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Rhone Wines

JackInTheSun Feb 13, 2008 07:41 PM

Hi, I was reading about Cote-Rotie wines, apparently some of the most thrilling wines of the Rhone, made 100% from Syrah and supposedly of amazing depth and concentration - the catch is they're expensive (between $80 and $130 here in Ontario, e.g. E.Guigal, depending on the vintage ) - have any Chowhound wine lovers come across anything that approximates a Cote-Rotie but is more affordable? Thanks!

  1. jayt90 Feb 14, 2008 07:11 PM

    Further south, I look for Ch. la Fonselette, AOC Cotes de Rhone, adjoining Ch. Rayas.
    It is 100% syrah, and late harvested. I don't see it every year, but it is a Rhone well worth $50.

    1. d
      dinwiddie Feb 14, 2008 12:01 PM

      You are correct in saying that it is difficult to find a less expensive Cote-Rotie. However, there are a few producers that make them in the under $60 range. Domaine de Bonserine is one. The problem is, they are made is such small quantities that they are almost impossible to find. The one exception is the E. Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde. I still have a couple of bottles of the 1998 that are outstanding.

      1. oolah Feb 13, 2008 08:19 PM

        You can find wines produced by Barge and Burgaud in the $40-50 range in NYC. Not sure how that translates in Canada. Still not cheap, but cheaper than Guigal.

        Another idea: Crozes-Hermitage, St. Joseph and Cornas are three other reds from the Northern Rhone that are generally cheaper than Côte Rôtie. Those three are also made from syrah, although they won't taste exactly the same. They tend to mature a bit younger and be a little less complex, but they're still delicious wines that would be worth exploring.

        BTW, some Côte-Rôtie wines are not 100% syrah, but contain up to 10% viognier to balance them out.

        10 Replies
        1. re: oolah
          zin1953 Feb 14, 2008 09:47 AM

          Jack --

          oolah is quite right.

          I would opt for seeing out a Cornas, first, followed by a Saint-Joseph. Hermitage is just as pricey as Côte-Rôtie, and Crozes-Hermitage is a very good place to start, but I find both Cornas and Saint-Joseph to be more complex and rewarding than most Crozes-Hermitage.

          While Guigal is a very reliable negociant through most of their line, and outstanding with what are generally known as the "La-La's", I would generally opt for individual estates.

          One minor correction: a Côte-Rôtie is permitted to contain up to TWENTY percent Viognier, not 10, but they must be co-fermented.

          Every other red wine in the northern Rhône is 100 percent Syrah; Côte-Rôtie is the exception.


          1. re: zin1953
            oolah Feb 14, 2008 11:43 AM

            Wow, 20% huh? I've never encountered one with that high a percentage. Is it still red? Or does it start to take on the characteristics of a rosé at that point?

            Jack, if you choose a Crozes-Hermitage, a good producer is Graillot. Others can probably suggest a few names for Cornas and St. Joseph.

            1. re: oolah
              zin1953 Feb 14, 2008 01:11 PM

              Very definitely a RED wine -- no doubt. Big, full, tannic . . .

              Keep in mind that 20% is what is ALLOWED under the regulations which specifically govern appellation Côte Rôtie contrôllee. That doesn't mean that people actually use that much. Some might. Some may only use 5-10%. Others may opt to use none at all. It's up to each individual producer.


              1. re: oolah
                vanillagorilla Feb 14, 2008 02:48 PM

                I can't find my notes, or a website that backs this up, but I seem to recall that the viognier actually stabilizes the color of the syrah.

                1. re: vanillagorilla
                  maria lorraine Feb 14, 2008 04:09 PM

                  Yes. Adding a white wine to a red wine will "fix" the red color. A fairly common winemaking practice.

                2. re: oolah
                  mengathon Feb 15, 2008 12:43 AM

                  There you are, oolah.

                  I had the '05 Graillot recently that I had originally planned for Thanksgiving. Absolutely fabulous and just blew away the '05 Chave Silène. You're really in for a treat. I'm sad I only purchased 2 bottles last year. Now they're out everywhere in NYC.

                  Some notes under "What are you drinking now."


                3. re: zin1953
                  mengathon Feb 15, 2008 12:35 AM

                  Re: Cornas, St.-Joseph, and Crozes-Hermitage...

                  I definitely agree with that order in terms of complexity, though the OP might want note that the prices also go down in that same order. Crozes-Hermitage is also the likeliest to be accessible early. Yes, I know, I'm the biggest Crozes apologist there is.

                  Re: Northern Rhône reds with the exception of CR being 100% syrah..
                  A friend and I argued about this. I was always under the impression that everything is 100% syrah. Then she showed me these:




                  Unless there have been recent changes, someone really ought to notify these folks.

                  1. re: mengathon
                    zin1953 Feb 15, 2008 05:13 AM

                    I stand corrected! Thank you. It's odd to think I've been wrong about that for 39 years; I wonder if it's a change to the AOC regs, or if it's always been that way.

                    In the FWIW Dept., I prefer the "Vins Rhône" site ( http://www.vins-rhone.com/ ) over the "Wines France" site ( http://www.wines-france.com/ ), simply because of its more complete and thorough information. Then again, as a site dedicated exclusively to the Rhône, as opposed to French wine in general, you'd expect that.

                    For example, check out this: http://www.vins-rhone.com/pages/page.... and you'll see that not only must Saint-Joseph be at least 90 percent Syrah, as the site you cite says (sorry, I just had to do that!), but the remaining ten percent can be either Marsanne OR Roussanne, but not both. ;^) As with Côte-Rôtie, white grapes CAN be used, but it is not mandatory to do so.

                    For Crozes Hermitage, the minimum is 85 percent Syrah (again, it can be 100), but should white grapes be used in the red wine, those grapes can be Marsanne AND/OR Roussanne -- versus "either/or" for Saint-Joseph.

                    Again, thanks for the correction.


                    1. re: zin1953
                      mengathon Feb 15, 2008 09:24 AM

                      Actually, I'm more inclined to believe you than these sites.

                      I do believe these changes were recent. I vaguely recall when I was first getting into these wines looking them up on wiki and Wines-France and reading that they were 100% syrah. I could be very wrong though.

                4. re: oolah
                  ChefJune Feb 15, 2008 09:25 AM

                  <BTW, some Côte-Rôtie wines are not 100% syrah, but contain up to 10% viognier to balance them out.> The wine Guigal makes like ths, called "Brune et Blonde," is quite a bit less lostly than those that are 100% Syrah. (and very tasty, I might add!

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