This month the French Winophiles are back in the Rhône Valley tasting and pairing wines from the Southern Rhône; Côtes du Rhone AOC and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC. These two wine regions make up 46% and 11% respectively of the total wines produced in the Rhône Valley.
Fast Facts about Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages
Côtes du Rhone AOC (CDR)
- Stretches from Vienne to Avignon
- Approximately 100,000 acres are under cultivation
- The maximum yield is 3.1 tons per acre
- 11% minimum alcohol level for red, rosé, and white wines
- Red wines must contain a minimum of 40% Grenache in the blend. The other blending varieties have maximum allowances (for example – Syrah and/or Mourvèdre can compose up to 60%). Rosé wines must contain a minimum of 40% of the blend. Again, the other blending varieties have maximum allowances. White wines must be 80% Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, and Viognier.
- 171 wine-producing villages
- Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers, low rainfall, and Mistral winds
- Five Main Soils; rocky clay, pebbles, stony deposits, loess, and sand
Côte du Rhone Villages AOC (CDRV)
- 95 villages all located in the Southern Rhône region and flanking both sides of the Rhône river
- Stricter laws are in place for the production of the CDRV as compared to CDR
- The superior terrain and mesoclimates of these villages has consistently resulted in wines with higher quality
- 8,500 acres under cultivation
- 95% is red wine production
- The maximum yield is 2.7 tons per acre
- 12% minimum alcohol level for red, rosé, and white wines
- The final wine must be a mandatory blend
- Red wines must contain 50% Grenache & a minimum of 20% Syrah and/or Mourvèdre with an optional 20% of any allowed red CDR AOC grape varieties. Rosé wines must contain a minimum of 50% Grenache & a minimum of 20% Syrah and/or Mourvèdre with an optional addition of up to 20% of any allowed red CDR AOC grape varieties and up to 20% of any allowed white CDR AOC grape varieties. White wines must contain 80% of any quantity of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Rousanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc Blanc, and Viognier, with other permitted whites not exceeding 20% of the total blend.
- Of the 95 CDRV 21 named villages are allowed to name the village on the label and have their own AOC. The named 21 villages comprise over 15,000 acres of vineyards, with maximum yields of 2.5 tons per acre. Rosè and white wines must contain at least 12% alcohol and red wines a minimum of 12.5% alcohol. The red, Rosé, and white mandated blends are the same as the CDRV AOC.
Rhône Valley Wine Map
My Tasting & Food Pairing Notes
Disclosure: The wines were provided to me as media samples. All opinions are my own.
2020 Domaine Chamfort La Pause Rosé, Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet AOC
14.1% abv | $19.00 SRP (sample) | 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah
Domaine Chamfort is located in the Southern Rhône and at the northern edge of the Gigondas appellation. Vasco Perdigao is the proprietor and vigneron of the 16.5 hectare domaine. He produces limited amounts of Côtes du Rhône, Sablet, Séguret, and Rasteau with his main wine being Vacqueyras.
La Pause Rosé is grown in ancient terraced vineyards with soils of limestone, sand, and galets, near the village of Sablet. The rosé is made in the saignée method.
Pale salmon in color. Medium body and acidity. Fresh notes of cherries, raspberries, and orange zest. It is nicely balanced with lingering flavors.
My Pairing: Greek-style shrimp with fresh heirloom tomatoes and feta cheese (recipe below)
2017 Maison Les Alexandrins Terrasses de l’Eridan, Côtes du Rhône AOC
13% abv | $18.00 SRP (sample) | 60% Grenace Blanc, 25% Viognier, and 15% Marsanne
Maison Les Alexandrins was established in 2012 as a collaboration between three iconic Rhône winemakers: Nicholas Jaboulet, Guillaume Sorrel, and Alexandre Caso. They focus on sourcing grapes from exceptional sites, frequently forgotten or ancient vineyards, working the parcels manually to restore the their biodiversity. Their wines are described as “revisited classics,” a style both contemporary and timeless.
The grapes for this wine are obtained from sites between the rivers of Ouvèze and Aigues, near the Cairanne and Jonquières communes. The vineyard soils are a mix of clay, limestone, and alluvial deposits. The grapes are pneumatically pressed and gently fined, followed by a cool fermentation and aging in stainless steel tanks for six months before release.
Pale straw in color. Medium body and acidity. There are notes of peach, pear, musk, melon, orange zest, honey, and bitter almond on the finish. This wine continues to express itself with each sip.
My Pairing: Greek-style shrimp with fresh heirloom tomatoes and feta cheese
2019 Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Rouge, Côtes du Rhône AOC
14.5% abv | $44.00 SRP (sample) | 100% Grenache
Domaine Gramenon is located in the north-easternmost region of the southern Rhône. The estate was founded by Michèle Aubèry-Laurent and her late husband Philippe, with the first bottled vintage in 1990. Today Michèle, along with her son, Maxime Francois, practice sustainable and biodynamic farming. The traditional cellar includes gravity-fed tanks and demi-muids and foudres for aging. The production is small with a cult following.
The grapes are sourced from three estate old-vine plots of Grenache near the commune of Montbrison-sur-Lez; two are on limestone plateaus at about 1000 feet, and the third is on a sandy slope to the south. The grapes are manually harvested, partially destemmed, followed by maceration in concrete tanks for fifteen days. A slow ambient fermentation is followed by twelve months in a combination of barrels and demi-muids and then bottled without fining or filtration.
