Looking to enjoy French wine on a budget? France’s Rhône Valley Wines offer excellent values in reds, whites, and rosés that also provide a diversity of grapes and complex flavor profiles. Crisp and refreshing whites and rosés work well with winter citrus salads, seafood, and chicken. Red blends pair with heartier and richer fair including stews, braised meats like lamb shank, and my favorite, cassoulet which we made in the instant pot for my birthday and Cassoulet Day with a blend of meats: duck, pork, and lamb along with cannelloni beans and root vegetables (recipe below!).
This month, the French Winophiles discuss the diversity of the Rhône Valley, north and south, including Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, and Côtes du Rhône Villages with a geographic indication. Scroll down to find links to their articles.
The Rhône is divided between north and south, distinguished in part by cooler and warmer climates with the north having a continental climate, and the south, a Mediterranean one. The north only makes 5% of the wine, and most of it leads with Syrah often blended with up to 15% of a white, and with a few white exceptions identified below:
- Côte-Rôtie AOC
- Condrieu AOC: Viognier only.
- Château-Grillet AOC: Viognier.
- Saint-Joseph AOC:
- Crozes-Hermitage AOC
- Hermitage AOC
- Cornas AOC
- Saint-Péray AOC: sparkling and still whites of Marsanne and Roussanne.
In the south, 95% of the wine is produced, and with the following Southern Rhône appellations:
- Côtes du Vivarais AOC
- Côtes du Rhône AOC
- Côtes-du-Rhône Villages AOC
- Côtes du Rhône Villages (named villages)
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC
- Grignan-Les Adhemar AOC
- Vacqueyras AOC
- Rasteau AOC
- Cairanne AOC
- Gigondas AOC
- Vinsobres AOC
- Lirac AOC
- Beaumes de Venise AOC
- Muscat de Beaumes de Venise AOC
- Tavel AOC
As host Jill Barth explains in her preview post, Côtes du Rhône, with 40k hectares of vineyards, may be most well known with half of the bottles produced but the other half of the productions comes from crus and village wines, plus several other appellations.
Côtes du Rhône wines offer diverse and interesting blends from 171 communes growing grapes in various terroirs. While some of these grapes like syrah are familiar, others are less well known.
Côtes du Rhône wines are famous for their blends with red and rosé wines typically combining Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre while whites contain Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Clairette, and Grenache Blanc.
Côtes du Rhône come in three tiers: Côtes du Rhône means easy drinking, entry level, wines; Côtes du Rhône Villages brings more sophistication and distinctiveness; Côtes du Rhône Villages with a geographic indication hail from 22 communes officially recognized for their specific terroir and profiles.
Côtes du Rhône aromatic and textured white wines pair well with red snapper, sea bass, sushi, grilled shrimp, chicken, goat or Comté cheeses, and paella while Côtes du Rhône rosés do well with richer seafood like salmon or lobster, grilled pork, spicy Asian or Middle Eastern dishes, and reds cut through rich braised meat dishes of lamb and beef, crispy pork belly, or cassoulet.
- Near Côtes du Rhône Villages, you’ll find the lesser known Lirac and the better known Chateauneauf-du-Pape appellations as well as other distinct areas (refer to map above and discussion below) and which we discuss further below.
