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Cotes du Rhône (History, Top Wines, Prices, How to Buy)

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Thomas M.
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September 14, 2020

Want to know more about Cotes du Rhône and buy the best wines from the region?


This ancient wine-growing appellation in the French wine region of Rhône Valley offers a variety of unique blends - thanks to its diverse terroir and grape varietals. Whether it’s early drinking wines with personality or wines with long-term investment potential, you’ll find some of the best ones here.


What’s the colorful history of this wine region? Which are the best wines produced here?

And how do you buy these wines to add to your wine collection?


In this article, we’ll tell you everything about the Rhône Valley wine region and the Cotes du Rhône appellation.


We’ll also show you the best wines you can buy from Cotes du Rhône, and the smartest way to buy them!

This Article Contains

(Click on a link below to jump to a specific section)

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Grand Cuvée Hommage a Jacques Perrin

E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc

Château Rayas Château de Fonsalette Cotes du Rhône Blanc Reserve

M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhône Rose Belleruche

Domaine l'Anglore Tavel Rosé

The Rhône Valley Wine Region

The Rhône Valley wine region starts from central France and stretches up to the Mediterranean sea.


The rich wine history of this region began with the Greeks who planted grapes here in the 4th century BC around Marseille.


However, it was the Romans who truly established the viticulture of Rhône Valley. They refined the wine production techniques, storage facilities, and expanded wine trade to other parts of the world.


The Rhône river cuts through the vineyards in this region dividing it into two subregions. Northern and southern Rhône have vastly different climates, soil and grapes giving each a distinct viticultural tradition.

A. Northern Rhône

Northern Cotes du Rhône stretches from Vienne to Valence. It has cold winters, hot summers, and gets rainfall throughout the year.


The terrain consists of steep hillsides, where the slopes are terraced for cultivating the vine. Grapes are hand-picked and hauled via trolley along the hillside.


Here, the full-bodied, elegant Syrah is the dominant red grape. For the whites, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier (a grape known to be difficult to vinify) are allowed to be grown here.


Northern Rhône is home to eight cru vineyards, including Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, and Saint-Joseph.

B. Southern Rhône

Southern Côtes du Rhône stretches from Montélimar to Avignon. The climate is distinctly more Mediterranean, with long, warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall is less compared to the north.


The cold, fierce Mistral wind blows about 150 days a year, from the north through lower Rhône Valley towards the Mediterannean Sea near Provence. At an average speed of 60mph, it clears the skies providing bright sunshine for ripening grapes, and its dryness helps prevent grape rot.


Southern wines are primarily made from Grenache noir but are blended with other varietals like Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan.


The wines from the southern Rhône valley are also characterized by nuances of Garrigue, a wild resinous herb that grows in the region.


There are nine cru vineyards in Southern Rhône, including Gigondas, Tavel, and the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape.


The rest of the wine growing areas that aren’t part of the cru appellations - in both northern and southern Rhône - belong to the Cotes du Rhône appellation.


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All You Need to Know about Cotes du Rhône

The Cotes du Rhône AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) is the second-largest appellation in France (after Bordeaux), and one of the oldest.


The AOC stretches from Vienne in the north to Avignon in the south, and from the western Massif Central foothills in the west to the Vaucluse and Luberon mountains in the east.

History of the Cotes du Rhône AOC

In the 1600s, regulations were created to govern wine production on the right bank of the Cote du Rhône.  In 1737, a Royal Decree declared that all wines barrels from the area must be branded with the initials, CDR, to ensure quality.


The name was updated to Cotes du Rhône once the left bank was included in the appellation about a hundred years later. The Cotes du Rhône was officially declared an AOC appellation in 1937.

Grape Varieties Produced In The Cotes du Rhône Region

Only 21 grape varieties are allowed for cultivation in the Cotes du Rhône vineyards. The dominant red wine grape is Grenache, while others like Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault are also grown here.


