The wines of
French region has
WBy Annette Alvarez-Peters
WHEN WINTER CHILL fills the air, I enjoy red
wines with a more robust character. Wines from
southern France’s scenic Rhône Valley are excellent
choices that express the distinct sense of place of two subregions of differing geography,
soils and climate.
Only Syrah can be used in Cornas
production. These dark, rich,
concentrated wines need time
before they are ready to drink.
PHOTODISC ANNETTE ALVAREZ-PETERS
The warmer, flatter south
The northern Rhône is
famous for bold Syrah-based
wines; in the south, Grenache
takes center stage. Many other
red wines come from the
Rhône, with a wide range of
To the south, the landscape changes
dramatically. The southern Rhône area is much warmer,
and the hills give way to flat vineyards that are covered with large stones called galets, which retain
daytime heat to warm the vines at night.
Most southern Rhône wines are Grenache based
and feature spicy, rich fruit. Syrah can be added for
darker fruit flavor, color and aromatics of pepper
and flowers. Mourvèdre is blended in for tannic
backbone and structure.
You’ll nd these ne Rhône
wines at select Costcos:
price points, from the values of Côtes du Rhône to
the pricey, world-class wines of Hermitage.
Perrin & Fils Les Sinards
Perrin & Fils Côtes du
A look at the north
The northern Rhône is a beautiful, small viticul-tural area producing approximately 5 percent of the
wine from the Rhône Valley. Steady winds from the
north, called the mistral, cool the climate and influence the varieties of grapes grown in this hilly area.
According to law, a number of red-wine appellations
in the north can be planted only with Syrah grapes.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (“new castle of the pope”)
is the most sought-after appellation in the southern
Rhône. These well-known wines can blend up to 13
grape varieties. The better blends have higher percentages of the top-quality grapes, Grenache, Syrah
Domaine Philippe & Vincent
Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage
Estate-grown wines (all grapes from the same
property) are easily recognized by an embossed coat
of arms on the bottle above the front label. The
wines of this appellation are rich, dark and spicy.
GLO W IMAGES
Situated farthest north is Côte-Rôtie, with plant-ings of Viognier, a white grape. Up to 20 percent of
Viognier can be legally added to Syrah, to create an
elegant blend with beautiful smokiness. The most
famous vineyard sites are the Côte Brune and Côte
Blonde—named, it is said, by the owner, who had two
daughters, one brunette and one blonde.
Several other appellations in the south, including Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Vinsobres, all produce fantastic Grenache-based wines, with Rhône
earthiness and real affordability.
Blending the two subregions
The Rhône’s most celebrated appellation is
Hermitage, small (just over 300 acres) yet home to
some of the world’s finest wines. The steep hillsides
here lie on the east bank of the Rhône River. Most
wines from Hermitage are 100 percent Syrah, but up
to 15 percent of white grapes Marsanne and Rousanne
can be included in a blend.
These wines are classically big and muscular,
with smoky bacon-fat and pepper aromas. Great
vintages of Hermitage are some of the most expensive and longest-lived wines anywhere.
Côtes du Rhône is the largest production area in
the Rhône Valley. The wines feature a broad range
of styles, as grapes are used from the diverse areas of
both the north and south. Wines labeled “Côtes du
Rhône Villages” have met higher quality standards
(most notably, only grapes from certain communes
are used in production). These are terrific, reasonably priced drinking wines that offer a lighter style
of red and dark fruit with a nice touch of minerals.
Crozes-Hermitage, a larger area surrounding
Hermitage, produces excellent wines, usually in a
lighter style than its famous neighbor. Crozes-Hermitage wines are known for rich raspberry and
earth notes with smooth tannins and a meaty character. The wines are easy drinking and great values.
With Côtes du Rhône, as with most wines produced in Europe, the place or appellation of the
wine is your guide. Whether you”re seeking a Syrah
from the north or a Grenache blend from the south,
fantastic wines in all price points are available from
the Rhône Valley. It’s time to plan a hearty meal and
explore some of them. Á votre santé! C
For big, monster reds with huge tannins that
can bite back, the Cornas appellation is for you.
Annette Alvarez-Peters oversees Costco’s wine,
beer and spirits program.
FOR INFORMATION on Costco’s
Kirkland Signature™ wines, go to
Costco.com, click on “Costco
Connection Magazine,” then
“Kirkland Signature Wine Connection.” To find which warehouses carry wine, click on
“Beer, Wine & Spirits Locator.”