You know what its like when other folks get all the spotlight? When you’re just relegated to the background and forgotten? Well, that’s what the white wines of the Côtes du Rhône must certainly feel like. You know, if they were people. With feelings. In a region dominated by red wines, its sometimes hard for the white wines of the region to shine. At last check, red wines comprised 84% of Côtes du Rhône wine production. Even rosé production at 10% is higher than white wine production. But while they comprise only 6% of the region’s production, white Rhône wines are absolutely worth seeking out.
France’s ever versatile Rhône Valley is one of those regions with a little bit of something for everyone. With 21 varietals permitted in the appellation, it’s hard not to find something to tickle your fancy. Red wine lovers can dazzle at the structure and robust tannins of northern Rhône Syrah or relax with a smooth, easy-drinking Grenache blend from from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For those that love white wines, the classic full-bodied Viognier of the north may be to your liking or a white blend from the south may fit the bill.
This month the French #Winophiles group of bloggers are taking a deep dive on the wines of the Côtes du Rhône. Whether focused on the Côtes du Rhône Crus, Côtes du Rhône Villages (with or without a geographical name), or the broader Côtes du Rhône appellation, there is much to discover.
As for me, I’m honing in on several of the appellations that produce great white Rhône wines. This is a continuation of an Instagram campaign I did with Rhône Valley Vineyards earlier this year. While that was a giveaway, I’m now thrilled to be able to take a deeper dive on some of these wines.
White Rhône wines can be found in both the northern and southern Rhône regions and exhibit a great deal of versatility. Wines can range from $10 to $100, so there really is something for all budgets. Here are a few that I had the privilege to enjoy.
Ahh, Hermitage. The appellation with the famous hill. I’m a big fan of the reds from the region but couldn’t recall previously having a white wine from there. Well, I have to say that I’m low-key obsessed with the 2017 Barroul Lynch La Pierrelle Blanc Hermitage ($99). One of those cerebral wines that just kept giving – first herb and mineral and then opening up to provide honeysuckle, nuts, peach, and apricot. Rich and fleshy, I have to say I’m a big fan. Hermitage white wines are comprised of either Marsanne or Roussanne and make up about a third of the region’s production. This one is crafted of 100% Marsanne. I paired with a cauliflower taco but seriously just wanted to sit back and enjoy this one on its own.
Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Laudun
The Côtes du Rhône Villages is a separate category within the Côtes du Rhône appellation with its own regulations. While some of the wines from the Villages simply bear the Côtes du Rhône Villages name, others are permitted to append the name of the village where the wine was produced. The Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Laudun AOC became a Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation authorized to feature its village name, Laudun, in 1967. While red wines dominate the region, it is also lauded for its white wines. The light sandy and stony soils provide great drainage which gives the wines freshness and acidity. The acidity in Laudun wines tends to be higher than in other southern Côtes-du-Rhône appellations. Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Marianne, and Bourboulenc can all be found in the region. The 2018 Château Pélaquié Blanc ($13) exhibits the diversity of the region as is comprised of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Bourboulenc. Drinks way above its price point.
One of the southern most crus, vines have been cultivated in the region since the Middle Ages. The region bears many similarities to the more famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape including its geologic age, soils, elevation, and varietals. White wines are made from Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Roussanne Clairette, Picpoul, Marsanne and Viognier and often exhibit floral and fruit characteristics. We had a great time paring the 2019 Domaine de la Mordoree La Reine des Bois Blanc Lirac ($45) with a shrimp scampi with a roasted corn base. The richness of the corn melded quite well with the roundness of the wine. I don’t think a traditional shrimp scampi with a pasta base would have been as successful of a paring. But we were quite happy with this paring.
Known for both sparkling and still wines, the wines of Saint-Péray are 100% white and comprised of only of Marsanne and Roussanne. The terrain of the southern most Cru of the Northern Rhone is rugged and varied with steep granitic hillsides. I had the opportunity to try the 2019 Domaine Auguste Clape Blanc Saint-Péray ($82) which is comprised of 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne. Yellow apple, green pear, almond, tangerine, and salinity. Anther wine that can shine on its own, but could also play well with lobster with drawl butter, chicken, pork, and even Cajun and Creole cuisines.