- There are 16 named appellations: these indicate the cru (not Côtes du Rhône). These include the Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
- Simple Citrus Salad: tangerine segments on spring greens with lemon honey vinaigrette and toasted walnuts
- Sue and Gwendolyn’s Instant Pot Cassoulet (recipe below)
- 2021 M. CHAPOUTIER, Côtes-du-Rhône “Belleruche”, AOC Côtes du Rhône, Blanc
- 2021 Domaine de Mourchon AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages Séguret Rosé Loubié
- 2016 Les Collines Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Rouge
- 2019 Cave des Côteaux Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes
- 2016 Famille Brechet Plateau Des Chênes Lirac
- Related: Domaine de Galuval AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages Blanc Le Coq Volant 2020 and others
- Related: 3 Châteauneuf-du-Pape paired cassoulet
- Related: more Lirac
- Related: Rasteau paired with lamb daube
2021 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes Du Rhone
Grapes: Blend of Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette, Bourboulenc
Importer: Folio Fine Wine Partners
sample for my review
Story: Chapoutier is a large company with a range of wines and price points made even more distinct by the Braille on their labels. The higher end wines are generally from their organic and biodynamic estate, but not all wines are certified or practicing. These grapes are grown on porous soils with plenty of water that warm up quickly in the spring which helps the grapes achieve maturity. Grapes are machine picked at night, lightly macerated, destemmed, pressed, fermented in stainless, then matured on the lees for five months.
Appearance: Pale yellow, pale lemon, crystal clear,
Aroma: Lemon curd, bit of citrus blossom, lemon orchard on a dewey morning, meadow flowers, lightly petrol, chamomile, dried grasses, late summer, daisy, pollen, mud
Palate: Lemon, Eureka lemon, Meyer lemon and tangerine, petrol, grass, a bit bitter on the back of the throat. Roundness mid palate and a tartness on the tip of the tongue, relatively simple wine.
Pairing: The bright crisp notes of the salad married perfectly with the bright crisp notes in the wine. The honey vinegarette was lightly sweet bringing out a touch of sweet to the fruit in the wine. the toasted tannins in the walnuts bring out a lemon curd flavor in the wine. All in all it was a very nice pairing.
2021 Domain De Mourchon “Loubie” Séguret AOC Cotes Du Rhone Villages
Grapes: organic Grenache and Syrah
sample for my review
Story: In Vaucluse, Séguret is one of several named villages including Gadagne, Massif d’Uchaux, Plan de Dieu, Puyméras, Roaix, Sablet, Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes, Séguret, Vai- son-la-Romaine, Valréas and Visan. These are known as Côtes du Rhône Villages with geographical names.
Appearance: Very pretty, pale salmon, very clear, platinum rim, almost rose gold
Aroma: Faint cherry, cherry blossom, red stone fruit orchard, you can smell green along with the fruit and florals, fresh cut watermelon, bubble gum
Palate: Tart cherry, watermelon, tart with bright acidity, bone dry, tangerine, not sweet at all, the freshness of the nose comes through on the palate, nice pleasant lingering watermelon finish,
Pairing: So very good with the salad, the toasted walnuts, grated Italian cheese, and the light lemon vinegarette are very nice with the wine. There is something about the toasted walnuts and the lemon vinegarette that work so well with the wine. Add crab cakes on top the salad for a nice light lunch.
2016 Les Collines Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Rouge
Grapes: Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault
Importer: Sancan Merchants
purchased probably at Grocery Outlet
Narrative: Not much to be found on the internet about this wine’s back story.
Appearance: Garnet, medium low density, mauve rim
Aroma: Carnation, roses, pepper, mixed floral perfume, fresh sliced ginger, subtle pine, Christmas spice,
Palate: Light, elegant, etherial, available fruit, tart cherry, raspberry, more raspberry than cherry, dried ginger or gingerbread without the sweetness, essence of ginger, balanced acidity and tannins, very structured,
This is not Mae West, but more Katherine Hepburn, austerity, upright and femine.
Pairing: The creamy flavorful beans and the sweet earthy carrots and parsnips bring out sweet richness in the wine. This is a perfect pairing. Bright cranberry fruit and red current are brought out in the wine by the meal. There is an umami between the meal and the wine.
We did not think this wine had much complexity until we tasted it with the food. This wine was the stand out pairing with our cassoulet. Tasting through the wine on its own we would not have thought this would be the stand out wine with the meal.
2019 Cave des Côteaux Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes
Importer: Evaki Inc
purchased at Grocery Outlet
Story: Didn’t find out much on the internet about this wine either.
