The Côte du Rhône growing appellation in France includes a number of well-known regions. To the north is Côte Rôtie justly renowned for its deep, dark Syrah based wines. But it is in the south, where the majority of the Côte du Rhône vineyards lie. There, the lay of the land is much flatter and more Mediterranean in climate. And while Syrah is also planted in the south, Grenache dominates most red blends. Many of the wines use carbonic maceration to produce light and fruity wines, but some estates look to create a more serious product. We explored a number of those red blends and here are the panel's top picks:
2003 Domaine de Couron Côtes du Rhône, $9.99
Bright berry aromas dominate the nose backed by hints of smoke and fresh mint. Lovely light berry and cherry flavors highlight the palate along with soft touches of blueberry and herb. A nice peppery quality comes through, especially on the finish where a gentle bit of acidity helps keep things in balance. It has good structure and is a good buy.
2005 Les Truffier Vacqueyras, $13.99
This wine opens with a complex aroma profile including dark berry, caramel, mocha, dried fruit leather and pepper. It offers a good core of ripe berry flavors with an enticingly silky texture and good persistence throughout. Vacqueyras is next door to Gigondas and is the second village in the Côte du Rhône to be granted its own appellation after its more famous neighbor.
2003 Jaboulet Parallele "45" Côtes du Rhône, $9.99
The '03 vintage was one of the hottest on record resulting in atypically powerful wines, so it's not surprising that the Jaboulet was one of the richer Rhônes of the tasting. There's a gamey, meaty quality to the aroma that weds nicely with the dark berry fruit and black pepper. That same meatiness shows up on the palate along with rich, ripe berry fruit. Velvety tannins combine with touches of mint and strawberry to linger on the finish