The thing about Côtes du Rhône wine is, you never know what you’re going to get. This can either be a source of fun or frustration. Is it going to be easygoing and fruity, or bold and spicy?—medium-bodied, structured and tannic, or round and velvety? You can look at the alcohol content to get a clue—is it around 13.5% (most likely easygoing and fruity) or is it over 14% (chances are bold and full-bodied)? But, one never really knows until you open the bottle…
Typically, there’s three grapes that go into a red Côtes du Rhône, and that’s your classic GSM—Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre—but there are 21 grape varieties total, both red and white, that are allowed to go into the bottle. Some people took the time to set these requirements, so you must know that, broadly speaking, 40% Grenache is required and 15% must be Syrah and/or Mourvedre, and no more than 5% of the blend can be white grapes. As far as the rest of it—anything goes. Whee!… are we having fun yet?
For those who prefer something down the middle, there’s the 2014 LA SOLITUDE Côtes du Rhône from Famille Lançon. It’s an impressively made wine for the money, found for around $15 at Whole Foods. There’s very respectable pedigree behind it all—one of the notable families of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Lançons. The wine is very attractive on the palate—medium-bodied and the kind of appealing silkiness you would never expect at this price. With vibrant notes of slightly sweet red cherry, strawberry, dark raspberry, light potpourri and a hint of bay leaf, along with a nice balance of acidity, this is young, flavorful and cheerful stuff.
It’s a weekday pick-me-up from the doldrums of the daily grind French kinda wine. Just let it breathe a tad before partaking, and sneak in a couple of deep breaths yourself before delighting in the wine’s easy charms. –J.M.