By The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
We know how much our readers love values – wines that surpass their price in quality – so, this week we focus on the red wines of the Cotes du Rhone. It is a region that produces easy-to-find wine ranging from $15 to a still moderate $40.
One of the oldest wine regions in the world, the vast Cotes du Rhone Appellation d’Origine Controlee straddles the Rhone River. Here winemakers can choose from 21 different grape varieties to make red, white and rosé. Syrah, grenache and mourvedre dominate the red wines. Farther to the north, the region relies more on syrah to make much more concentrated and complex wine.
The simple Cotes du Rhones are fruity, accessible and versatile food matches that are priced under $20. Next up the ladder in quality are the Cotes du Rhone Villages that represent 95 communes. Grenache must be at least 50 percent of the blend. This AOC is surpassed by a Cotes du Rhone Villages named after a village – Rasteau being our favorite. Finally, the best is reserved for the crus classification. Seventeen crus are able to add their village to the label – but not necessarily “Cotes du Rhone.” Good examples of these wines are Cornas, Chateauneuf d Pape, Cote Rotie, Crozes-Hermitage, Gigondas, Saint-Joseph and Vacqueyras. These wines can range from $30 to $300.
We often point new wine enthusiasts to this region because the wines are so great for the money. You can sip them, serve them with pizza and burgers, bring them to a party and even age them for a few years although most of them are best drunk young.
Here are several we recently enjoyed:
Cotes du Rhone
Stephen Ogier Le Temps est Venu Cotes du Rhone 2019 ($23). We loved this earthy blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre for its intense red fruit character. From a highly respected producer, it shows off supple tannins and strawberry notes. One of our favorites in the tasting.
Famille Perrin Nature Cotes du Rhone 2019 ($15). Composed of grenache and syrah, this lively blend is pretty simple and recognized for its bright red fruit character.
E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2017 ($18). We’ve followed this wine for decades. Always a great buy, it bursts with fresh black fruit on the nose and adds spice notes to the flavors. Elegant, yet complex enough to pit against pasta, pizza, burgers and similar food. Syrah dominates the blend.
Michel & Tina Gassier Cotes du Rhone 2019 ($16). Mourvedre and syrah augment this largely grenache-based blend of fresh fruit character. Aged in concrete containers, the fruit is pure and delicious with floral, blackberry and licorice aromas. In the mouth expect to find blackberry, black cherry and cassis notes with a dash of pepper and rosemary.
Cellier des Dauphins Reserve Cotes du Rhone 2018 ($13). Lots of cherries and spice come from this blend of grenache and syrah.
Chateau de Saint Cosme “Les Deux Albion” Cotes du Rhone 2018 ($17). Grenache, syrah and mourvedre usually go into this muscular wine with dark berry fruit, black pepper and herbs in the mix.
Ferraton Pere & Fils Cotes-du-Rhone Samorens Rouge 2019 ($16). We loved this equal blend of grenache and syrah -- a nice soft approach to a hearty winter meal. It’s a great sipper but it is versatile enough to go with stews, chili, pasta and lamb. Ripe and juicy blackberry, raspberry notes with a hint of black licorice and dried rosemary.
Domaine de la Janasse Reserve 2019. This is a cauldron of beautiful syrah, grenache, carignan, cinsault and mourvedre. Herbal aromas are reminiscent of Provence. Red and dark berry flavors, dried herbs and easy tannins.
Domaine Vincent Paris “Granit 30” Cornas 2019 ($48). Made from syrah and granite grapes, this well-structured gem has ripe black fruit and spicy aromas with sweet black cherry and blueberry flavors. Dusty tannins and a bit of garrigue and mineral make this a great wine for current drinking.
Domaine Brusset Les Tavers Cairanne 2019 ($24). This concentrated wine from a producer who has been around since 1947 is a blend of grenache, syrah, cinsault and mourvedre. Aged mostly in tank, it maintains a fresh fruit style with soft tannins, cherry and cassis flavors with hints of black pepper. Great value.
Maison Brotte La Marasque Gigondas 2018 ($22). This is a very reasonably priced blend of grenache and syrah from Gigondas. Spice notes are dominant with cherry and kirsch flavors and hints of vanilla and licorice.
J.L. Chave Selection Offerus St. Joseph 2018 ($32). Made entirely from syrah, this boisterous wine from one of the most reputable producers in northern Rhone is deep in color with cherry and blackberry notes, soft tannins and good concentration. It’s one of our favorite regions of the Rhone for wines that exceed their price in quality.
Domaine de Durban Beaumes-de-Venise 2018 ($18). Grenache, syrah and mourvedre make up this forward, ripe blend from the often-forgotten vineyards of Beaumes-de-Venise. Violet and herbal aromas give way to a bounty of raspberry and blackberry flavors.
Domaine Santa Duc Les Aubes Vacqueyras 2019 ($30). Intense floral and herbal aromas followed by rich, slightly ripe raspberry and strawberry flavors. The composition is 80 percent grenache and 20 percent syrah. Great value.
Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve Rosé 2020 ($14). Cinsault, grenache, syrah and mourvedre work in tandem to create a flowery rosé with grapefruit, citrus and red berry fruit flavors. Great, delicious value.
E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Reserve Rosé 2018 ($18). Peach and strawberry flavors dominate this hearty rosé.