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Cotes du Rhone wine area
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Côtes du Rhône
At the generic level, the official AOC Côtes du Rhône region stretches 200 km from Vienne in the north to Avignon in the south and from the foothills of the Massif Central in the west to the fore-slopes of the Vaucluse and Luberonmountains east of the town of Orange. 171 communes in the French departments of Ardèche, Bouches du Rhône,Drôme, Gard, Loire, and Vaucluse are concerned with production from the 83,839 (2008) hectares of vineyard. The average yield is 52 hectolitres per hectare. Wines of all three colours must have a minimum alcohol content of 11%. The average annual production of CDR of around 3.3 million hectolitres – 419 million bottles – (2005/2006), is assured by 5,292 concerns including 5,202 growers, 875 private producers, 70 co-operative wineries, and 20 merchant/producers and blenders, making it one of the largest single appellation regions in the world.
Red and rosé wines are made from Grenache noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise and Mourvèdre grapes varieties. A maximum of 20% white varieties may be used in the rosés. All reds grown south of Montélimar must contain a minimum of 40% Grenache, and may contain up to 5% white grapes. A red from anywhere in the appellation must contain a minimum of 15% Syrah and/or Mourvedre. The whites must contain a minimum blend of 80% Clairette, Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, and Viognier. Ugni blanc and Picpoul blanc may be used as secondary varieties.
There are two sub regions of Rhône wines:
- Côtes du Rhône septentrionalin the northern part of the region from Vienne to Valence. The vines are cultivated on very steep slopes making the harvest extremely arduous. The grapes are manually picked and have to be hauled up the hillside on trolleys, a feature which adds to the price. Syrah is the dominant red grape in this area.
- Côtes du Rhône méridionalfrom Montélimar to Avignon in the southern latitudes, produced by 123 communes. The great majority of these are cultivated on the eastern side of the Rhône between the river bank near the town of Orange, and the Vaucluse-Luberon chain of mountains. The wines here are anchored by Grenache noir but typically include other grapes such as Syrah and Mourvedre. The reds range in color from deep crimson and ruby to almost purple and are generally full-bodied with rich but smooth tannins, though Liracand others from the right bank tend to be somewhat lighter. They all go very well with game and other rich meat dishes.
The whites range from dry with a tang of citrus to fuller, rounder wines which can be consumed as an aperitif. Condrieu, a septentrional, is one of the rarest white wines in the world and is produced from 100% Viognier – a notoriously difficult grape to vinify.
Côtes du Rhône-Villages
Further up the scale from the Côtes du Rhône AOC the Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC is produced by 95 authorized communes in the departments of the Ardèche, the Drôme, the Gard, and the Vaucluse. The appellation includes 95 communes, with a total of approximately 3,000 hectares under cultivation. The average yield is approximately 38 hectoliters per hectare. The Grenache grape is required to be present at not less than 50%, with 20% Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. A maximum of 20% of other authorized varieties is permitted. The minimum required alcoholic strength is 12%.
Côtes du Rhône Villages (named village)
Next in the hierarchy, 18 of the Côtes du Rhône Village appellations are authorized to include their village name on the label. With approximately 6,500 hectares under cultivation, the average yield is approximately 37 hectoliters per hectare. Current regulation includes following villages: Cairanne, Chusclan (red and rosé only), Gadagne, Laudun, Massif d’Uchaux (red only), Plan de Dieu (red only), Puyméras (red only), Roaix, Rochegude, Rousset-les-Vignes, Sablet, Saint Gervais, Saint Maurice, Saint-Pantaléon-les-Vignes,Séguret, Signargues (red only), Valréas, Visan.
At the most demanding level of distinction, a total of 16 crus are allowed to be recognized by their village name without requiring the mention of Côtes du Rhône on the label. With the unique exception of Château-Grillet, a white septentrional within the AOC Condrieu, a feature of the nomenclature of CDR wines is that at the top level they are named only after their villages, and not after châteaux as is usual for Bordeaux wines. Tavel is a rosé only, very light and dry, which is usually drunk chilled. Beaumes de Venise AOC,Château-Grillet AOC, Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, Condrieu AOC, Cornas AOC, Côte-Rôtie AOC, Crozes-Hermitage AOC, Gigondas AOC, Hermitage AOC, Lirac AOC, Rasteau AOC, Saint Joseph AOC, Saint Péray AOC, Tavel AOC, Vacqueyras AOC, and Vinsobres AOC.
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