Cote du Rhone is the second largest wine growing region in France. It stretches from Vienne (20 miles south of Lyon), to the area around Avignon in Provence. The southern Cote du Rhone vineyards are centred around the ancient Roman town of Orange, on the eastern banks of the river Rhone.
Wines grown here are ranked by the AOC system, and range from the everyday drinking ‘Cote du Rhone’, to ‘Cote du Rhone Village’ which relates to the better quality of terroir on which they are grown. The best villages are authorised to place their name directly on to the wine’s label.
At the top of the table are the wines that do not need to mention Cote du Rhone on their label – they have been awarded their own AOC. The most famous of these would be Chateauneuf du Pape, aswell as Gigondas, which produces likeable reds, still big and busty but not quite as full on as the Chateauneuf du Papes.
Cote du Rhone is best known for its red wine, and the Grenache grape is the predominant grape, which makes the wines juicy and nicely rounded. Syrah and mourvedre can be added for spice and structure, and also enables the wines to be laid down. Wine makers are allowed to add up to 20% of other grape varieties according to the AOC regulations, which results in a wonderful variety of wines being produced.
Generally speaking, the cheaper Cote du Rhones are young and fresh, ready to drink now (or as we like to say, deliciously quaffable), and the older and more expensive the wine, the more elegant and full-bodied they become. Additional AOC appellations include Tavel (best known for it’s rose) and Cotes du Luberon (mainly reds and some marvellous rose).
Many of the vineyards will offer you tastings and tours and there are plenty of helpful websites that suggest wine routes in conjunction with seeing the best of the scenery. Try Rhone Wine Tourism.
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