Côtes du Rhône brings the finest French wine to London
The Côtes du Rhône festival hosts events across London this October, showcasing some of the region's finest wines
The best wines come with a story, and few places have one as compelling as the Côtes du Rhône. When we talk about ‘Old World’ wines, we’re talking seriously ancient. Remnants of clay amphora, uncovered by archaeologists, suggest the Etruscans started viticulture in the Rhône Valley. But we really have the Romans to thank for some of the wines that we enjoy today. Keen to keep their legions happy, vino was the order of the day.
Nowadays, Côtes du Rhône is loved all over the world for its quality, versatility and charm. It’s often the most recommended wine because whatever the weather, wherever you are and with or without food, there’s a Côtes du Rhône wine for the occasion.
Côtes du Rhône's hand-picked grapes
Côtes du Rhône’s distinctive terroir is relatively easy to navigate, thanks to the region’s ‘pyramid’ structure: at the top end there are the 17 famous ‘Crus’, including the celebrated Côte Rôtie in the north and Gigondas down south. Then there's the Côtes du Rhône ‘Villages’ wines. Some brands add the village name to the label, like Sablet or Séguret. Each Cru or named village offers a distinctive quality to its wine. At the base level, the regional wines labelled Côtes du Rhône offer simple drinking pleasure for incredible value. This structure encourages ambitious producers to improve quality, because it's possible to be promoted through the ranks.
The winemakers of Côtes du Rhône are master blenders, using up to 23 different varietals. Gorgeous sunny-fruited Grenache rules in the south, with the highly structured Mourvèdre also used extensively to achieve the perfect balance.
It’s all about alchemy, as blending means the winemaker can create a wide palate of flavours. Wineries take the best qualities of individual grape varieties to make something special. Unusually for the wine world, this also extends to white grapes being used in red blends.
Côtes du Rhône is most famous for its red wines, but it would be criminal to neglect the whites. Viognier is a grape so beguiling that it’s hard to believe it came close to extinction just 50 years ago. Across the wider region, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc are the lead partners in exciting blends, offering enticing aromas and beautiful body.
Sinking the pink is currently the height of fashion, but Côtes du Rhône has some history here too thanks to Tavel, a historic appellation which produced exclusively rosé wines for France’s King Louis XIV. These days, the Rhône’s rosés are every bit as appealing as those from nearby Provence.
Côtes du Rhône's dazzling rosé and white wines
The Rhône Valley is celebrated for its gastronomy, so it’s no surprise that Côtes du Rhône wines are coveted by top chefs and sommeliers. The reds boast the region’s famous ‘garrigue’ aromas – an enchanting mix of sun-baked herbs – along with ripe black fruit flavours, the perfect partner for high-end cuisine. It also tastes great with classic comfort food, such as a roast chicken supper. Rosé offers so much more than summer sipping, its bright and juicy red-berry flavours making it a memorable match for Asian dishes like Thai green curry. The whites, with their sophisticated stone fruit aromas and texture, offer a seductive selection for Mediterranean fish dishes, such as bouillabaisse.
Where to enjoy
To sample the Rhône wines paired to perfection, Covent Garden’s Frenchie is offering a special selection of some of the finest artisanal wines of the Côtes du Rhône throughout October.
At the exclusive Four Seasons Hotel near Tower Bridge, La Dame de Pic is offering 12 Côtes du Rhône wines by the glass to showcase the diversity of the region.
At Wiltshire’s The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, chef proprietor Roger Jones offers special Côtes du Rhône tastings from his impressive wine selection.
For something upbeat, head to the French Corner at Mercato Metropolitano for an evening of live DJ sets. Expect a French touch as you enjoy soulful vocals alongside Maldon oysters and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône wine.
Or why not take home a taste of the Côtes du Rhône instead? The expert staff at Camden’s food emporium Le Coq Epicier will guide you to the perfect pairing to create a luxury night in. On Friday 25 October, it’s also hosting a Côtes du Rhône tasting with Jean-Charles Adam of The French Wine Project.
Find out more about the Côtes du Rhône festival's line-up here.
By David Kermode