Straddling the Rhône river, stretching from Vienne to Valence and on down to Avignon, the Côtes-du-Rhône
appellation draws its personality from its extremely diverse soils, climates, and grape varieties. Originally established in 1937, the appellation was expanded in 2004 and now extends into 171 villages. There are five basic soil types here that can be divided into two groups. Clayey soils with pebbles, stony clay-limestone soils, and stony spread soils on the slopes provide a regular supply of water and radiate heat at night that was stored up in the stones during the day; these terroirs give very long-aging wines. Loess and sandy soils offer a more contrasted water supply and are better suited to growing whites, rosés, and light red wines.
Both the climatic conditions of this area and the nature of the soils drove the choice of grape varieties planted here. Each variety brings its own unique personality and contributes to the balance and harmony of the blend. Red Côtes-du-Rhônes are primarily Grenache, which gives fruit character, warmth, and roundness; Syrah and Mourvèdre offer spicy aromas, intense color, and solid structure that allow the wines to age; Cinsault brings finesse to the reds and gives fruity rosés and primeur wines. The great aromas and freshness of the whites produced here result from blending several varieties: Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette, and/or Viognier. At the urging of local vignerons (winegrowers) a new law was passed in 1996 to reinforce the typicity of Côtes-du-Rhône wines. It requires a minimum of 40% Grenache in red wines (with the exception of red wines produced in the northern part of the appellation, where Syrah dominates) and at least 80% of white wines must be comprised of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, and Viognier.
Many great producers offer excellent Côtes-du-Rhônes that tout the diversity of the appellation's grape varieties and terroirs: M. Chapoutier, Domaine Tardieu-Laurent, Maison Delas Frères, and E. Guigal.
Established in 1967, the appellation Côtes-du-Rhône Villages now extends into 95 villages representing four different departments: Ardèche, the Drôme, the Gard, and Vaucluse. The appellation covers 3,380 hectares (8,352 acres) of vineyards that produce mostly red wine.
The soils producing Côtes-du-Rhône Villages are the same as in the basic Côtes-du-Rhône appellation, but production regulations are more rigorous regarding climate and soil. Most notably, yields are lower, averaging just 34 hectoliters per hectare.
Wines grown in 18 recognized vineyard areas may carry the name of the vineyard along with the title Côtes-du-Rhône Villages on the label: Rochegude, Rousset les Vignes, Saint Maurice, Saint Pantaléon les Vignes, Cairanne, Gadagne, Massif d'Uchaux, Plan de Dieu, Puyméras, Roaix, Sablet, Séguret, Valréas, Visan, Chusclan, Laudun, Saint Gervais, and Signargues.
More informations on the website of the wines of Côtes-du-Rhône