Appearance: Very deep and rich, plum, light rosey rim,
Aroma: Fabulous! Violets, plum, rich fruit and forest floor, roses, I loved this fantastic nose, pepper
Palate: Dry but mouthwatering, tannic, tannins from tea over tannins from oak, blueberry, bramble berry, pepper, sage, leaving a fuzzy mouthfeel of sage, earthy, black current tea, lots of black current and blackberry,
Pairing: The pepper in the wine brings out the touch of black pepper in the dish. This wine works fine with the meal. It does not fight with it in any way. It is delicious with the meal. But when looking at all of these three red wines and the meal, it lacked the complexity and umami that the others offered with the wine. The wine became a bit flat and flabby with the meal, it was unable to match the umami and complexity of the meal, however, it is less expensive, and in this case, you get what you pay for. Sometimes Grocery Outlet wines over-perform; this one was under $10, and while adequate, not as interesting as the others.
2016 Famille Brechet Plateau Des Chênes Lirac
Grapes: leads with syrah
Importer: Eric Solomon Productions
purchased on sale from Wine House L.A.
Story: Located in Lirac just across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, during the 19th century the estate exported wines all over Europe but it fell into disrepair until Gabriel Meffre purchased its 25 hectares of vines in 1955. She expanded it to 70 hectares which were inherited by her grandsons, Laurent Brechet and Julien. Plateau des Chênes has 16 hectares of red clay covered with galets planted with Syrah, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Clairette. Lirac’s red wines are made from a minimum of 40% of Grenache noir, minimum of 25% together of Syrah and Mourvèdre, pus no more than 10% of Cinsault, and Carignan. Generally Grenache driven, their Lirac is unusual by being dominated by syrah in the blend — and on the palate.
Appearance: Ruby with a garnet rim, deep and dense, not cloudy
Aroma: Sandlewood, cedar, pink and black peppercorns, bramble berry, raspberry, plum,
Palate: Very dry, Herbs d Provence, lavender, blue berry finish, lots of tartness, bold tannins, nice minerals, rich earthiness, gallette ( big stone rocks ), raspberry fruit,
Pairing: Sue loved the tomato flavors with this wine, there is not that much tomato in the meal compared to other ingredients. Love, love, love the wine with the meal. I cannot believe that this wine was only $15. It does so much: it cuts through the rich flavors in the meal. With the food there is more bright characteristics in the wine that cuts through the richness in the cassoulet.
We felt that this wine would be perfect for a vegetarian version of cassoulet (if there is one) or a vegetarian meal.
Wine Predator’s Instant Pot Cassoulet
Sauté and remove:
- 2 links Itallian Sausage (casing removed), sautéed and removed
- 2 lb Pork Shoulder Arm (bone In), sautéed and removed
- 2 Thick Slices Pork Belly (cut into 1″ chunks)
- 1 Duck Breast (better to use duck confit but they were out)
- 1/2 lb lamb stew meat, sautéed and removed
Saute and remove:
- 1 lg Parsnip – cut into chunks
- 1 lg Carrot – cut into chunks
- 1/2-1 onion – finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 28oz can Whole Fire Roasted Tomatoes (break up with fingers)
Add meat and the following ingredients:
- 2 cups dried Cannellini Beans
- 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 qt organic chicken stock
Set Manuel Pressure on high for 80 minutes.
OPTIONAL: Transfer to a dutch oven or casserole dish, add a bit more broth if needed if too dry, sprinkle with bread crumb topping, bake 400 degree oven for additional 15 minutes.
Optional Bread Crumb Topping
- 1 T Butter
- 1 T munched garlic
- 1t fresh thyme
- 1 C bread crumbs
Melt butter in frying pan, add garlic and thyme, sauté 1 minute; careful not to overcook or burn. Add bread crumbs and mix; toast on heat till golden brown.
