The Taste of France in my London Garden – Côtes du Rhône Villages
A few years ago I spent some time travelling through the part of France where Côtes du Rhône wines come from. I travelled from Avignon through Provence, Ardèche and Gard learning about the terroir that makes the wines of Côtes du Rhône so special and even having a go at making my own blend of Côtes du Rhône Villages at Château Maucoil in the Southern Rhône. This year I’m staying at home, but doing my best to relive some of those special memories.
What better way than with an al-fresco feast in the garden to accompany some of the delicious wines from the region. The people from Côtes du Rhône sent a few bottles of wine and a abundance of French food to enjoy with them. Enough, as it turned out for two suppers in the garden and then for a third evening when the weather turned enjoying grilled lamb with tarragon butter.
My first wine was Domaine de Mourchon Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages. It’s a classic Côtes du Rhône wine, although the vineyard itself, in the heart of the Vaucluse region of Provence, is owned by a Scottish family who established it in 1998.
t’s about 40 minutes around the mountain from Brantes, a tiny village set on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, where I went foraging with Les Aventurières du Goût and then helped to make a whole feast of vegetarian dishes. Of course, the wine brought back memories of a wonderful day in Mont Ventoux. Made with 65 % Grenache, 25 % Syrah, 10% Carignane, it’s a lovely soft and rounded red wine which worked well with the saucisson aux noisettes, although rather less well with Jamon persillade with whole grain mustard. Another time, I might try this with a rich meat casserole or with roasted vegetables. But, the summer fruits notes, raspberry and blackberry with a hint of liquorice made this a beautifully versatile wine that I happily continued drinking through the evening
The following evening I made the most of the cheeses paired with the Côtes du Rhône rosé. I was surprised by this wine, l’Ambigu 2019 Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Roaix which was fresher and lighter than I’d expected. It’s a blend of Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Grenache Noir with tangy cherry notes. The name Pique-Basse comes from the local name for the area, ‘piquebas’, which roughly translates as ‘low podium’. It’s a winery that produces organic wines; ‘Côtes du Rhône Villages Roaix’ AOP (Protected Designation of Origin), in red, white, and rosé wines, as well as the more prestigious Cru Rasteau vintage red wine.
By the time I opened the third bottle, the weather had changed and my picnic food was finished. Instead, I cooked lamb with tarragon butter for supper. The l’Amandine was a deliciously silky and raspberry flavoured red wine with a fresh finish. It’s another Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages so from the same village as the Domaine de Mourchon.
Listening to the most recent podcast from the 21 stories of the Côtes du Rhône Villages, I was reminded by the hosts, Joe Wadsack and Matt Walls, of this rather unique hierarchy. Côtes du Rhône Villages without the name of the village exists for wines produced within the AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation. But, around 20 communes are given permission to add their names to the appellation because their product is regarded as higher quality, more expressive of the regional style. All the red wines are based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, with Cinsault, Carignan and a whole raft of other grapes permitted to the blend.
The podcast reinforced my love of these very drinkable wines. It’s important to remember that the region is home to some major appellations (Châteauneuf-du-Pape for example). But, the price of a Côtes du Rhône Villages will be a fraction of some of the other Rhône wines. For me, that makes the perfect wine to enjoy at home with friends. You get all the finesse of French wines without the (sometimes) hefty price tag. And you can afford to enjoy these wines regularly – if not every day.
If you’d like to know more about the wines of Côtes du Rhône Villages I can highly recommend the 21 Stories of the Côtes du Rhône Villages podcast.