Winophiles Invade the Southern Rhône
This month, our French Winophiles group studies the wines from Rasteau, one of the Cru designated villages in the Southern Rhône. Join us as we virtually travel to the south of France and enjoy with wines of Rasteau! Look further down in this post for links to all my fellow Winophiles posts.
French Wine Quality Certifications and the Everpresent Pyramid
All over France, you’ll find wines marked as table wines (Vin de France), geographically indicated (IGP or IGT), and Denomination of Origin (AOC or AOP). Denomination of Origin wines are legally recognized as uniquely representing the place where they are from. The wines must meet strict standards including vineyard location within the official boundaries, farming, yield, grape variety, winemaking and aging. In the US, we often see these restrictions as limiting a winegrowers freedom. On the other hand, a wine carrying an AOC designation can be counted on to be of high quality and representative of the AOC style. Nothing wrong with that from a customers’ point of view!
Within the AOC system in a region, distinctions are made to further delineate the best of the best, and many regions have officially sanctioned additional quality levels either within the AOC or allowing separate AOC designations. Understanding these distinctions can help consumers make good choices at the wine shop. A quality pyramid is a useful illustration for these various fine distinctions within a region. You’ll see similar illustrations for Burgundy (Bourgogne), Bordeaux, Alsace, and other wine regions all over the European Union.
The Southern Rhône Quality Pyramid
The Southern Rhône region produces red, white and rose dry wines, with red wines being in the majority with multiple grapes allowed in the blend. Grenache is the workhorse red grape with Syrah and Mourvedre following, then around a dozen other grapes allowed, usually in small percentages. Each AOC has differences in the required amounts of various grapes, although Grenache is always the predominant variety.
The base of the Southern Rhône AOC pyramid is formed by the Côtes du Rhône (CdR) appellation. This covers a wide area of approximately 57,00 hectares (over 100,000 acres). For comparison, there are approximately 45,000 acres under vine in Napa Valley. Next up comes the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation. These appellations lie within the greater CdR appellation. They are recognized as having superior sites producing more complex, concentrated wines. Once a village has established its’ reputation within the Côtes du Rhône Villages system, they can apply to have their name appended to the CdR Village label. There are seventeen villages with this privilege today, including names such as Sablet, Seguret, Sainte Cecile. Finally, the villages with a long time reputation for producing concentrated, superior wines appropriate for aging were allowed to establish their own AOCs with Cru designation. These wines have the village name as the primary name on the label, and Côtes du Rhône Villages no longer appears. If you’d like to learn more, the Rhône Valley Wines website contains excellent information on the entire region, history, and appellation details.
The slideshow is from a trip where we were staying less than 10 miles away from Rasteau. (click on any photo for full size slideshow, hit escape to return)
Where Rasteau Fits in the Pyramid
Rasteau has had AOC status for many years for its’ fortified sweet wine, Vin Doux Naturel. In 2010, the dry red wine achieved Cru status and a Rasteau AOC was legally approved. While Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CdP) is often considered the top Cru wine in the Southern Rhone, there is no legally designated “king of the hill”. You might try tasting a Rasteau wine along with others of the Southern Rhone Crus to find your favorite. CdP carries a price premium due to its popularity, you might find that a Cru wine like Rasteau offers everything you’re searching for at a more favorable price!
Disclosure: The wines for this post were provided as samples. No other compensation was involved and all opinions are mine.
Famille Perrin Rasteau AOC “L’Andéol” 2016 (sample, $24 SRP or online here) 13.5%abv
From the winery: Grapes: Grenache and Syrah. In the tradition of Château du Beaucastel, the grapes are hand harvested and sorted in the vineyard. Before fermentation, the clusters are completely de-stemmed. Fermentation occurs in 90% temperature controlled stainless steel vats, and the remaining 10% in foudres. Before bottling, the wine rests for 6 months
Eye: Clear, medium ruby. Light rim staining
Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Aromas of rich, ripe plums, cooked prunes, leather, clean earth, just a touch of pepper.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavor, medium+ acidity, medium fine grained tannins. Full body with medium alcohol and a medium+ savory finish. Flavors match the aromas. While the fruit is clearly present, the overall impression is savory.
Very good quality wine, showing well its’ home in the Southern Rhône. Traditionally styled with rich full body with solid structure and abundant flavors. This wine is ready to drink now, it will hold up to short term aging up to 5 years.
