Are you like me and always on a mission to find that everyday go-to wine to have on hand? You know, one that has yummy taste, versatility with food, is crowd-pleasing and doesn’t break the bank? Look no further. That wine is Cotes du Rhone (coat-due-roan).
These are wines from the Rhone region of France, primarily in the area north of Avignon. Cotes means “slopes” in French so technically these are from the slopes of the Rhone river valley and the villages that caress the countryside, however much of the area is relatively flat. The Cotes du Rhone appellation is the broadest definition, meaning that the grapes can come from anywhere within the region to qualify for the designation. There are higher quality levels too – the next one up is the Cotes du Rhone Villages and then there are the wines from the specific communes such as Gigondas or Vacueyras. But the readily drinkable lower end are wines are dynamite for every day, so lets stick to those.
Grenache is the key grape variety in the bottle, although there are several other different kinds that can be used in the blend as well. Usually there are three or four blended to make Cotes du Rhone. Grenache itself is less acidic then some other varieties and yet the flavor is well concentrated and it ripens with good sugar levels. Syrah, Mouvedre, Cinsault and Carignan are often used in the blend to add color, complexity and more structure. If those sound familiar it’s because they are the combination (along with some other grapes) found in the famous wines of Chateauneuf du Pape vineyards which cluster around Avignon.
In a Cotes du Rhone you get the regional style that has long been a prominent expression of centuries old winemaking. What can you expect to taste? Mostly there are red fruit flavors like cranberry or ripe strawberry but with a little peppery note tossed in. Since the Cotes du Rhone are blended wines the actual flavor profile is greatly influenced by the winemaker’s hand. The addition of Syrah adds depth and punch to the taste. Sometimes it can be smokey or meaty while adding darker fruit like blackberry to the profile. And that’s what the Mouvedre does too in addition to providing inky deep color. G-S-M blends are increasingly popular and you will even see some labeled that way now.
Cotes du Rhone are great with a burger, pizza, grilled chicken, and for me, even grilled salmon. But they’re equally good all on their own. So when you want a red to pour get to the store – and stock up on Cotes du Rhone. Here are some everyday picks to help you shop. NOTE: 2013 was not a good vintage year for the Rhone and the wines can be hit or miss, especially on the lower end of the price spectrum, so I am sticking with 2012 or 2014.
Every Day Sip
2012 Guigal Cotes du Rhone $14
One of the consistently best value wines on the shelf with the classic taste that defines the region.
2014 Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone $14
Bight and juicy, it’s very easy-going and ready to drink even as young as it is.
2012 Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone Premier Terroir $12
Ripe fruit and nicely balanced.