The Official Guide

Most Beautiful Villages in France book

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Official Guide to the Most Beautiful Villages of France

The Official Guide

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Côtes du Rhône Villages

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Côtes du Rhône AC is an appellation which covers a wide range of wines in terms of quality and style. The bulk production is in the southern Rhône valley, although some is also made in the northern Rhone along with the likes of Hermitage and St Joseph. The appellation covers 6 departements – Ardèche, Drôme, Gard, Loire, Rhône and Vaucluse. As the valley broadens and flattens vast areas are under vine producing wines which vary from the rustic to the almost sublime. So unless you know the producer or are lucky you may end up with rough and ready rather than superb.
Hence the named villages of the Côtes du Rhône tend to offer rather more of a guarantee of better quality. These villages are on the higher slopes along the valley sides – and hence the wines tend to have more mineral character and lower yield – the slopes offer better drainage and exposure to the sun, whilst the roots have to go deeper to reach mositure – all of which tends to produce better wines.
Cairanne, Chusclan, Laudun,Rasteau, Sablet, Seguret, Valreas and Visan are probably the best known – with both Rasteau and Cairanne having successful co-operative cellars. Most of these villages lie on the left bank of the Rhône, stretching northwest of Avignon (except for Chusclan and Laudun which are further west). This is an area which also include Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Beaumes-de-Venise, which were formerly named villages which have been elevated to appellations in their own right.
The main red grape varieties used are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre – although it must be noted that Côtes du Rhône is also made in white and rose styles – but in relatively small quantities.
As you may imagine there are many producers making good wines, so any recommendations are personal rather than objective.
For Côtes du Rhône Villages – Cairanne, try the wines of Domaine Rabasse-Charavin, where Corinne Couturier makes some stunning unfiltered wines. She also produces Côtes du Rhône Villages – Rasteau equally good, but more powerful than the more elegant Cairanne – available form Berry Bros & Rudd
Oddbins stocks the Côtes du Rhône Villages – Sablet from Chateau du Trignon – “The nose has spicy notes of liquorice and white pepper combined with ripe blackberries. The palate has more flavours of black fruits wrapped in spicy Provençal herbs and crunchy tannins.”
Meanwhile Gauntleys of Nottingham have a good selection including a seldom seen Vinsobres (sober wine?) from Chateau de Beaucastel.

In more general tems the wines from the big name negociants such as Guigal, Chapoutier and Jaboulet are always reliable and often superb. SImilarly the better cuvées from the co-ops at Rasteau amd Cairanne can be good value.

As elsewhere in France, there is a hierarchy of appellations which can be an indicator of quality, but is essentially a increasingly narrow focus on the area of production – so Côtes du Rhône AC is vast; Côtes du Rhône-Villages AC is restricted to wines made only in the designated villages, whilst an individual villages AC such as Côtes du Rhône – Sablet AC can only be produced within the named village.

Anthony Rose in the Independent (10 Feb 07) recommends the 2004 Domaine des Amadieu, Vieilles Vignes from Cairanne “an aromatic blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre from the award-winning wine merchants Stone, Vine & Sun

For more info on the wines of the Côtes du Rhône see

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