Embrace the Base of the Côtes du Rhône Pyramid #Winophiles

Embracing the Base of the Rhône Pyramid
This month, our French Winophiles are back in a favorite region – the Rhône Valley.

The Rhone Valley straddles its namesake river and extends 250km from north to south. The northern section of the wine region is much cooler, with a continental climate. The southern section features a warm Mediterranean climate. The Southern Rhone is where the great majority of wine is made and where we find the majority of basic Côtes du Rhône and Villages wines.

Many French wine regions employ quality level designations in their appellation system. Areas which offer specific climate and soil characteristics often will seek a higher level designation for their appellation. Typically, yields will be reduced and other rules put in place to ensure more concentration in flavors and complexity. We all love to enjoy these top quality wines, but they come with a pricetag! There’s plenty of room to enjoy high quality wines from the base of the pyramid, and this month, that’s exactly what we are doing!

Disclosure: The wines for this post were provided as samples by the Côtes-du-Rhône producers. No other compensation was involved and all opinions expressed are mine.

Ogier “Artesis” Blanc Cotes du Rhone AOC 2018 (sample, $17 SRP) 13% abv
Eye: Medium gold
Nose: Medium intensity aromas of apple blossom, ripe pears, yellow apple, touch of pineapple, almonds, fresh cut oak
Mouth: Dry, high acidity, medium plus body, medium alcohol, medium flavor intensity, medium finish. Flavors follow the aromas with lingering pear and almond notes.
Observations: Though softened by the body, the acidity of this wine is surprisingly refreshing and in very nice balance. This wine has the body to stand up to a red meat entrée for a person who prefers white wine.

Éric Texier “Chat Fou” Cotes du Rhone AOC 2019 (sample, $24 SRP) 12.5% abv
Eye: Pale ruby
Nose: Medium plus aromas of ripe strawberries, red cherries, blueberries, underbrush with a touch of smoke,
Mouth: Dry, medium plus acidity, medium sandy tannins, medium body, medium alcohol, medium plus flavor intensity, medium finish.
Observations: Definitely out of the expected for Cotes du Rhone with a lighter body, fresh fruit profile as described. Still, it has a nice non-fruit set of components with underbrush and smoke. Perfect for a red wine drinker enjoying lighter fare, even seafood.

Rotem & Mounir Saouma “Inopia” Cotes du Rhone Villages 2017 (sample, $31 SRP) 14.5% abv
Eye: Medium ruby
Nose: Medium plus intensity aromas of fresh, ripe blueberry, blackberry, plum, olives, leather, barnyard. Initially the barnyard is quite strong, but dissipates after 30 minutes or so.
Mouth: Dry, medium acidity, medium plus grippy tannins, medium plus body, high alcohol, medium plus flavor intensity, medium plus finish. The flavors reflect the aromas, though the fresh fruits are more front and center on the palate.
Observations: An enjoyable wine which is very typical of the Southern Rhone with good intensity, fresh fruit and some barnyard funk. Excellent with our reverse seared roast.

Domaine Chamfort “La Pause” Rosé Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet AOP (sample, $19 SRP) 14.1%abv
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah
Eye: Pale Orange
Nose: Medium intensity aromas of sandalwood, fresh ripe tangerine,
Mouth: Dry, medium plus acidity, medium body, high alcohol though doesn’t impress as “hot”, medium plus intensity flavors, medium finish. The sandalwood is most apparent on the nose, the palate shows prominent fresh tangerine with strawberries, watermelon behind the citrus.
Observations: A very enjoyable rosé with a unique flavor profile, a bit different from those in Provence.

(click on any photo in the series for a full-size slide show)

Dinner #1 Seared Scallops with Vegetable Tian
A vegetable tian is one of those dishes you can commit to memory so you’ll always have a company-worthy dish you can serve to friends or bring to a potluck. It’s infinitely adaptable to the vegetables that are in-season, and you can even remove vegetables someone doesn’t like from a portion of the dish. For instance, if someone doesn’t like eggplant, you can simply keep it out of the rotation for a portion. My version is detailed in this post, but there are lots of versions available online. I love cooking it in a cast iron skillet on my ceramic grill, but the dish is adaptable to any grill or even the oven. The scallops are simply seared in the cast iron skillet.

The food was perfectly matched to the two wines we chose for the evening. The rosé had enough body and flavor to match up with the rich flavors of the scallops and the melted cheese in the veggie tian. While I might not pair a typical Côtes du Rhône with scallops, the Eric Texier Chat Fou (crazy cat!) was an intentionally light version and perfect with the seared scallops and vegetables.

Dinner #2 Reverse Seared New York Roast with Carrots and Corn
Côtes du Rhône Blanc wines typically have enough body and texture to stand up to red meat. All those days in the bright Mediterranean sun and Mistral winds are worth something! You could choose a fancy Cru, but the Inopia Côtes-du-Rhône Villages certainly provided plenty of intensity and complexity to add to the meal.

For this meal, I set up the grill in a split direct-indirect setup. The roast was coated with a spice rub, then started on the lower heat indirect side of the grill. Over on the direct side, I cooked a combination of sliced red onions and carrots. Once the interior temperature of the meat hit 125 F, the carrots & onions came off. I opened the vents on the grill to further bring up the heat and briefly seared the meat on top and bottom. The onions were delicious with the meat, unfortunately I forget to add them to the plate at photo time. Oops!

Our Visit to the Southern Rhone
I’ve posted a few images from our trip to the Southern Rhone a few years ago. Definitely time to return!

French Winophiles Côtes du Rhône Finds
Take a look below at all the great ideas posted by my fellow French Winophiles writers. Our combined thanks to Côtes-du-Rhône Wines for supplying wine samples for many of our posts! Please join our Côtes-du-Rhône chat on Saturday September 18, 10-11am CDT. Simply search for us on Twitter at #Winophiles, we’d love to hear what you think!

Comments
10 Responses to “Embrace the Base of the Côtes du Rhône Pyramid #Winophiles”
  1. Those dishes fabulous as always Jeff.

  2. robincgc says:

    That tian is beautiful! As are your photos from the Rhone!
    On a side note, I think I have a new nickname for Loki! Chat Fou seems appropriate! LOL

  3. Gorgeous photos! Makes me thirst for Rhone wines and views!

  4. The wines, the food, the pics, all absolutely gorgeous. I have a cat named Luna that I call Lunacat because she is nuts, so I am particularly drawn to the Chat Fou, and even more intrigued by your description.

  5. Sandalwood! That must be the shrubby aroma I detected in the Domaine Chamfort “La Pause” Rosé. I couldn’t place it and initially tagged it as garrigue. But I think you have it right.

  6. I’m with Cathy – that Chat Fou sounds intriguing!

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