The Rhone Valley
GOTN came together to explore the beautiful wine blends known as Cotes du Rhone. Since I did not specify a country or region for this gathering it left the playing field wide open. The intent with this selection was to look at the red Cotes du Rhone from the Rhone Valley. Surprising as it may be, the group must have read my mind as all of the examples brought were from France. I expected that we would see a few New World wines made with Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (GSM) from California or Australia but did not. Since the wines at this meeting were from France we will focus on this region for this article.
Cotes du Rhone allows 21 different grape varietals in this wine as controlled by the appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC). In 1996 the Appelation criteria was changed to require that the red Cotes du Rhone had to contain 40% Grenache except for Northern Rhone where Syrah is the primary grape. The blend that we call GSM which is Greanche, Syrah and Mouvedre work harmoniously together in the Cotes du Rhone and are the dominant varietals used. The Grenache adds body with beautiful fruit flavors followed by the Syrah and Mouvedre that add a spicy character along with color. The other 18 varietals are accessory wines that are used in small amounts to add uniqueness. One item to be aware of is that they have higher alcohol than typical French wines. This is due to the warmer climate which produces grapes with higher sugar content. It also boosts the fruit flavor.
The Rhone River runs from Switzerland to the Mediterranean Sea through the Rhone Valley. The climate in the Rhone Valley is Mediterranean having four distinct seasons.
Two dry seasons (short winter and long summer which is hot)
Two rainy seasons (autumn and spring)
The Cotes du Rhone region has been found to be one of the oldest wine producers based on archaeological discoveries. The original vineyards were started by the Romans in Vienne in 125 BC. Production from this region flourished in the 17th and 18th century. As popularity grew in 1650 regulations were mandated to preserve the quality of these wines. In 1737, it was decreed that all barrels that were going to be shipped or sold had to have CDR branded into them.
Up to this point in time, the Cotes du Rhone only recognized the right bank of the Rhone River. This changed in the 19th Century when the left bank was also recognized and included. In 1937, through the gallant efforts of Baron Le Roy, the Cotes du Rhone AOC was created.
The wines brought by the GOTN group were all from France but with many variations based on region, terroir and style. The list included:
2003 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape
2011 Domaine de la Maurelle Cotes du Rhone
2014 Serabel Cotes du Rhone
2013 Calvet Heritage De Cotes Du Rhone Villages
2010 Burle Cotes du Rhone
2011 Domaine des Escaravailles Cotes du Rhone Les Sablières
2009 Domaine Grand Veneur Clos de Sixte Lirac
2009 Domaine Le Clos du Caillou Cote du Rhone Bouquet des Garrigues Blanc
The wines above provided everyone to see the uniqueness of this wine. Some were lighter in profile and others were heavier with tremendous mouth feel and body. Some were fruity with residual sugars and others dry. All tended to be higher in alcohol than one normally finds in French wines. The only missing region from our tasting was Northern Rhone from the Hermitage area where Syrah would have been the dominant. That said however, there were a couple of Southern Rhone's that attested to having a high percentage of Syrah to the wine. One way to know if a Cotie Rhone is from Southern Rhone is to look at the bottle. These bottles will display a Coat of Arms embossed into the bottle above the label.
I normally do not discuss any single wine that is brought to GOTN. But I must talk about a very special bottle that was brought by a new guest, Greg Peters. Greg brought a bottle of 2003 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. This is one of the best examples of this style of wine. Chateau Beaucastel was started in 1549 by Pierre de Beaucastel. Their vinitification process involves blending 13 of the allowable grapes which are fermented separately. These 13 grapes are also estate grown grapes. I believe that only one other winery does this. The nose displays the traditional Old World character that many wine lovers (like myself) seek. Tremendous wine and what a treat. I want to say thanks for bringing such a treasure from your collection.
In closing, I would like to thank Guy Lelarge (VWC Proprietor) for hosting our monthly gatherings and a special thanks to staff member Abagail that poured and made sure that everyone was taken care of during the evening. VWC is one of the oldest wine bars in Santa Clarita and they are always reaching out to support wine education and knowledge. They also provide weekly entertainment where you can unwind and either listen to various local bands or hop out onto the floor and dance the night away.