Who isn’t looking for that easy go-to wine, especially during the week? The answer just may be found with a bottle of Côtes du Rhône wine. They are easy-drinking wines upon release, come in a variety of styles, and a great value. Another plus for Côtes du Rhône wines, they pair well with comfort foods like stews, braises, and you guessed it, lamb meatballs.
This month the French Winophiles are exploring the Côtes du Rhône region in southeastern France. Check out more articles from the group at the bottom of this post and join our Twitter chat on Saturday, September 19th, 2020, at 11:00 AM ET. Follow the chat using hashtag #winophiles.
The Two Regions of the Rhône Valley
Northern Rhône – Syrah rules, and to a lesser degree, white varieties (Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne) can be found. The Northern Rhone is a narrow 40-mile long strip with steep hillside vineyards. The climate is Continental and makes up only 4-5% of all the Rhône Valley wines.
Southern Rhône – Red and Rosé blends dominate. The blends can be made from up to 21 permitted varieties, with Grenache playing the leading role. Other common varieties include Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Clairette, and Bourboulenc. The Southern Rhône is comprised of broad valleys with a Mediterranean climate, including less rainfall and Mistral winds.
The Côtes du Rhône Quality Hierarchy
Côtes du Rhône AOC
- Includes 171 villages over 86,000 acres
- Accounts for 2/3 of the Rhône’s wine production
- France’s second-largest wine region
Côtes du Rhône Villages
- Includes 95 villages
- Vineyard yields are lower
- Alcohol is slightly higher
- The wines are more complex and suitable for aging
Côtes du Rhône Named Villages
- Includes 20 villages that can list their geographical name on the label
- To gain “named village” status, tastings are performed, once the standards are met, all the wines produced in that village are accepted
- Higher quality and can be aged
Côtes du Rhône Cru
- Includes 17 Crus labeled by their names
- The best vineyards in the region
- The highest quality wines
Wine and Food Pairing
2017 Brotte Domaine Grosset Cairanne, Cru des Côtes du Rhône
14.5% abv | $15.00 | Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah
Domaine Grosset is a 22 hectare (54.4 acres) estate owned by Alain Grosset, who is Laurent Brotte’s father-in-law. The estate is located in Cairanne, an appellation in the Southern half of the Rhône valley east of the city Orange. The estate practices principles of sustainable agriculture. The vineyards soils are grey marl and sand, giving freshness and structure and stony clay sand lending powerful aromatics. The wines were classified as Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne until 2016, when Cairanne was elevated to cru status. The wine is now labeled “Cairanne.”
The grapes were hand-harvested with a controlled yield of 35/hl/ha. The grapes were crushed, then fermented, followed by a 3- week maceration. The most tannic juice is aged in French oak barrels with the most supple Grenache juice aged in concrete vats and 100-year-old large oak vats. After more than a year of aging, the wine is bottled in March with a light filtration.
My Tasting Notes – Pale to medium ruby in color. Aromas of berries, dried herbs, and spices. On the palate, medium(+) body and tannins, with medium acidity. Flavors of raspberries, plums, dried herbs, spices, and a hint of anise on the finish.
Lamb Meatballs Paired with Côtes du Rhône
The lamb meatballs with the Domaine Gosset Cairanne was an example of a pairing that elevates both the food and the wine. The meatballs softened the tannins and highlighted the cinnamon and raspberry notes in the wine. The wine brought out the savory herbs in the meatballs.
These lamb meatballs can be an appetizer or entrée paired with a Côtes du Rhône red.
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 3-1/2 oz Greek feta cheese, crumbled into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2+ tablespoons fresh thyme leaves additional thyme leaves for garnish - optional
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 2 medium garlic cloves, crushed and minced
- 1 cup fresh french baguette breadcrumbs, crusts removed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 + tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- greek yogurt, for serving
- optional -pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425 F
In a large bowl, combine ground lamb, thyme, rosemary, parsley garlic, breadcrumbs, cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Gently mix to combine. Form into 18 balls (about 1-1/4 oz. each). For appetizers form into 36 smaller balls.
In a large frying pan, warm one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs in batches and fry for 5-6 minutes, turning them to brown all sides. Transfer the meatballs to a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with the pomegranate molasses and bake for about 5 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked.
Serve meatballs on a flat plate with a smear of Greek yogurt on the side of the plate with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses over the yogurt. Optional - Pomegranate seeds and thyme leaves for garnish.
More articles from the French Winophiles on the Côtes du Rhône
- A Côtes du Rhône from Franck Balthazar and A Deconstructed Pairing by Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles
- A Côtes du Rhône Tasting by Payal at Keep the Peas
- All the Colors of Côtes du Rhône with Famille Perrin by Nicole Ruiz Hudson at Somm’s Table
- A Trio of Côtes du Rhône Pairings by Cam Mann at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- A Window Into The Côtes du Rhône Through Maison M. Chapoutier by Susannah Gold at Avvinare
- Back on the Rhône Again by Christy Majors
- Beef Tongue Stew with a Côtes du Rhône Gigondas by Wendy Klik at A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Côtes du Rhône and Clearwater Camping: Charcuterie in God’s Country by Terri Steffes at Our Good Life
- Côtes du Rhône: Essential French Wines by Jill Barth at L’Occassion
- Lamb Meatballs Paired with Côtes du Rhône by Jane Niemeyer at Always Ravenous
- Leaning Savory with a 2016 Alain Jaume Côtes du Rhône by Linda Whipple at My Full Wine Glass
- Rhône Roam #3: Crozes-Hermitage Is Syrah, Condrieu Equals Viognier — Paired with Fish Dishes by Gwendolyn Alley at Wine Predator
- Rhône Wine with Brisket by David Crowley at Cooking Chat
- Turkey Does the Côtes du Rhône by Andrea Lemuix at The Quirky Cork
- What the Heck is Côtes du Rhône Villages? by Mel at Wining with Mel