As for the whites, the most important grape is Grenache Blanc, followed by Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier.

The Four Appellations In Cotes du Rhône (According To Wine Quality)

Cotes du Rhône wine quality is divided into four different levels.


Here’s a quick look at them, so you’ll know what to expect when you see a CDR label.

A. Côtes du Rhône AOC

Cotes du Rhône is commonly referred to as a generic appellation as it is the entry-level classification of the AOC wines. It accounts for 50% of Rhône Valley production.


Most wines are red blends based on Grenache grape or Syrah, and production rules are not as strict as other levels. However, the wines must have a minimum of 11% alcohol and should be made from the 21 sanctioned grapes.


These are simpler wines, meant for easy drinking, and can be matched with everyday foods.

B. Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC

Cotes du Rhône Villages is a step up from Cotes du Rhône.


The Cote du Rhône villages appellation has a total of 3,000 hectares of cultivated land, and is made up of 95 authorized communes in the departments of Ardèche, Drôme, Gard, and Vaucluse. The Cotes du Rhône Villages wines are more complex than generic Cotes du Rhône, and are great wines for aging.

C. Côtes du Rhône (named) Villages AOC

The next level up the AOC ladder is Cotes du Rhône (named) Villages. Only 21 villages, including Vinsobres, Plan de Dieu and Laudun, are allowed to declare their names.  

D. Côtes du Rhône Cru

The northern and southern crus occupy the top tier, and here’s where it can get confusing.


These 17 crus produce around 20% of Rhône wines, and they are:

Northern Crus
  • Côte-Rôtie
  • Saint-Joseph
  • Cornas
  • Saint Péray
  • Crozes-Hermitage
  • Hermitage
  • Condrieu
  • Château-Grillet
Southern Crus
  • Gigondas
  • Vacqueyras
  • Vinsobres
  • Beaumes de Venise
  • Rasteau
  • Lirac
  • Tavel
  • Cairanne  
  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape


These crus aren’t required to put ‘Cotes du Rhône’ on their label. Unlike Bordeaux wines, they’re only named after their villages, and not after the châteaux.


The single exception to this is Château-Grillet, which produces the rare northern white, Condrieu.


Cotes du Rhône wines range from the pleasant, immediately drinkable to the more pricey and collectible ones.


Now, let’s take a quick look at the winemaking process in Cotes du Rhône.

Cotes du Rhône Wine Making Processes

Most  of the Cotes du Rhône wines are made using a semi-carbonic maceration, where grapes are fermented as a “whole bunch”, usually including their stems. The grapes are hand-picked to ensure that the fruit and stems are fully ripened.


The process of carbonic maceration extracts the color from the skins without removing the tannin. This method creates soft, fruit-forward wines with candy-like flavors.


Sometimes, the stems are removed to prevent the wines from being excessively tannic.


White wine is typically aged shorter than reds. In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for example, whites are aged 3-6 months, but the red wine stays in the barrels longer for 10-18 months.

Character and Style of Cotes du Rhône Wines

Cotes du Rhône wines are generally meant to be enjoyed on release. Most of the wines don’t require aging, but some of them age beautifully with time.


The wines are incredibly varied in personality, mimicking the diversity of the terroir and soil.


Let's take a look at some of the popular wine styles in each cru vineyard:

1. Côte Rôtie

Cote Rotie is host to some of the steepest vineyards in France.


Red Cote Rotie wines are characterized by flavors that include raspberry, truffles, violets and chocolate. The Condrieu from this appellation features floral notes and the flavor of rich honey and apricots.

2. Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph is the largest of the northern vineyards, producing the red Syrah grape and the white varietals Roussanne and Marsanne. The Syrah here features dark berries and some licorice, while the whites have subtle floral and fruity notes.

