Wine Wednesday: Côte Rôtie

Happy Wine Wednesday, everyone! It’s that time of week again for the next stop on our educational adventure through all things Rhône. This week’s topic: Côte Rôtie.

Côte Rôtie is a wine AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée - a system for defining French products by the region they come from) in the northern Rhône region that produces 100% red wine. The name Côte-Rôtie can be loosely translated to “the roasted slope” as the vines in this region are planted on steep slopes and receive long hours of warm sunlight.

Photo by: Courtesy Pierre-Jean Villa

Côte Rôtie is the northernmost appellation in the Rhone Valley located on nearly 500 acres of hillsides on the river’s right bank, a few miles from the capital city of Lyon. The vineyards here are hillside, with heights up to 1,150 feet and gradients up to 60 degrees, making them some of, if not the steepest, vineyards in Europe. The region is small, therefore producing a small amount of wine (only about 80,000 cases per vintage). Due to the south facing hillside geography, the region is not greatly impacted by the northerly winds, and has a temperate continental climate. The winters are mild, the rainfall is regular, and the summers are hot. “Drying” southerly wind brings a “Mediterranean” influence to the region.

Côte Rôtie is generally known for being one of the most important French appellations for Syrah, though a tiny bit of Viognier is grown here, as well. These are the only two varietals permitted under Côte Rôtie AOC. Côte Rôtie wines are known for their elegance, fine structure, and complex aromas. Up to 20% of Viognier may be added to these wines by law, which often adds balance, elegance, and aromatics to these wines. Wines from this region are very bold, due to the low yielding, older vines, which produce intensely flavorful concentrated fruit.

Syrah grapes. Photo by Chrisada Sookdhis.

Côte Rôtie’s have distinctive aromatics, often including green olives, raspberry, violets, black currant and meaty bacon. Flavors on the palate include olive, bacon fat, black and white pepper, and varying degrees of red and black fruits. Well made wines can be aged for 10-15 years, and will display notes of leather, forest, coffee, and tobacco.

Food pairing with Côte Rôtie is very versatile. The wine goes well with grilled beef, lamb, game, duck, braised foods, and stews, and French onion soup.

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