Check out these Rhone Centric articles from the French #Winophiles:
- Beurre Noisette Salmon Sprinkled with Belper Knolle + A Syrah from Crozes-Hermitage from Culinary Cam
- Relaxing with a Cotes du Rhone and Rummikub from A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Back to Cotes du Rhone for a French GSM blend from My Full Wine Glass
- For Rhone Diversity Look Across the Street from Food Wine Click!
- Tavel Rosé: Tasting and Food Pairings from Always Ravenous
- Sipping the sweet side of the Rhône with a Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel from Crushed Grape Chronicles
- A Range of Côtes du Rhône Wines Provide Delightful Diversity Paired with Citrus Salad and Cassoulet from Wine Predator Gwendolyn Alley
- A Closer Look at Two Rhône Valley Crus: Crozes-Hermitage and Cairanne from Jill Barth
- Chateau La Nerthe Les Cassagnes de La Nerthe Blanc – An Exciting White Blend from the Rhone Valley from Grape Experiences
Curious about one of France’s premier growing regions? Join the #Winophiles to cover the diversity of the Rhône Valley. 8am Pacific, 10am central time on 21 Jan 2023.
11am ET: Welcome to the French #Winophiles chat. Share a selfie, say hi, and introduce your blog. Explore wine diversity in the Rhône Valley with us.
11:05am ET: In five words, describe your #Winophiles tasting experience this month with Rhône Valley wine. (Don’t forget to share your post!)
11:10am ET: Have you visited the Rhône Valley #Winophiles? Tell us a fun fact about the trip or if you haven’t gone yet, is this region on your bucket list? (We crave travel pics!)
11:15am ET: The Rhône Valley is considered in two segments, north and south. Did you choose to focus on one of these areas in particular, #Winophiles?
11:20am ET: Rhône Valley wines are crafted as Côtes du Rhône, CDR Village, Cru, or one of several other unique appellations. Did you focus on a particular category, #Winophiles?
11:25am ET: In Rhône Valley vineyards organic wines represent 12% of volume (2021 harvest data). This number continues to climb. Did you feature a wine with a certification? #Winophiles
11:30am ET: Did you prepare something to eat with your Rhône Valley wine? #Winophiles, share tidbits about the pairing, a pic, and a link to the recipe if you have one.
11:35am ET: The theme of #Winophiles is the diversity of Rhône Valley wines. What did you learn about the soils, appellations, producers, or other diverse aspect?
11:40am ET: There are 10 Crus in the south and 8 Crus in the north of the Rhône Valley. #Winophiles, did you try a wine from one of these appellations?
11:45am ET: Tell us a bit about the producer of your Rhône Valley wine or the ingredients you used in your dish. #Winophiles
11:50am ET: Tell us about a Rhône Valley wine surprise. What is one amazing fact that you didn’t know, #Winophiles?
11:55am ET: Up next! Join Jeff @foodwineclick in February as #Winophiles explore the Jura.
12:00PM ET: Thanks to all of the #Winophiles participants!
Love your pairings both with a seasonal flair. I’ve been eating my fair share of salads with citrus lately, the Domaine de Mourchon sounds perfect with that salad.
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Yes, it was– but it’s quite versatile actually going really well with chicken on a subsequent evening.
So many delicious wines to choose from in the Rhone! There really is something for everyone! Sue’s Cassoulet looks delicious!
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It really was delicious — and it made a lot! We have a quart in the freezer for another day. Yum! And it’s easy to find affordable red wines to pair with it down the road…
Cassoulet leftovers are the only thing better than cassoulet!
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so true!! it just improves as the flavors marry together! and these wines held up too!
Isn’t it amazing what food will do for wine? Interesting (and encouraging) to read how the Les Collines Chateauneuf-Du-Pape from Grocery Outlet was such a surprise.
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I love the magic that happens when food is pried well with wine. And now I wish I had another bottle of that CdP at that price!