3. Tavel

Tavel’s southern vineyards date back to the 5th Century BC. The Popes of the Middle Ages loved the refreshing rosé wines from this region so much that they decreed it shouldn’t produce anything else. To this day, Tavel is synonymous with rosé wines and has earned itself the title of “Le Roi des Rosés” (The King of Roses).

4. Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most famous AOC in Rhône Valley. 14 grape varietals, including Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah are planted here.


The resulting wines are aromatic with spicy dark fruit balanced with acidity and minerality. White wines make up just 6% of the total production in this appellation.


Here’s a hand-picked selection of wines you should buy from Cotes du Rhône.



The Finest Cotes du Rhône Wines You Should Consider Buying

89% of the wines made in Cotes du Rhône are red, 7% are rosé wines, and 4% are white.


We’ve picked some fine examples of each of these.

A. Reds

1. Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Grand Cuvée Hommage a Jacques Perrin (also called CNDP Hommage Jacques Perrin, Beaucastel), Rhône, France

Château de Beaucastel makes wines ranging from a southern Rhône blend that includes Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah, to the lesser-known Cinsaut and Counoise varieties. It is one of the most famous wines in it’s region, and a favorite among wine collectors and investors alike.


Grape Variety: Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise and Grenache


Taste: The 2007 vintage of this red blend is rich and concentrated with a nose of spices, smoke, bacon, licorice, jammed brambles, and toastiness. Full-bodied and firm, it has ripe tannins infused with the intense flavor of dark fruit and moderately high acidity.


Average price of Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Grand Cuvée Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2007: $500+

2. E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, Rhône, France

Reputed producer E. Guigal makes wines from classic Mediterranean varieties like Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier and Roussanne. Guigal's most notable and sought-after wines, La Landonne, La Turque and La Mouline, are all from Côte Rôtie. These wines are rare, long aging, and make for excellent investments.


Grape Variety: Syrah


Taste: The 2015 vintage features an arresting depth of flavors and aromas. You’ll find delightful flavors of dark steins, blackberries, licorice, sarsaparilla, orange fruit peel and cloves.


Average price of E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne 2015: $400+

B. Whites

3. Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc, Rhône, France

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave is a northern Rhône producer, making wine under the Hermitage and Saint-Joseph appellations.


Grape Variety: Marsanne, Roussanne


Taste: The 1997 vintage is a fragrant wine that is creamy with light pungency. It features pleasing flavors of mineral, seltzer, toast, chalk, marzipan and nut.


Average price of Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc 1997: $200+

4. Château Rayas Château de Fonsalette Cotes du Rhône Blanc Reserve, Rhône, France

Château de Fonsalette is a Côtes du Rhône label by the popular Château Rayas. Château de Fonsalette produces Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes for its red wine, while the whites use Grenache, Clairette and Marsanne.


Grape Variety: Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne


Taste: This 2006 white blend offers hints of quince, some apricot, butter, peach, with mineral notes and a mild spiciness. This is an elegant, balanced, medium-bodied wine.


Average price of Château Rayas Château de Fonsalette Cotes du Rhône Blanc Reserve 2006: $180+

C. Rosés

5. M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhône Rose Belleruche, Rhône, France

Maison M. Chapoutier is well-known for its wines from both the north and south, particularly for its red and white Hermitage wines. M. Chapoutier also offers exceptional everyday options like this Belleruche Rose.


Grape Variety: 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 10% Cinsault


Taste: The 2015 vintage highlights the fresh, delicate, red fruit flavors of strawberry and watermelon, accentuated with some lemon, river rock and chalky minerality.


Average price of M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhône Rose Belleruche 2015: $10+

6. Domaine l'Anglore Tavel Rosé, Rhône, France

Domaine L’Anglore is where winemaker Eric Pfifferling works on ancient vines with no use of chemicals.


Pfifferling is the only winemaker in Tavel who harvests by hand and avoids all winery manipulation, including adding yeast, enzymes, or sulfur. He was a beekeeper who sold his grapes to the cooperative until he decided to make his own wine in 2002.


