Want to explore all about Cote Rotie and buy the best wines for your collection?
Cote Rotie produces some of the finest Syrah wines of the Northern Rhone region. These deep ruby-red color wines are perfect for drinking young, and for storing in your wine cellar as a long-term wine investment!
How has Cote Rotie evolved through the centuries? What are the best Cote Rotie wines to buy in 2020?
In this article, let’s dive into the world of Cote Rotie wines - from its inspiring history, the Cote Rotie villages, the best Cote Rotie wines to buy in 2020, and much more!
This Article Contains
- All About Cote Rotie
- Cote Rotie Villages
- How does Cote Rotie Wine Taste?
- Food Pairing with Cote Rotie Wine
- Best Vintages of Cote Rotie
- Best Cote Rotie Wine in 2020 (Including Tasting Notes, Prices)
- 2015 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne
- 2016 Domaine Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie Cote Brune
- 1990 Domaine Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie Cote Blonde
- 2015 Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie Cote Brune
- 2011 Marie et Pierre Benetiere Cote Rotie Le Dolium
- 2015 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline
- 1999 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque
- 2016 Michel & Stephane Ogier Cote Rotie La Cote-Blonde
- 2006 Maison Stephan Côte Rôtie Vieilles Vignes en Coteaux
- 1999 Delas Freres Cote-Rotie La Landonne
All About Cote Rotie
Cote Rotie is the northernmost appellation (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) of Cotes du Rhone in Rhone Valley.
The prestigious vineyards or crus of Rhone Valley stretch from Lyon to Camargue. Apart from Cote Rotie, it also includes the white wine appellation of Condrieu in Southern Vienne, Chateau Grillet, Saint Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Cornas, and Saint-Peray.
The Northern Rhone appellations, including Cote du Rhone, have some of the oldest vines in the world. These old vines are often considered to be the reason for the rich flavors of Cote Rotie red wines.
Let’s explore this majestic wine region further. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- A Brief History of Cote Rotie
- Climate and Terroir of Cote Rotie
- Grape Varieties
- Winemaking in Cote Rotie
A Brief History of Cote Rotie
It was the Romans who started viticulture in this Northern Rhone region under the rule of Emperor Caligula.
In 1829, Cote Rotie wine that was sold locally until then, started getting transported outside the wine region through steamships and railways.
At the time, Cote Rotie lagged behind the Hermitage wines that were blended with Bordeaux and Burgundy wine that had stronger tannins and more intense color.
In the late 1800s, Phylloxera pests destroyed most vineyards in the wine region. Later, the two World Wars devastated the economy and the Cote Rotie winemakers couldn’t afford the steep cost of maintaining vineyards.
Soon after, most winemakers in the Northern Rhone region started planting apricots and vegetables as they realized they were more valuable than wine!
The remaining winemakers sold their wines to negociants (wine merchants) and cooperatives.
By the early 1900s, Cote Rotie viticulture was limited to a mere 50 hectares of land - the size of an average mid-sized chateau in Bordeaux!
But it soon made a heroic comeback as one of the most influential wine regions of French wine history.
Etienne Guigal is credited to have revived viticulture in this wine region in 1946. Guigal introduced new techniques (like aging wine in new oak barrels) and cemented the name of Cote Rotie wines among the best wines in the world. Etienne’s son, Marcel Guigal, expanded the vineyards to Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and Saint Joseph.
Inspired by Guigal, other winemakers joined hands in developing the wine region. One of the most prominent ones is Gentaz Dervieux.
By the 1960s, Cote Rotie was on its road to fame.
Today, Cote Rotie wine production has grown almost five times than during the crises - nearly two and half times of Hermitage.
Climate and Terroir of Cote Rotie
Sitting on the banks of the Rhone river in Northern Rhone, Cote Rotie enjoys a continental climate - unlike the Mediterranean climate of Southern Rhone.
It experiences wet winters with cold mistral winds that last till spring. The vineyards also face the challenge of fog in late spring that makes grape ripening difficult.
To aid vine growth, most vineyards are planted on the south and south-east facing slopes so they get maximum sunlight - the reason Cote Rotie is called the “Roasted Slope”!
When it comes to terroirs, the Cote Rotie appellation can be divided into two parts:
- Cote Brune or ‘Brown Slope’ that has dark iron-rich schist soil located on the north of Cote Rotie
- Cote Blonde that has pale soil full of granite and schist
Cote Rotie is one of the steepest wine regions in the world. That’s why erosion is common in the area and winemakers set up stone walls to protect the soils.
In fact, some farmers use buckets to carry the eroded soil back to the vineyard.
