Monday, January 30, 2012

Cotes du Rhone (again)

Three bottles of Côtes du Rhône blends later and it looks like my New Year’s resolution is already shot. Ah well… I suppose that’s what you get for trying to break away from such a delicious group of wines. At least I’m writing about it.

This wine-writing experience for me is not only about drinking wine and writing (two of my greatest loves), but it’s also about learning. I certainly don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about great appellations or terriors. Nor do I know very much about the specific and varied grapes that come from every different region. And my affair with Côtes du Rhône is a perfect example of my naiveté.

I found myself unable to answer my mother the other night when she asked me if a Côtes du Rhône was a type of grape or a region. Though I knew it was a region, I couldn’t figure out what specific varietal it was – probably because I’d never seen anything on the label but "Côtes du Rhône" and the name of the winery from which it came. And so, I started to do a little bit of research. 

Côtes du Rhône (hills or slopes of Rhone) is a controlled appellation in the Rhône wine region of France from which a whole host of delicious blends emerge. Though the Côtes du Rhône, is not, as I may have thought, a varietal – it might as well be, as most wines that come from this region are primarily Grenache and Syrah blends (either red or white from Grenache blanc). To be considered a Côtes du Rhône blend, the wine must have a minimum percentage of Syrah. Though I haven't delved into the white blends, they have similar requirements with a minimum percentage of Grenache blanc required. My favorite Côtes du Rhône, the Reserve Perrin is composed of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 20% Mourvedre - a relatively common assortment of varietals for a glass of this appellation's wine.

I’ve written about  my favorite blend, the 2009 Perrin Reserve Côtes du Rhône ($10.99), but I haven’t written about two different blends I tried recently. The first, at the recommendation of a Professor of mine, was the 2007 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Red ($10.99-12.99). This red, given 90 points by Robert Parker, was delicious, but a bit too Syrah-y for my tastes. I’m not a big fan of the Shiraz/Syrah varietal and as this was about 50% Syrah, it was too much for me. Though the wine was certainly smooth, with a great finish, I thought the cherry and currant led it to be a bit too sour without any tempered soft spices to really balance it out. Though it certainly wasn’t difficult to drink, I found myself, like many other reviewers, wondering why this wine was so revered when less expensive alternatives tasted better.

The second Côtes du Rhône blend I recently tried had a nearly indistinguishable name and label from the 2009 Perrin Reserve Côtes du Rhône. However, the wine was completely different. From the Famille Perrin, the Perrin Reserve Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2010 ($8.99) is a delicious, less expensive alternative to the 2009 Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone blend. Though they are nearly identical in name and almost impossible to look up online, the wines were similar in smoothness, spicyness, and both full of rustic Côtes du Rhône flavor. Like the Reserve blend, this wine is also made up of more Grenache than Syrah, lending it a spicy element that countered the sour cherry and currant fruit that was so heavy in the Guigal. We did have to let it sit in the decanter for quite a while, as the sharp tannins at the end were a bit harsh at first and made me feel that the wine was still a bit young. I’d recommend this wine with a lighter meal (or perhaps before the meal entirely), and save the Reserve blend for the heartier pastas and meats.

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