Cotes du Rhone

‘E’ Wine of the Week

By Bruce Cochran

Seen from above, Europe’s mighty Alps rise from valley floors to some of the world’s biggest mountains. Some of the earth’s largest and deepest natural lakes were formed by glaciers that still cap the highest peaks. Rivers flow down in just about every direction past foothills that provide some of the world’s best soils and climates for wine grapes. North to Germany, south to Italy or east to France, you can find the original home of some of the wine world’s most loved grape varieties.
The Rhine flows northward to France’s Alsace region and Germany. South into Italy flow the Po, the Adige and others. And in southwestern Switzerland, the Rhone River flows into and out of Lake Geneva. Entering France a little south of Lyon, the Rhone turns south, bound for the Mediterranean Sea. From along its slopes came grapes like Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier, although Spain claims Mourvedre, where it’s called Mataro. The stony soil in this sun-drenched part of the world adds complexity to these heat-loving grapes.
While the northern Rhone regions of Hermitage and Cote-Rotie grow mostly Syrah, farther south the red wines tend to be blended, often with more emphasis on Grenache.
The most important wine of the southern Rhone is Chateauneuf-du-Pape, made near the ancient city of Avignon.
Bargains abound in this part of France, a country that needs to sell more wine due to lower consumption at home and slumping exports abroad.
Various “satellite appellations” found along the Rhone’s slopes can sometimes be difficult to find here in the U.S. Below these areas, south toward the Mediterranean Sea, are the wines of Nimes and Mount Ventoux.
The easiest one of these to find, and a bargain for at least a generation is called Cotes du Rhone. I’ve long enjoyed Jaboulet’s Parallel 45˚, named for the famous degree of latitude that circles the globe through this and many other of the world’s best wine regions. Like most Cotes du Rhone, it retails in the $10 to $15 range.

Categories: Legacy Archive