Domaine de Verquière Rasteau AOC 2016 (sample, $16 SRP or online here) 14.5% abv
From the winery: The Domaine is managed by Romain & Thibaut Chamfort. 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah. Vineyards are certified organic since 2014. The grapes are picked and sorted by hand, and fully destemmed. Grapes are cold soaked for 36 hours, giving a more vibrant color. Each varietal is vinified separately, and sometimes each parcel. Fermentation is temperature controlled, staying at approximately 80° F (27°C). Wine is racked up to 3 times during fermentation, which lasts between 25 to 30 days. Afterwards, the wine ages in oak barrels for 4 months before bottling
Eye: Clear, medium ruby. Light staining and tears.
Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Aromas of candied blueberry, blackberry, plum. Violets, gravel and a touch of alcohol heat.
Mouth: Dry, medium intensity flavors. Medium+ body with high alcohol, medium acidity with medium+ fine grained tannins. Medium finish with lingering impression of fruit. Flavors match the aromas.
Very good quality wine with a modern approach to the Southern Rhône. This wine is a bit more fruit forward, still with solid structure to support the fruit. Nice balance between flavors, acid and tannins. Can drink now, should improve with additional time for tertiary development.
Domaine Brusset Rasteau AOC “La Bastide” 2017 ( sample, $21 SRP or online here) 13.5%
From the winery: Grapes are Grenache and Mourvedre, harvested by hand with low yields, 30 hl/ha. Wines are vinified traditionally, with total de-stemming and a long fermentation with native yeasts. Wines are aged for 10 months in vats and neutral barrels before bottling.
Eye: Clear, deep ruby.
Nose: Clean, medium intensity nose with dried blueberries, blackberries, prunes, raisins. Additional aromas of leather, clean earth and a bit of smoke.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavors. Medium acid, medium+ silky tannins. Rich, full body, medium alcohol, medium finish. Very good quality wine, and correct for the Southern Rhône. Shows the warm climate with rich flavors, lush texture and good structure. Ready to enjoy now, can age up to five years.
Ortas Cave de Rasteau AOC “La Domeliere” 2017 (sample, $15 SRP or online here) 14.5% abv
From the winery: Varieties: 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. Average Vine Age: 40-50 years. Sustainably farmed. All three varieties are hand-picked at phenolic ripeness and fermented together. The grapes are fully de-stemmed and undergo a 10 to 12 day maceration with multiple punch downs daily. After fermentation is complete, the wine is aged in vats prior to bottling.
Eye: Clear, medium ruby. Light staining with pronounced tears
Nose: Clean, medium intensity aromas of mushrooms, leather, clean earth, backed by ripe blackberries, plums, and raisins. Violets in the background.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavors. Medium+ acidity with medium silky tannins. Plush texture with full body, high alcohol and a medium finish. Very good quality wine showing exactly what is expected from a Southern Rhône wine. Ready to drink now, will hold for short term aging.
Winophiles Invade Rasteau Posts
If you see this post soon enough, you can join in the fun with our conversation on Twitter on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 10-11am CST. Just search for the #winophiles hashtag on Twitter!
Cathie from Side Hustle Wino “Getting to Know the Wines of Rasteau”
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “A Birthday Tradition + Side-by-Side Sips of Domaine de Verquière Rasteau”
David from Cooking Chat Food writes about “Chicken Lentil Stew and Rhône 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”
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”
Kat from The Corkscrew Concierge explains how she is “Expanding My Rhône Valley Palate with Rasteau Wine”
Linda from My Full Wine Glass writes about “Basking in the Glow of Rasteau”
Liz from What’s in That Bottle says, “You Like Big Reds? Get to Know the Wines of Rasteau”
Lynn from Savor the Harvest writes about “Rhone Valley Rasteau Cru – A New Generation Wine with Duck Confit”
Martin from Enofylz writes about “Getting To Know Rasteau”
Nicole from Somm’s Table shares “Five Nights of Rasteau”
Payal from Keep the Peas writes about “Rasteau: Not So Rustic in the Southern Rhone”
Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairings writes about “One Rabbit, Two Turkey Drumsticks and Four Rasteau Wines”
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 French Rasteau”
Read more: foodwineclick.com