Cote Rotie Grape Varieties
Most of the Cote Rotie vineyards are dedicated to the cultivation of Syrah grapes.
Syrah is the main grape used in Cote Rotie wines. These wines are blended with 20% Viognier. Other than Chateaux-Neuf du Pape, Cote Rotie AOC is the only other appellation in Rhone that allows the mixing of white grapes like the Viognier grape.
Winemaking in Cote Rotie
Cote Rotie has developed distinct wine styles over the centuries.
Winemaking in Cote Rotie can be broadly divided into two styles - modern and traditional style.
They differ in these four aspects:
- Ripeness of grapes: The wine style is decided during the grape ripening season. Modern style Cote Rotie requires a higher level of phenolic ripeness, whereas traditional wines are lighter wines with freshness and high acidity.
- De-stemming of grapes: Traditional winemakers tend to keep the stems intact when adding grapes for fermentation, whereas modern style wines focus more on softer tannins.
- Vinification: Modern styled wines are vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. On the other hand, traditional winemakers practice the ancient technique of using cement vats.
- Aging: Traditional wines are aged in old oak barrels while modern winemakers use new oak barrels to add oaky flavors of vanilla, tobacco, and spice to the wine.
Now, Cote Rotie is divided into several villages. Let’s see what they are.
Cote Rotie Villages
Here are some of the most important ones.
Ampuis, although small, is one of the most important vineyard sites in the AOC. Some of the best wines of the appellation, including Guigal’s Château d’Ampuis, come from this village.
2. Cote Brune
Cote Brune in the South gets its name from the dark rich soils full of schist, iron, and manganese.
3. Cote Blonde
Cote Blonde has pale soils with schist and granite, and produces some of the most fragrant Viognier grapes.
Bordering Cote Brune, Chavarache marks the beginning of Bernard Levet’s Cote Rotie vineyard. It is a single vineyard and has rich schist soils like Cote Brune.
5. La Landonne
La Landonne houses some of the best vineyards of the region, including Guigal’s La Landonne and Rostaing’s single vineyard. The slight curve in the Rhone river and the gentle morning sun in the east provides the perfect environment for vine growth here!
6. Cote Rozier
A bridge between Ampuis and Verenay, Cote Rozier has the steepest vineyards of France. The region produces classic Syrah wines loaded with tannins. But the Cote Rozier Syrah lacks the finesse of Syrah from Southern Rhone.
Located to the southwest of Ampuis, Tupin merges with the Condrieu AOC and has sandy soils full of granite. You’ll find that Tupin wines are quite similar to Burgundy’s light and intensely aromatic Chambolle Musigny wines.
Go a little upstream of Ampuis and you will find yourself in the small, beautiful village of Verenay. The vineyards run along N86, the road between the rivers and the vineyards of the Cote Rotie hills, and cut through Ampuis.
9. Grande Places
A rocky and windy land facing southeast, Grande Places experiences the best climate for viticulture. The soils are filled with schists which gives this fine wine a unique finesse and fine tannins.
Vailliere shares the same climate as its neighbor, Grande Place, but it produces more approachable wines than its neighbor.
So, what does the region’s wine taste like?
How does Cote Rotie Wine Taste?
Cote Rotie wines are known for their aromatic intensity and the fragrance of Syrah. The dominant notes include bacon, raspberry, blueberry, plum, violets, green olives, and black currant.
Depending on the wine’s age, you’ll also notice hints of black and white pepper, leather, chocolate, smoked meat, and charcoal smoke.
Food Pairing with Cote Rotie Wine
Pair them with red meat dishes like a rare rib, beef, or roasted lamb to get the best of its flavors.
Dishes with garlic and herbs (like thyme and rosemary) also pair well with full-bodied Syrah wines from Cote Rotie.
Best Vintages of Cote Rotie
Cote Rotie vintages made with riper grapes are seductive and robust in expression.
Whereas, less ripe vintages are more fruity with fresh acidity with oak barrel aging notes of black pepper, spice, and tannin.
When you’re out to buy Cote Rotie wine, look out for vintages including 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2003, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1995, 1991, 1988, 1985, 1983, 1982, and 1978.
Best Cote Rotie Wines in 2020 (Including Tasting Notes, Prices)
Some of the best wine producers of this Rhone Valley wine region include
- Domaine Jamet
- Domaine Gilles Barge
- Rene Rostaing
- Domaine Bernard Levet
- M. Chapoutier Benetiere
- Jean Michel Gerin Clusel-Roch
- Xavier Gerard
Here’s a handpicked list of the best Cote Rotie wines you should buy!