Medium ruby in color with a purple rim. Medium(+) body, high tannins, and medium(+) acidity. Notes of blackberries, licorice, plums, and dried herbs. Well-balanced and age-worthy wine. Decanting is recommended.
My Pairings: Lamb Tagine with Prunes & Almonds and Grilled Lamb Skewer with Eggplant
2018 Domaine Paul Autard Rouge, Côtes du Rhône AOC
14.5% abv | $15.00 SRP (sample) | 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre
The Domaine was founded in 1970 by Paul Autard in the village of Courthézon. Today, Jean-Paul Autard, second-generation, along with his daughter, Pauline, oversee the estate. Since 2004, Jean-Paul has made significant investments in his state-of-the-art winery, including a vast aging cellar, carved out of ancient sandstone.
The wine’s classic blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre is hand-harvested, twice destemmed, then lightly crushed, followed by spontaneous fermentation for 25 days in stainless steel tanks. The juice goes through punch-downs and pump-overs, bringing out the concentration and texture in the wine. Each variety is vinified separately before being blended in the January following harvest and aged in stainless steel before release.
Medium ruby in color. Medium(+) body with medium tannins and acidity. The wine has a smooth texture with juicy fruit and notes of dried strawberry, red currant, and a hint of smokiness.
My Pairing: Lamb Tagine with Prunes & Almonds
2018 Lavau La Décelle, Côte du Rhône-Villages Valréas AOC
15% abv| $14.00 SRP (sample) | 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah
Benoît and Frédéric Lavau descent from a long lineage of winemaking families. Domaine la Décelle was founded in 2010 with the purchase of 82 acres in Vairéas. The vineyards are located in the historic Enclave of des Papes with clay and limestone soils, ideal aspect, microclimates, and 1000 feet above sea level altitude.
The grapes undergo a 30-day maceration and fermentation, with a traditional rack and return and frequent pump-overs. The wine is aged for six months in second passage French oak before bottling.
Deep ruby/garnet in color. Full-bodied and tannins with medium(-) acidity. Notes of cherries, chocolate, and violets. The wine has a velvety texture with a fruit-forward freshness.
My Pairing: Lamb Tagine with Prunes & Almonds and Grilled Lamb Skewer with Eggplant
2015 Xavier Vignon Arcane XIX Le Soleil, Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC
15% abv | $29.00 SRP (sample) | 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre
Xavier Vignon is a self-proclaimed terroir hunter and master blender with more than thirty harvests from varying wine regions around the world.
The Arcane wine series focuses on a specific grape variety, terroir, or vintage. This wine is a celebration of the 2015 vintage. The Grenache is mainly from 50-80-year-old-vines from nine parcels around the commune of Vaucluse, with Syrah and Mourvèdre completing the blend. The grapes go through a long slow fermentation followed by fifteen months of aging in one-third new Austrian oak barrels, one-third concrete tanks, and one-third in vats.
Deep ruby in color with a hint of garnet. Full-bodied with medium tannins and acidity. Concentrated rich fruit flavors of cherries, blackberries, raspberries, with notes of violets and cocoa.
My Pairing: Grilled Lamb Skewer with Eggplant
Greek-Style Shrimp, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Feta
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 lbs. heirloom tomatoes
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1-1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/4 lb. Greek feta
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 cup fresh mint, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 400° F
- In a large sauté pan, heat the 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring for about 5-8 minutes or until the onion and garlic are softened. Reduce the heat to avoid the vegetables from browning. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the whole tomatoes and cook for about one minute to loosen the skins. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, and drain. Core the tomatoes and slip the skins off. Cut the tomatoes into thick wedges.
- Return the sauté pan with the onion and garlic mixture to a burner over medium-high heat. Add the tomato wedges, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook and occasionally stir the mixture for about 10 minutes to soften the tomatoes. Transfer to an oven proof baking dish.
- In a medium bowl add the shrimp, one tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir to coat the shrimp.
- Arrange the shrimp evenly in one layer over the tomato mixture. Crumble the feta and scatter it over the shrimp. Sprinkle the top with oregano.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until tomatoes are bubbling and the cheese is slightly golden. Let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh mint ot serve.
- Côtes du Rhone
- Domaine Chamfort
- Maison Les Alexandrins
- Domaine Gramenon
- Domaine Paul Autard
- Domaine la Décelle
- Xavier Vignon
- Wine Scholar Guild
Check out more Côtes du Rhone and Côtes du Rhône Villages wine tastings and pairings from the French Winophiles –
- 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 Wino Hustle says 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 is Assembling an End of Summer Cheeseboard with Domaine Chamfort Sablet La Pause Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019.
- Robin of Crushed Grapes 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 Côtes du Rhône.
- 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 Côtes du Rhône.
- Katrina of The Corkscrew Concierge explains Why You Should be Drinking White Rhône Wines.
- Linda of My Full Wine Glass introduces us to Red, White and Pink-The Colors of Côtes du Rhône Wine.
- Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairings shares Côtes du Rhône and Perfect Fried Rice.
- Jill of L’Occasion is Feeling Satisfied with Côtes du Rhône.
- Susannah of Avvinare shares A Fresh Look at the Côtes du Rhône.
- Liz of What’s in That Bottle? declares Côtes du Rhône Offers Fancy, French & Affordalicious Wines.
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator…Gwendolyn Alley considers White, Red, Rosé? Côtes du Rhône Wines Paired with Squash Soufflé, Instant Pot Cassoulet.
- Payal of Keep the Peas discusses Everyday Wines from the Côtes du Rhône.
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares A Month’s Worth of Celebrations with Côtes du Rhône.