One of the Côtes du Rhône Crus, Condrieu is located in the northern Rhône and is all about white wine. Viognier is the only permitted varietal and serves as the spiritual home of the oft-misunderstood varietal. Viognier is thought to have been grown in Condrieu since the time of the ancient Greeks. Ample, generous, and full-bodied, Viognier is quite aromatic and often provides stone and tropical fruit characteristics. Viognier loves to be paired with fruit based dishes as well as cheeses. Our wine was the 2018 E. Guigal Blanc Condrieu ($68) and we paired with air crisped chicken with a fig glaze along with a fig and goat cheese salad. Magnifique. The peach and apricot notes in the wine loved the figs. And yeah, Rufus just won’t let me be great and is a frequent photo bomber.
Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
I love a well made sweet wine and distrust anyone who doesn’t. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but I do wish people would get over the whole sweet wine thing. Anywho, Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise is one of two sweet wine crus in the region. It is quite a unique appellation in the Rhône Valley as it is known for its fortified wine made exclusively from the varietal Muscat à Petits Grains. The vineyards grow on ancient terraces and typically offer up stone fruit characteristics. I enjoyed the 2016 Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise ($30) on the sofa with TV on its own. There absolutely are worse way to spend an evening.
While technically outside of the Côtes du Rhône production area, Luberon is one of the southernmost regions of the Rhône Valley and produces red, white and rosé wines. While most production is rosé (52%), a sizable amount of production is dedicated white wines. Permitted varietals include Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Ugni Blanc. These wines are typically found in blends and offer consumers a wide spectrum of styles from lean to full-bodied with characteristics that range from citrus to honeyed and toasty. One to try is the quite recognizable Famille Perrin La Vieille Ferme Blanc, aka “chicken wine” which is always a crowd pleaser. And it usually sells for $10 or less! Crafted of Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, and Ungi Blanc, I paired with a falafel and hummus sandwich. A pretty simple wine that’s not too complex and offers up freshness and lively acidity with lemon lime and floral notes.
And be sure to check out what the other #Winophiles have uncorked.
- Jeff from Food Wine Click! thinks we should Embrace the Base of the Côtes du Rhône Pyramid.
- Cindy of Grape Experiences suggests we Sip Wine from the Côtes-du-Rhône... then Visit the Rhône Valley.
- Cathie of Side Wino Hustle says OMGigondas!
- Mel of Wining with Mel introduces us to The Wonderful World of Chapoutier in Côtes du Rhône.
- Terri of Our Good Life tells you What You Need to Know about Côtes du Rhône Wines.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is Assembling an End of Summer Cheeseboard with Domaine Chamfort Sablet La Pause Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019.
- Robin of Crushed Grapes Chronicles talks about Côtes du Rhône & Côtes du Rhône Villages – a plethora of flavors to pair with!
- David of Cooking Chat shares Grilled Sirloin Steak and Cotes du Rhone.
- Jen of Vino Travels takes us on A Journey Through the Cotes du Rhone.
- Jane of Always Ravenous shares Cote du Rhone Wines: Tasting and Pairing.
- Nicole of Somm's Table says Bring on the Cotes du Rhone.
- Linda of My Full Wine Glass introduces us to Red, white and pink-The colors of Cotes du Rhone wine.
- Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairings shares Cotes du Rhone and Perfect Fried Rice.
- Jill of L'Occasion is Feeling Satisfied with Côtes du Rhône.
- Susannah of Avvinare shares A Fresh Look at the Cote du Rhone.
- Liz of What's in That Bottle? declares Côtes du Rhône Offers Fancy, French & Affordalicious Wines.
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator...Gwendolyn Alley considers White, Red, Rosé? Côtes du Rhône Wines Paired with Squash Soufflé, Instant Pot Cassoulet.
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares A Month's Worth of Celebrations with Côtes du Rhône.
Note: Cove Image Courtesy of Côtes du Rhône.