1. 2015 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, Rhone, France
Guigal was one of the oldest winemakers who practiced single vineyard bottling.
A deep ruby-colored wine, La Landonne by Guigal is a pure Syrah wine. A bold wine with medium-high acidity and tannins, this 2015 vintage showcases the finesse of a Syrah grape.
It’s tasting note includes aromas of blackberry, black currant, leather, new tobacco, wood, and herbs on the nose. The taste of black cherries, espresso, dark chocolate, and licorice dominate the palate.
Average price of 2015 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, Rhone, France: $417
2. 2016 Domaine Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhone, France
A deep ruby wine with purple hues, this Syrah wine by Rene Rostaing has layers of distinct flavors and aromas. Youthful would be the most fitting word to describe this wine, thanks to its medium body and fresh acidity.
The flavors of cherry, plum, and purple fruit dominate the palate.
Average price of 2016 Domaine Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhone, France: $807
3. 1990 Domaine Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie Cote Blonde, Rhone, France
Another wine from Rostaing, this wine showcases the aromas and flavors of both grapes. (Rostaing also produces age-worthy Cuvee wines like Cuvee Classique.)
It has a medium red body with refined tannins and dominant fruit characteristics. This French wine has a bouquet of red fruit, herbs, bacon, and stony soil.
Average price of 1990 Domaine Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie Cote Blonde, Rhone, France: $632
4. 2015 Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhone, France
The 2015 Domaine Jamet’s Syrah wine is a thick and intense red wine with a medium body and deep tannins. Liquored berries like blackberry and coffee dominate the nose. On the palate, you get notes of cassis and earth with a peppery finish.
Average price of 2015 Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhone, France: $619
5. 2011 Marie et Pierre Benetiere Cote Rotie Le Dolium, Rhone, France
Although the wine has passed its youthful peak, it’s still developing its flavors of maturity. The perfectly balanced tannins give this wine elegance and smoothness.
The palate is dominated by red fruit flavors and balanced acidity that ends with savory notes of minerals.
Average price of 2011 Marie et Pierre Benetiere Cote Rotie Le Dolium, Rhone, France: $528
6. 2015 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline, Rhone, France
The nose of this great wine is dominated by dark fruit flavors like ripe blackberry and black raspberry with notes of herbs and spices. On the palate, you notice juicy dark red fruit flavors, with deep tannins and oaky notes of wood and coffee.
Average price of 2015 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline, Rhone, France: $407
7. 1999 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque, Rhone, France
Full-bodied and intense, this wine has flavors of black fruits, figs, and licorice with hints of black pepper, wood smoke, and incense. The palate is full and rounded.
The recent vintages - 2015 and 2017 - are great collectibles as well.
Average price of 1999 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque, Rhone, France: $704
8. 2016 Michel & Stephane Ogier Cote Rotie La Cote-Blonde, Rhone, France
The 2016 Michel & Stephane Ogier Cote Rotie La Cote-Blonde is a deep and bright ruby wine with dry tannins that are expected to build through the years.
Aromas of red berries (strawberry and raspberry) dominate the nose with hints of red plums, pepper, and toasted spice. On the palate, you get dark fruit and floral flavors.
Average price of 2016 Michel & Stephane Ogier Cote Rotie La Cote-Blonde, Rhone, France: $365
9. 2006 Maison Stephan Côte Rôtie Vieilles Vignes en Coteaux, Rhone, France
The 2006 Maison Stephan Côte Rôtie Vieilles Vignes en Coteaux is a red wine dominated by fruit flavors. It is a smooth but complex wine that showcases the finesse of Syrah grapes.
Black fruit and violets dominate the nose and the palate.
Average price of 2006 Maison Stephan Côte Rôtie Vieilles Vignes en Coteaux, Rhone, France: $260
10. 1999 Delas Freres Cote-Rotie La Landonne, Rhone, France
Another wine from Landonne, the 1999 Delas Freres vintage is layered and complex. With a bright acidity and aroma of autumn leaves, the wine still packs a unique freshness. On the palate, you get notes of dried fruit, fruit peel, and herbs with a medium finish.
Average price of 1999 Delas Freres Cote-Rotie La Landonne, Rhone, France: $236
Does Cote Rotie Wine Age Well?
As Syrah grapes are high in acidity and tannin levels, the wine has an exceptional potential to age.
You can easily age a great Cote Rotie Syrah for 8 to 10 years. A bottle from a good winery like Rostaing or Guigal can easily age up to 20+ years.
With such a great aging potential, how about buying a Cote Rotie collectible for your wine collection?
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