Grape Variety: Grenache


Taste: This 2018 rosé vintage features the aroma and flavors of pomegranate, tart cherry, strawberry, stony-mineral and subtle florals. It's full-bodied for a rosé, with enough acidity to keep it fresh and balanced.


Average price of Domaine l'Anglore Tavel Rosé 2018: $80+


What’s the best way to purchase these wines?



How To Buy Wines From Cotes du Rhône

You can stop at most Cotes du Rhône wineries without an appointment. So, if you’re visiting this region in France, make sure you drop in for some Rhône wine tasting and to pick up a bottle or two.


You can also buy these wines from online wine merchants, wine exchanges, and through in-person and online auctions.


However, in most of these cases, you’ll have to do your own market research and compare prices to find the best deals.


And, the last thing you want is to pay for, is counterfeit Rhône wine! So you need to be wary of that as well.


You’ll also have to think of shipping, storage and insurance to ensure the safety of your bottles besides paying sizable commissions to wine brokers.


But, is there a simpler alternative?


You can easily buy Cotes du Rhône, other French wines, and bottles from anywhere in the globe through a trusted wine investment platform like Vinovest. Besides buying your wines, you can also have them stored safely and even sold when the time is right.

Buying Cotes du Rhône Wines Through Vinovest

Vinovest is an online wine investment platform that lets you buy wines for drinking or long term investing. Vinovest helps you choose, buy, authenticate, store and sell your wines.

How It Works

It’s a simple process with only four steps for you to go through:


  1. Sign up on the Vinovest website.
  2. Fill a questionnaire for Vinovest to assess your investment preferences and risk appetite.
  3. Add a minimum of $1000 to your account.
  4. Track your fine wine portfolio online and watch it grow!


Easy, right?

Benefits of buying wines through Vinovest

Here's why you should use Vinovest to buy, store and sell your wines.

Easy buying and selling

Vinovest’s Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based online platform lets you easily buy and sell any coveted wine from anywhere in the world.

Provenance and authenticity

No more worrying about counterfeit bottles. Vinovest authenticates every single bottle and checks its provenance for you, before you decide to buy them.

Curated portfolio of wines

Vinovest’s expert team of Sommeliers and data scientists help curate your Cotes du Rhône portfolio with proprietary financial models based on historical data. You can access your wine online whenever you want.

Optimal storage

Your wine bottles are kept safely in bonded warehouses, under perfect conditions of light, humidity, vibration, and temperature.

Low overall costs

On top of adding funds to your account, you’ll need to include a 2.85% annual fee (or 2.5% for a portfolio above $50,000). The fee covers wine purchases, storage, authentication, a full insurance policy at market value, portfolio management, and selling your bottles. You’ll also benefit from tax advantages as bonded warehouses don’t charge VAT and excise duty.

Insurance

Your wines are secure under the eyes of security cameras. Power back-ups guarantee the perfect climate control in case the primary method fails. Vinovest also has a comprehensive insurance policy to protect your wine cellar.

Access to a global wine community

Looking for a rare Condrieu vintage? Don’t worry. Vinovest has an extensive wine network through which you can get access to upcoming vineyards, private sales of wineries, and limited releases of rare wines.

Ownership

Every single wine you buy through Vinovest belongs to you.

Conclusion

Cotes du Rhône offers a range of delicious wines ideal for you to drink right away or invest in for the long-term.


However, understanding the various appellations and their unique wines, comparing prices from various sources, and making sure you get an authentic bottle is a complicated process!


You can easily get hold of the affordable Domaine Santa Duc Cotes du Rhône Rouge ‘Les Vieilles Vignes’, a Domaine de la Presidente Cotes du Rhône Rouge, or the top-notch M. Chapoutier Ermitage 'L'Ermite Blanc' through Vinovest’s intelligent wine investment platform.


Ready to build your fine wine portfolio online? How about signing up on Vinovest right away?



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