Côtes du Rhône & Côtes du Rhône Villages
"Many wines carrying the Gigondas, Vacqueyras
and especially Cotes du Rhone appellation are excellent value"
Around 90% of the entire production of the Rhône Valley is designated Côtes du Rhône - 40,200 hectares and 6,000 wine makers make the regional Côtes du Rhône one of the leading appellations red wine producers in the region.. The quality of these wines varies from one producer to the next but there are numerous styles of good to exceptional wines to suit all palates at very reasonable prices. Generally it is a matter of discovering personal favourites.
In 1953, the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation was granted to four villages in the Vaucluse and Gard départements (Gigondas and Cairanne, Chusclan and Laudun) imposing stricter controls including permitted grape varieties, maximum yields and minimum alcohol content, with the aim of producing better wines than those of the Côtes du Rhône. Over the years other villages were added and Gigondas was subsequently elevated to its own appellation, followed in 1990 by Vacqueyras. In a rather surprising move, in 2006, two more villages were similarly upgraded: Beaumes-de-Venise and Vinsobres.
There are now 19 geographical areas ("villages") entitled to apply their name to the appellation, the best of which (including Cairanne and Rasteau) are generally in the Vaucluse. Additionally, about 15% of Villages wines are grown in areas which are not entitled to attach their name to the appellation but which may call their wine Côtes du Rhône Villages. One main difference between the two tiers is the maximum permitted yields: 42 hl/ha for named villages, 45 hl/ha for other Villages wines. To keep life simple, we recommend that you look for particular growers rather than specific villages.
Cairanne has long been regarded as the best of the named villages thanks to established stars such as the Brusset family but Rasteau has recently made a challenge with the improvement of domaines such as Bressy-Masson and Domaine des Côteaux des Travers. Other notable producers include the Perrin family (of Château de Beaucastel) who make a range of wines from all the better appellations in the region and Domaine de Mourchon, the undisputed star of Séguret. Of the recent additions, Signargues in the Gard departement has shown itself capable of producing some extremely good wines with Domaine de la Charité probably the best producer here.
The villages are: Cairanne, Chusclan (red and rosé), Laudun, Massif d'Uchaux (red), Plan de Dieu (red), Puymeras (red), Rasteau, Roaix, Rochegude, Rousset-les-Vignes, Sablet, St-Gervais, St-Maurice-sur-Eygues, St-Pantaléon-les-Vignes, Séguret, Signargues (red), Valréas, Vinsobres, Visan. (NB. Beaumes-de-Venise has recently been elevated to Cru status but wines up to the 2003 vintage will be designated Côtes du Rhône Villages).
Stylistically and qualitatively the wines generally follow the patterns seen in Gigondas and Vacqueyras - rather inevitably since, in several cases, they share borders with these appellations.
Grenache, the main grape variety for red wines, offers fruitiness, warmth and
body. Syrah and Mourvèdre give a hint of spices as well as depth of colour and
strength to the wine enabling it to age well. Cinsault is the bearer of finesse
and is ideal for making rosé and fruity first year wines. White wines, which are
fresh and aromatic, are the result of blending together several grapes, such as
Bourboulenc, Grenache white, Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette, and/or Viognier.
Yields for Villages wines are lower than their generic cousins (45hl/ha compared with 52hl/ha) and those for names villages lower still at 42hl/ha. Minimum alcohol is higher: 12% compared with 11% for Côtes du Rhône wines.
You must be aged 18 or over to purchase wine.