Saturday, August 15, 2009

Great Summer Red Wine - Cotes du Rhone

Continuing to bring you value selections of interesting and wines with personality, it is overdue that I post a blog on one of my favorite every day style wines - Cotes du Rhone.

Being a versatile wine, Cotes du Rhone are perfect for a summer red as you can put a nice chill on the wine before you serve it or find it just as satisfying at room temperature. CdR are typically a blend of a few Rhone grapes, primarily Grenache, with Syrah playing a major supporting role. Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise and Mourv├Ędre are allowed to be used as well but are added in much smaller portions, usually single digit percentages if at all. One of my favorite CdR's is 100% Syrah which is very atypical that Syrah is the only grape. JL Chave produces this 100% Syrah from the Northern Rhone and it goes by the name "Mon Coeur". Chave is responsible for some of the best Syrah wines in the world from the legendary slope side vineyards of Hermitage in the Northern Rhone.

Many CdR are pretty easy on the wallet, making them very popular buys. There tends to be two primarily differing styles; funky and tasting of brett and garrigue. The other style is more modern with fruit playing a larger role but tamed by a linear composition and great acidity levels. Brett usually comes from a cellar not being the cleanest place to make the wine, but not in a bad way, just in an old school French way. Sometimes this is the intention of the winemaker, almost as id it’s as a "seasoning". CdR wines are usually large production in the thousands of cases. CdR do tend to be a victim of bottle variation, some less funky than others, some more fruity than others. Unfortunately that is one of the drawbacks of a CdR, they can be wildly inconsistent. One neat fact is that since the rules are so stringent in French AOC in general, their are wines made in the same fashion as a CdR that are outside the designated villages of the CdR and therefore can not legally call themselves a CdR but are basically the same thing. Below are a few recommendations of both styles of Cotes du Rhone. I also am going to recommend an Italian cousin to the Grenache grape that has been lauded for its similarities to the Grenache grape and is also a great value at $13 or so. As for the French I'll split my list in two, those that are old school and funky, and those that are a little less funky but solid modern examples.

Funky
Domaine de la Chesnay $8-10
Kermit Lynch Cypress $15
Domaine De La Garrigue Cotes Du Rhone Cuvee Romaine $9-12
Guigal $10-12 (ok for the $, but not too exciting, but more consistent)

Less funky, modern
Chapoutier Belleruche $8-10
St Cosme $12-14 (love this, has the best of both funky and modern)
Chave Mon Coeur $16-20 (love this, but have it less as its more $)


Italian, from the island of Sardegna:
Argiolas Costera $12-14

From the US check out:
Edmunds St. John "Rocks and Gravel" $15-18 (awesome, New World & funky!)

Special thanks to Mike for asking me about Cote du Rhone wines!

Cheers!

-Tom

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