages and areas that have consistently produced top-notch wine and have earned the right to simply call the wine by where it’s from. The key Southern Rhône Crus are Lirac, Rasteau, Beaumes de Venise, Vaqueyras, Vinsobres, Gigondas and, the most famous of all, Chateuneuf du Pape. All of these “Crus” have Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC) status for red wines, but only some are allowed to use the village name for whites and rosé; Tavel, for instance only has AOC status for rosé wines, and Vaqueyras, we learnt during our stay there last summer, is the only Cru where the AC covers Red, White and Rose.

I am going to give selections this week at a few levels of the quality pyramid – this is a great week to consider the price vs. quality equation for French red wine… and its an excuse for me to crack open a bottle of Vacqueyras or Gigondas!


Finest* Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu 2013 (Tesco £5.99)

Finest* Gigondas 2013 (Tesco £12.99)

Waitrose Classic Cotes du Rhône 2013 (Waitrose £5.49)

Waitrose Côtes du Rhône Villages 2012 (Waitrose £7.39)

And this is probably the best Côtes du Rhône on the market, from a fine domaine, a fine vintage and worth every penny for the ‘lowly’ appellation:

Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2010 (Waitrose £11.49)

M&S Cotes du Rhone Villages 2012 (M&S £7.99)

Domaine de la Curnière Vacqueyras 2011 (M&S £11.99)


Don’t forget to head on over to Mike’s site to leave your score and comments… drink well!





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Posted on September 24, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Excellent. I will be enjoying a CNP this evening. Cheers!

  2. I went for a couple of wines this week from the supermarket top-end ranges. I started off with the Tesco Finest Côtes du Rhône Villages and then went upscale with Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Gigondas.

    The Finest Côtes du Rhône Plan de Dieu, to give it its full name, is a very enjoyable tipple at £5.99 a bottle (the Simply CDR is only 50p cheaper!). It was from the 2013 vintage so very young… but these wines aren’t made for ageing, they are produced for immediate drinking. The aromas were quite perfumed, almost sweet, with lots of fruit, red and black, and just a hint of baking spice. On the palate the fruit is concentrated, slightly jammy perhaps (a big % of Mouvedre vperhaps?), but very appetising. There is more red than black fruit and the texture is smooth as you would expect, but there is also a real ‘country’ feel to it – there’s something a bit rustic and rough around the edges – I like it very much and it is a bargain at £5.99. 7/10

    The Sainsbury’s Gigondas is a different beast; actually, it’s more beauty than beast. There were 2011 and 2012 on the shelf and I would encourage you to get your hands on the 2011 – an extra year in bottle makes a big difference. The nose is so enticing, with that lovely mix of fruit but also the dried herbs and sweet spice that I want and expect from a higher end Southern Rhône red. The texture is silky smooth and although I loved the rusticity of the Finest CDR, in this wine all of the pieces of the puzzle fall beautifully into place. The acidity is bright but it’s the wonderful balance of fruit and spice that elevates this wine. Now £13 isn’t cheap, but this a quality Gigondas and you won’t get much of that for under £15 – this one in a blind tasting will kick a few butts. Worth every penny… I am going to keep my eye out for promotions and stock the shelves! 9/10

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