The SOMM Journal

June / July 2017

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Page 53 of 124

{ }  53 Côtes du Rhône: A Wine of Pleasure Unlike some of its more high-strung cous- ins in the Rhône Valley, Côtes du Rhône is intended as an accessible wine of pleasure, one that allows consumers to enjoy their own experiences and to freely express their own opinions. This relaxed lifestyle theme is cleverly expressed in the appellation's catchy ad campaign, Be Your Own Character, featur - ing a variety of animal "characters" quaffing Côtes du Rhône. Please note that all animals depicted are of legal drinking age! A sk any somm or wine professional about their "Aha!" moment wine and be prepared for an impassioned story: Such and such bottle of white Burgundy, an epic cult Cabernet, a vibrant bottle of Champagne that pre-dates the Reagan adminis - tration and so on. My per sonal bottle hailed from the Southern Rhône Valley. At the time, I had lived in Bordeaux and Napa, so to say that I was a bit myopic is an understatement. The red wine in the glass was unlike anything I had come to expect from a wine; it was delicately power - ful, layered with red and blue fruit and wrapped in the tertiary notes I've now come to love so much from these wines. And just like that, my world exploded with the wines of the Rhône. In the 15 years since, I've encountered a growing number of "Aha!" moment stories that center around the wines from the Rhône Valley. While we often discuss and taste the wines of the Rhône, not as often do we get the chance to celebrate the foundation upon which the entire region—North and South—rests: the diverse and pleasurable wines of the Côtes du Rhône AOP and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOP. As the largest appellation in the Southern Rhône (and the fall back designation for the entire Rhône valley), the Côtes du Rhône AOP is responsible for producing high quality, accessible wines that often serve as an introduction to the world of French wine. With 171 communes and stretching from Vienne to Valence in the North, and Montélimar to Avignon in the South, the Côtes du Rhône AOP accounts for over two-thirds of the wines produced in the Rhône Valley. Côtes du Rhône Villages AOP is produced in 95 communes, with 20 of these granted the ability to add their village name to the label. The region continues to refine the definition of its terroirs. Former village-level Cairanne was upgraded to Cru status in 2016, and Côtes du Rhône Villages Sainte-Cécile, Côtes du Rhône Villages Suze-la-Rousse and Côtes du Rhône Villages Vaison la Romaine were created with the 2016 harvest. These recent changes in the Côtes du Rhône Villages hierarchy are generating new buzz and energy around an already exciting category of wines. "For us, promotion to Cru status is an acknowledgement of the huge improvements we have made to the quality of both our white and red wines," says Denis Alary, President of the Syndicat des Vignerons de Cairanne, an association comprising 37 winegrowers in private wineries and three cooperatives. André Macabet, spokesperson for the Côtes du Rhône Villages Vaison la Romaine appellation, echoed the sentiment: "This is the reward for several years spent moving up the range, and gives offi - cial recognition to our team and their skills." Adding to all this excitement is the forecast for the 2016 vintage for the CDR wines. "The gods looked kindly on the Rhône Valley this year, sparing it from the harsh conditions seen in the rest of France. Initial tastings show good aromatic intensity, excellent concentration and intense color. This," says Inter-Rhône President Michel Chapoutier, "is going to be a splendid vintage." B E Y O U R O W N C H A R A C T E R C M Y CM MY CY CMY K Original Wine Enthusiast.pdf 3 6/21/16 10:58 AM PHOTO: PAULINE DANIEL

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