Even the cheapest bottles tend to be reliable – The Irish Times

If you’re going on holiday to France this summer, keep the name Côtes du Rhône in mind, as it’s still on cafe and restaurant listings and on supermarket shelves in most parts of the country. This is not surprising because the Côtes du Rhône appellation is the second largest in France (after Bordeaux).

Generally, they are supple, warm, easy-drinking and convivial wines that do not cost much. Although the quality certainly increases as you pay more, I find inexpensive Cotes du Rhône to be one of the more reliable options. This is partly due to the warm and sunny climate, perfect for the ripening of the grapes, but also to the generosity of the Grenache grape variety. There are no less than 21 grape varieties authorized for Côtes du Rhône, but the vast majority of wines are a blend of Grenache with varying amounts of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault.

Grenache is a thin-skinned grape that typically produces wines full of jammy ripe fruit, low acidity and color and light tannins. This makes them ready to drink as soon as they are bottled. But beware! They can also be quite high in alcohol, up to 15% alcohol. However, nowadays many growers are picking a little earlier and 13-14.5% is much more common. Once shunned by many wine lovers, Grenache is experiencing a resurgence of interest, not only in the Rhône but also in parts of Spain, its original homeland, where it is known as Garnacha.

In terms of gastronomy, the wines of the Rhône offer many opportunities. In winter, drink it with rich beef stews and roast game. In the summer, it goes great with most grilled and barbecued foods, including gourmet sausages and burgers, as well as pork, lamb, and beef.

Rhône wines are divided into a qualitative pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid, there are some 171 villages entitled to call themselves Côtes du Rhône, and 95 other villages admitted to the higher appellation Côtes du Rhône Villages. The next stop is Côtes du Rhône Villages with a village name attached, like Valréas below. At the top of the triangle are a small number of villages that are allowed to simply use their own name. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the best known of the group, which also includes Gigondas, Rasteau, Cairanne, Vacqueyras and others.

Much of the production is in the hands of large traders and cooperatives, but there are many smaller producers producing great wines. Of course, you don’t have to go to France to taste Rhône wines; there are many here at home too.

Côtes du Rhône Villages 2020, Lidl 13.5%, €8.49 Medium to full-bodied with soft, rounded strawberries – would go well with richer beef or lamb stews, roast lamb, or baked Mediterranean vegetables. Of lidl

Côtes du Rhône Samorëns 2020, Ferraton Father & Son 14.5%, €14.95 A soft, rich, easy-drinking red with sweet black fruit, a touch of garrigue and a round finish. Enjoy it with a pepperoni or mushroom pizza, a fancy burger or a steak sandwich. Of O’Briens

Clos Bellane Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas 2019 (organic) 14.5%, €23 Velvety, voluptuous cassis and plums with savory black olives and a refreshing note. To drink as an accompaniment to a rib of beef or a vegetarian Wellington. Of Ely Wine Shop, Maynooth.

Handful of Grapes 2020, Gramenon, Côtes du Rhône, Biodynamic 14%, €26.50 Nice wine; understated but full of lovely sweet ripe black cherries with a fresh, juicy edge. To be enjoyed with a gourmet burger (including vegetarian) or grilled lamb chops. Of boujee-booze.com; Sheridan Cheesemakers, D2; Kells, County Meath; Galway; siyps.com; Lennox Street Grocer, D8; Green Man Wines, D6; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth, elywinebar.ie; Provençal bread and wine, D8.

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