Cotes Du Rhone Blanc

At this GOTN gathering we extended our adventure in the Rhone Valley by sampling the white varietals from this region.  For red Cotes du Rhone, per the AOC, the primary grapes are either Grenache (Southern Rhone) or Syrah (Northern Rhone) which must be 40% or higher in the blend.  For Cotes du Rhone Blancs the wine must contain 80% Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier as the main grapes.  Piqupoul and Ungi blanc are secondary wines that cannot exceed 20%.  Cotes du Rhone Blancs allow only 8 varietals in comparison to Cotes du Rhone reds which allow 21 varietals.

As mentioned at the previous GOTN Cotes du Rhones have been around since 125 BC when the Romans built the town of Vienne.  This is the oldest wine producing region according to archaeological findings.  During these days the wines were transported and stored in clay or earthenware jugs known as amphorae.  Since these pots were porous, the insides were coated with various kinds of resins as a sealer that was acquired from various trees. Studies of the various resins used showed no benefit in preserving the wine yet people still insisted on the wines coming from resin sealed amphorae to those without.  This choice is believed to be the result of people liking the resin flavor addition to the wine.  As an example, this is no different than one adding cream to their coffee.

Tasting wines that are either fermented, or even bottled, in an amphora is very unique.  I had a good friend of mine, Greg Alonzo, introduce me to wines from the Republic of Georgia some years ago.  Many of these wines are made in clay pots, or amphorae, as well as bottled in them.  A lot of times you can detect a hint of clay on the palate when tasting these wines.  My favorite varietal from this region is Saperavi.  A very unique wine if you are ever able to find it.

The wines brought by the GOTN group were mostly from France with a couple from California.  There were many variations in these wines based on region, terroir and style.  The list included:

  • 2011 Jean Luc Colombo Cotes du Rhone Les Abeilles Blanc - France

  • 2011 Crozes Hermitage Blanc - France

  • 2012 Laudun Cotes du Rhone Villages - France

  • 2013 JT Chateau de Nages - France

  • 2012 Sobon Estate Roussanne - Amador County, California

  • 2012 Tablas Creek - Paso Robles, California

As with the red wines from this area there was a lot of diversity.  Most displayed a medium body resulting from the Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne varietals.  Notes of green apples and citrus in many made this a beautiful wine to cherish on these warm summer days.  A 100% Roussanne wine from Amador County, California surprised everyone with beautiful notes of toffee. This was quite unique.

As we travel through the many different wines in GOTN I have begun to realize the number of trips are endless. There are so many different factors that contribute to the cause and effect situations based on varietal, terroir and vinification processes that even challenges between a single wine style are endless in diversity.


Rusty Sly