It’s well known that the Côtes du Rhône appellation is one of the largest in all of France based on production. Although a significant majority of this production is done on a massive agricultural scale, there are countless small growers working tirelessly to produce world-class wines labeled Côtes du Rhône. As a consequence, wines from the area are no stranger to the Thirst club. When a good one comes along, it’s very difficult to beat for the price. That said, this particular example is especially exciting. Coming to us from a small, sustainable producer, it offers a glimpse of the just how great wines from this appellation can be, even though it’s known more for everyday drinkers than exceptionally riveting bottles.
Though this Côtes du Rhône bears the region’s two most important red grapes–Grenache and Syrah–the winemaking here is more reminiscent of that found for higher-end cuvées in the Northern Rhône, with a very long élévage, or winemaking process. Grapes are harvested by hand and fermented and aged separately, the Grenache in cement and the Syrah in old wood for over a year before blending and bottling. The result is a particularly dense expression where the Syrah dominates, highlighting notes of blueberry compôte, smoked herbs, and roasted meat. It is glorious and complex, and will pair beautifully with grilled meats. Try it with our recipe for Lamb Ragout.
Wine maker Christelle Peruzzetto, of Les Vignerons des Roquemaure, brings us her ‘Black Stone’ (Roche Noire) Côtes du Rhône. Though Christelle makes wines for the entire cooperative, this particular cuvée comes from a small parcel of very old vines planted on the slopes of the Rhône River. Though it’s difficult to generalize, it’s often true that the best wines in this region come from hillsides rather than the flatlands and that is surely true here. Named for the black stones that dot the vineyard’s soils, this terroir gives up a particularly complex, deep expression of Grenache and Syrah, harkening back to the best wines of the Northern Rhône, where Syrah reigns.