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What's new in iJamming!...
Thu, Nov 14, 2002
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
Featured wine region 2:
The Geography
The Villages
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.

Now with updated reviews
Featured wine region 1:
Featured wine web site:
What wine fans and music devotees have in common.
Featured wino: TIMO MAAS
Featured party wine:
CLINE's Cotes d'Oakley
And how Cline does it
Featured wine web site: VIGNOBLES BRUNIER
The full iJamming! Contents
the iJammming! featured wine region:
Côtes du Rhône
A treasure trove of inexpensive excellence
PART 2 (Click here for PART 1)
There are several hundred different bottles of Côtes du Rhône available out there, which makes any kind of conclusive tasting near impossible. (Though it might be good fun!) So while I do have some personal favorites to recommend, the following suggested steps are intended to steer you, wherever you may live, towards finding the better examples of one of the wine word's most superb bargains.
1) . . . Trust the best négociants.

Because they buy grapes from all over and blend the final results, and because they're great wine makers to begin with, the top three Rhône négociants - Marcel Guigal (in red, white and rosé form), Paul Jaboulet Aîné (the Parallèle "45" label), and Michel Chapoutier ("Belleruche") - offer some of the most perennially reliable Côtes du Rhônes, especially in difficult vintages.

In great vintages like '98 and '99, they should have no excuse for producing anything less than very good wines, and your local store should have no excuse for not stocking one brand or more. All retail for $6-$12 depending on location, with Jaboulet's generally a buck or two cheaper than its rivals. I haven't tasted Chapoutier's from 98, Jaboulet's is well-balanced if a little soft, and Guigal's, with a 50% Syrah base, is simply exceptional. Because Guigal subjects his wines to a lengthy ageing in oak, the 1998s only made it to market late in the summer of 2000, at the time many other producers were moving on to the '99s. And with 70,000 cases of it out there, you have plenty time to stock up on this greatest of vintages. Other notable négociants from the north include Vidal-Fleury (owned by Guigal), and Jean-Luc Colombo, whose Les Abeilles '98 was perfectly attractive at $8; Barton & Gustier bottle from all over France but have been getting raves for their '98 southern Rhônes. In the south, Tardieu-Laurent are of such repute that their Côtes du Rhône fetches close to $20, whereas the enormous, 140-year old Caves des Papes from Châteauneuf du Pape produces an individually-numbered (don't be flattered; there's over 350,000 of therm out there) Heritage for around $9 and a more basic bottling for $7. In my search for a bad '98, I even bought a bottling by the king of Beaujolais, George Duboeuf, for $6 and found it a well balanced quaffer. These négociants may not be able to claim an individual style, but they know how to get results.
2) . . . Trust the best importers.

This advice extends way beyond the Côtes du Rhône. A handful of firms import some of the best everyday wines from France to the States, among them Vineyard Expressions , Eric Solomon, Kysela-Fils, Louis-Dressner, Robert Kacher, Kermit Lynch and Neal Rosenberg. Print out these names and look for them on the back of a bottle (as on the below Côtes du Rhônes). They're a guarantee of quality, especially when combined with the following. . .
3) . . . Trust the wine maker's address.

Almost every estate of note in Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Lirac also owns vineyards classified as mere Côtes du Rhône. Given these producers' international reputations and high personal standards, it makes sense that their Côtes du Rhônes are often better value and are certainly more suitable for immediate drinking than their primary wines. So look for one of the aforementioned towns on the wine-maker's address at the foot of the front label. Among my favorite examples from 1998 were Château Mont-Redon and Domaine Grand Veneur (from Châteauneuf du Pape), Domaine Les Goubert and Domaine Brusset (Gigondas); I heard sensational reports on Domaine de la Mordorée from Lirac and the Vacqueyras-based Domaine La Garrigue's 'Cuvée Romaine.' A full list of worthy candidates would be several web pages long, so enjoy what candidates you come across.

Above: Three great Côtes du Rhônes, whose producers are based in, respectively, Gigondas (left, Château Saint Cosme), Châteauneuf-du-Pape (centre, Château Mont-Redon) and Lirac (right, Château de
4) . . .Support a co-op.

75% of Côtes du Rhônes are produced by co-operatives, some of which are old-fashioned with antiquated machinery churning out unpleasant wines for the peasants, while others have made significant investments in equipment and are producing wines to rival the best local estates. Co-ops are usually de- noted on the label with the words "Les Vignerons de. . ."; they get the cachet of also printing the words "mis en bouteille a la propriete" ("placed in the bottle at the property"), often mistaken as a stamp of quality. Some Co-Ops in the Côtes du Rhône heartland have very good local reputations, though the examples that generally make it overseas seem to be mass-produced, coming in odd-shaped bottles with elaborate but uninformative labels (See "don'ts #7 & 8" below). One exception is the unfiltered, 100% Syrah by Domaine D'Andézon (c. $11), a co-op from the town of Estezargues south of Avignon. Made from exclusively old vines and bottled unfiltered, it's a gorgeously sweet and fruity wine with an almost teeth-staining inkiness, ripe as anything and capable of several years cellaring - though I know I won't be able to hold out that long.
5) Trust the best individual estates.
Somewhere between the co-ops, the négociants and the estates from the region's Crus, are dozens of wine makers for whom the production of Côtes du Rhône wine is their whole livelihood. Discovering which are the best can be a matter of trial and error, though checking the importer's name and some production information in English is a useful start. For example, I just picked up and enjoyed a nice mid-quality bottle of '99 Côtes du Rhône from Domaine de Coste Chaude, encouraged by an appropriate price ($10) at a good store (Shawn's on Seventh Ave in Brooklyn), and especially by the involvement of Robert Kacher as importer and some helpful labeling information ("The blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah is harvested late in the season to obtain maximum maturity. Bottled unfiltered.") The list of universally acclaimed producers is small enough to scribble down: it includes Cros de La Mure (who produced one of the best 98s I tasted, easily capable of five years in the cellar), Domaine Gramenon (much softer, with a number of labels in steadily increasing price), Domaine de la Réméjeanne, and Domaine du Vieux Chêne.


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