Foodies who like to sip a glass of wine at each dinner, maybe even at lunch, are always seeking bargains. They can find them in the Côtes du Rhône wines of France’s Southern Rhone Valley.
For usually under $20.
France’s Rhône river runs south from the Swiss Alps 500 miles to the Mediterranean Sea, bordered for the final 150 miles by the Rhône Valley. At the southern end lies most of the Côtes du Rhône area, which makes the tasty, wallet-friendly wines.
The Northern Rhône Valley, which is cooler, makes powerful, sometimes expensive reds, mostly from syrah; and whites from viognier, marsanne and roussanne.
In the South, Côtes du Rhône wines are mostly blends. Red wines permit 10 grapes, including grenache, syrah, mourvedre, carignane and cinsault. Whites permit grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette, bourboulenc and picpoul.
The classic red blend is called simply GSM, for grenache, syrah and mourvedre. Borne in the Rhone, it’s copied in major wine areas with similar climates areas around the world. California, Washington and Australia are major producers
The reds are fruity, food-friendly, medium-bodied, spicy everyday wines, sometimes called “pizza wines” or the “anti-cabernet sauvignon” wines. Grenache adds lightness, red raspberry flavors; syrah adds darker blueberry and plum flavors and a hint of smoky bacon fat; mourvedre adds tannin and structures.
They go well with weeknight foods, both white and red meats, meatloaf, casseroles and such. And many can be bought for around $15.
Côtes du Rhône white wines, a tiny percent of the area’s production, are light and crisp, with flavors of citrus and vanilla – excellent seafood wines.
▪ 2014 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc (white wine) AOC Côtes du Rhône (viognier, marsanne, roussanne grapes): floral aromas, flavors of ripe pears and minerals, heady and rich; $13.
▪ 2013 Cadaretta Winery “Windthrow” red wine, by the Middleton Family, Columbia Valley, Wash. (syrah, mourvedre, cinsault): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries, spice, vanilla and smoke, medium body; $60.
▪ 2015 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé, AOC Côtes du Rhône (grenache, cinsault, syrah grapes): pale pink hue, floral aromas, crisp and dry, with flavors of tart strawberries and herbs; $14.
▪ 2012 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Red, AOC Côtes du Rhône Rouge (red) (syrah, grenache, grenache, mourvedre grapes): aromas and flavors of black plums, herbs and chocolate, medium body, crisp; $15.
▪ 2014 Adelaida Vineyards “Anna’s White” blend, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (grenache blanc, viognier, picpoul blanc, rousanne): aromas of citrus and apricots, flavors of tart apples and limes, crisp and lively; $35.