Wine of Cote du Rhone – Meticulous, Modern and Very French

December 31, 2010

About Wines from Rhone
Best wine supplier in Philippines discusses wine related topics

Meticulous, Modern and Very French
CÔTES DU RHÔNE — it is such a familiar wine, almost a synonym for a not-too-fancy French red. Yet few wines can match Côtes du Rhône in exemplifying the myriad changes that have transformed the French wine industry in the last 20 years.

In popular wine mythology, the French wine industry is static, unyielding to modernity. Depending on your point of view, that is either good or bad. In reality, the French have evolved quickly. They have recognized that the insular ways of the past no longer function in a globalized economy.
The Côtes du Rhône typifies what has happened in many French wine regions. Once its wines were the none-too-good tipples of bars and cafes, light and fruity if you were lucky, more likely tart and harsh. That sort of wine still exists in France, though a lot less of it than in generations past. Rarely do you find it in the United States. Once you could sell a lot of bad wine here if it was cheap enough. But now, there is too much competition among the good stuff.
The current generation of French winemakers understands this. Unlike their forbears, many of them have traveled widely, worked around the world and studied enology and viticulture at universities. How they use what they have learned accounts for much that has changed in Côtes du Rhône today.
In a tasting of 25 Côtes du Rhône, the wine panel found a surprising number of plush, polished wines. Some were sleek and modern, so much so that they showed little trace of identity. They were fruity and well-made but not distinctive. Others were similarly well made yet displayed characteristic Rhône touches of earthiness and minerality. These tended to be our favorites. A few were clunky and overoaked; these we rejected.
For the tasting, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Belinda Chang, wine director at the Modern in Midtown, and Chris Goodhart, who oversees the wine programs at Keith McNally’s restaurants.
Chris, who had just returned from the Rhône, felt the wines we tasted were not exactly representative of the wines being made there, though they provided a cross-section of the wines available to American consumers. “What we have here is a selection of wines that importers have chosen for the American and the New York market,” he said. “I found many more rustic wines there.”
Rustic is one of those words with different meanings depending on who is speaking. Some use it disparagingly to mean rough and simple. Others use it as a term of admiration for wines that show more regional character than smooth polish. I had a feeling Chris was using it both ways.
Belinda had a similar reaction. Noting that the tasting included fewer bad wines than she expected, she said, “Here, we’re seeing an expression of wine-making techniques, which is a huge plus for me, but the fun of ‘Where is it from?’ is getting lost.”
The paradox, of course, is that modern techniques, with an emphasis on squeaky-clean winemaking, can iron out many of the wrinkles that give a wine character. Yet too many wrinkles can give a wine a character few would want. The key is wisdom, experience and an intuitive sense of how to lift a wine up without unmooring it from its origins.
We filled our top 10 with wines like this. Several of our favorites came from little-known producers, including our Nos. 1 and 2. Domaine le Garrigon, whose 2006 was our top wine, uses only organically grown grapes, mostly grenache and carignan with a little syrah. The result was a pleasingly aromatic wine that neatly balanced fruity accessibility and tannic structure. At $14, it also proved that a Côtes du Rhône can still be an excellent value.
But it had some competition for best value from our No. 2 wine, the 2006 Domaine Grès St. Vincent, a bright, complex wine with floral and licorice flavors that was just $13.
Most of the Côtes du Rhône we tasted were $20 or under, with three exceptions, which happen to be three of the most esteemed names in the Rhône business. Our No. 3 wine, the 2004 Château de Fonsalette, from Château Rayas, the great Châteauneuf producer, shows just what can be accomplished with very low yields and meticulous winemaking. This dense, fruity wine was $57, by far the most expensive wine in the tasting.


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(045) 599-5600 0922-870-5178 0917-520-4401


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How to get to this fine-dining restaurant in Clark Philippines? Once you get to Clark Freeport, go straight until you hit Mimosa. After you enter Mimosa, stay on the left on Mimosa Drive, go past the Holiday Inn and Yats Restaurant (green top, independent 1-storey structure) is on your left. Just past the Yats Restaurant is the London Pub.

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