Like many wine lovers, I adore France’s Southern Rhône region. Heck, I love all of the Rhône Valley, north and south and have written about the wines a few times including most recently here (which also provides a great primer on the region). And as it is for many (including past popes and kings), Châteauneuf-du-Pape is like my spirit juice. But over the years, due to wine education, not to mention curiosity, I’ve wandered from the virtual borders of CDP and began to explore other Southern Rhône regions outside of CDP. And what I’ve found, and continue to find, is that there are some delicious wines at amazing values to be had throughout the region.
With its warm, Mediterranean climate creating easier going and more approachable wines, not to mention the number of permitted varieties, there is probably a Rhône out there for everyone. With Grenache leading the way, Southern Rhône wines are generally fruitier and riper than their brethren to the north. Whether sipping the sturdy Roses of Tavel, the delectable sweet Vin Doux Naturels of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, or the finesse of Gigondas, there is no shortage of variability in the region.
Taking the journey northeast of CDP, the French #Winophiles are diving into the wines of Rasteau and will discuss all things Rasteau wine on Twitter, Saturday, November 16 at 10 CST. Just follow along with the #Winophiles hashtag.
Searching my brain, I couldn’t think of a Rasteau wine I’d previously had. And then it hit me. I’d had a sweet Vin Doux Naturel at a wine dinner but that was the only exposure to Rasteau wine I could come up with. So essentially, I found myself digging into a new (to me) region. Ain’t wine grand?! Here are a few facts about Rasteau.
- Rasteau was promoted to Côtes du Rhône cru1 status for its dry red wine in 2010 (backdated to the 2009 vintage). It was previously classified under the Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC.
- The sweet, fortified wines of the region have had a separate AOC since 1944.
- The region produces mostly red wine – around 96%.
- Grenache (wines must contain at least 50%) is the dominant variety with Syrah and Mourvèdre playing along.
- Many vineyards are planted on hillsides exceeding 500 feet.
- At a high level, these are powerful red wines balanced by freshness and minerality.
For our #Winophiles discussion, I picked up a bottle of Rasteau at my local Total Wine.
2011 Cave de Rasteau Ortas Prestige ($20)
The Ortas Cave de Rasteau is a large cooperative winery that is the leading producer and marketer of Rasteau wine. So if you’re on the hunt for Rasteau wine, this is a good bet. This one is crafted of 65% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre. Powerful depth of flavor with a surprising touch of minerality, along with licorice, blackberry, leather and even some meatiness. Grippy tannins upon opening eventually mellowed out.
As the temperature had turned cooler (at least for 2 days!) I was in the mood for comfort food. So a short rib ragu it was. Note: I’m not Italian so will not debate what constitutes a proper ragu.
My sauce was mostly short rib, red wine, and a small amount of tomatoes. I’ve long loved Grenache-based wines with braised meats and stews and this combo did not disappoint. The robust wine definitely needed the savoriness and fat from the short rib to stand up to it.
We also tried the Rasteau the with pork carnitas.
In this instance, it was OK, but not as successful of a paring as the short rib ragu. The carnitas were not nearly as great a foil to the bold Rasteau. Overall, it was a decent pairing, but just not as seamless as the ragu.
For more pairing ideas for Rasteau, check out what my fellow #Winophiles prepared.
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam Shares “A Birthday Tradition + Side-by-Side Sips of Domaine de Verquière Rasteau”
Cathie from Side Hustle Wino “Getting to Know the Wines of Rasteau”
David from Cooking Chat Writes About “Chicken Lentil Stew and Rhone Wine from Rasteau”
Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen tells us how to “Become a Rasteau—farian”
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator says “Go Grenache, Go Rasteau: Four Paired with Lamb Daube”
Jane from Always Ravenous Writes About “Flavors of Provence Paired with Rhône Rasteau Wines”
Jeff from Food Wine Click Explains “Rasteau and the Côtes du Rhône Quality Pyramid”
Linda from My Full Wine Glass Writes about “Basking in the Glow of Rasteau” #Winophiles
Liz from What’s in That Bottle Says, “You Like Big Reds? Get to Know Rasteau”
Lynn from Savor the Harvest writes about “Rhone Valley Rasteau Cru – A New Generation Wine With Duck Confit #winophiles”
Martin from Enofylz Writes About “Getting To Know Rasteau”
Nicole from Somm’s Table Shares “Five Nights of Rasteau”
Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairings Writes About “One Rabbit, Two Turkey Drumsticks and Four RasteauWines”
Payal from Keep the Peas writes about “Rasteau: Not So Rustic in the Southern Rhone”
Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles writes about “Fall, Thanksgiving and the flavors of Rasteau”
Rupal from Syrah Queen writes, “Rasteau – Exploring The Gems of Southern Rhone”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm Shares “A German-Style Shepherds Pie with a French Rasteau”