France’s Rhône Valley is significant on the world stage. At roughly three times the size of the Napa Valley, the diversity of this region is staggering. It’s divided into two segments: septendrial (North) and méridionale (South).
The north is more linear: many independent winegrowers, mainly granite soil, dominated by single grape bottlings (Syrah for red, Viognier for white). The climate is moderate, continental.
The south opens the possibilities: independent growers as well as co-ops, diverse blends, many soils—clay, calcareous, sand and the famous galet. The climate is Mediterranean, culturally it’s Provençal.
Edouard Guérin is the winemaker at Maison Ogier, a domaine with a long history throughout the Rhône Valley’s many appellations. “Each soil will really give you a signature,” says Guérin. “You have the soil in your glass.”
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FRANCE’S NORTHERN RHÔNE AND SOUTHERN RHÔNE VALLEYS? | Read more on L’Occasion
Let’s look at this zone in its geographical arrangement, to understand what’s what.
Côtes du Rhône AOP
Côtes du Rhône makes up around half of the production, a regional appellation that can include vineyards north as far as Vienne, down to the area around Avignon. Quite a range. While 20+ varieties can be included, Grenache is currently the most common grape planted and used here. Many of these wines are blends (the “Rhône blend has been copied around the world) including Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault, Vigoner, Syrah, and more.
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Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC
This indication applies more precision, validated by vineyards in 95 villages (also referred to as communes) with more stringent requirements on maximum yield. Approximately 12% of the region’s output comes from the villages range.
There are 21 villages that can also append their name to the label, taking these the next level…
Côtes du Rhône (named) Villages AOC
This indication is tied to both a particular terroir and a level of quality, with more restricted yields. Each of these has its own reason for being called out as unique.
“Everything is controlled by the specification,” says Francine Tallaron, the attorney in charge of protecting the use of the names of these places for the Syndicat Côtes du Rhône.
For a village, earning the named status is a big achievement, one that can take more than a decade to arrive. Tallaron calls it “a huge satisfaction” earned by time and energy from the producers: “Village is more about terroir and quality than the name of a town.”
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Beaumes des Venise + Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Vin Doux Naturel
Cairanne (NEW! elevated in 2016) | Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Gigondas | Lirac | Tavel | Rasteau + Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel
Vacqueyras | Vinsorbes | Cornas | Condrieu
Château-Grillet | Côte-Rôtie | Crozes-Hermitage | Hermitage
Saint-Joseph | Saint Péray
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There are handful of neighboring terroirs that share a historical and geographical reflection with the the Côtes. These are classified as Rhône Valley wines because they aren’t on the riverside (which is what côtes means: coast) but they are still relevant here.
Clairette de Bellegarde | Costières de Nîmes | Côtes du Vivarais | Grignan-les-Adhémar (formerly Côteaux du Tricastin) | Luberon | Ventoux
Wines to try:
This includes a mix of wines from around the region, including some of my favorites and some media samples that I’ve enjoyed.
Rhonéa Le Pas de Montmirail Gigondas 2019
Château de Campuget Tradition Rosé 2019 | Costières de Nîmes
M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers 2017
Delas Frères Rouge 2018 | Ventoux
Famille Perrin Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Les Sinards” 2017
Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône “Samorëns” Red 2017
Vidal-Fleury Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2015
Château de Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2018 (blanc)
Cave de Die Jaillance Cuvée Impériale NV | Clairette de Die
Domaine La Bouïssiere Vacqueyras 2015
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2018
E. Guigal Tavel 2019
Domaine des Coteaux des Travers “La Mondona” Rasteau 2015
Domaine La Ferme Saint-Martin “Les Terres Jaunes” Beaumes de Venise 2015
The French Winophiles
Join our Twitter live chat at 10am central time on Saturday, September 19th. Look for our hashtag: #Winophiles. Please join in to share your thoughts or ask questions. We look forward to seeing you!
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 Camilla 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 here on 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
14 thoughts on “Côtes du Rhône: Essential French Wines”
I always walk away from your posts with a new shopping list for wines to track down. Oye. But, thank you. Your expertise and clarity are so welcome. Thanks for joining in, Jill.
Fantastic visual/virtual vacation! Beautiful article and explanation of the wines/region and like Camilla, I’ll be tracking a few of your wine recommendations down.
That list of wines to try is extensive! It is going to take me a bit to get through it. But your recommendations have never led me astray!
A wonderful synopsis with beautiful pictures to illustrate.
Wow….we could spend an entire year just tasting and chatting about the wines on your list. I’m heading back to wine.com with it in hand.
Thanks for the recommendations, Jill!
Hi Jill! We are ordering various Cote du Rhone wines, such as Chateauneuf du Pape, since we can’t get to France. And we are trying to figure out what vintage is good for drinking now, in 2021. We thought maybe four years old, such as 2017, is best. What would you suggest? Sometimes they taste great and next time not so great. Thank you so much for any input.