Cotes Du Rhone

The Rhone Valley looks a great deal like a miniature Italy as it stretches 200 km (125 mi) from south of Lyon to just south of Avignon. The climate along this course varies from the Rhone's cold winters and warm summers to the classic Mediterranean where winters are mild and summers are hot.

The near constant sun combines with granite soil in the north, limestone in the south which produces Grenache, Syrah and Carignan which are used in red wines. It also produces Clairette, Ugni Blanc and Grenache Blanc for whites.

The Grenache dominates with 55% of the total red-making grape, while the Clairette makes up 35% of the white. 8-10 thousand winemakers, spread over 170,000 acres produce 450 million bottles of wine, 75 % is devoted to the northern full-bodied of Cote Rotie and the southern fruity reds of Chateauneuf du Pape.

Chartreuse de Valbonne in particular, enjoys a very different climate than the surrounding Mediterranean. Surrounded by forest atop horseshoe-shaped hills, there are many terraces composed of stony chalk and limestone. Some barrels from this area date back to the 13th century. This area produces Grenache Noir, spicy Syrah and Viognier Plump with the smell of violet and acacia honey.

The villages of Cairanne and Rasteau are considered among the best of the Cotes du Rhone villages and are distinct. Those seeking a more zesty wine will prefer Rasteau's tannic Domaine du Trapadis, while Cairanne's softer Domaine Catherine Le Goeuil -made from techniques dating back to the Middle Ages- is appreciated by the easy-going.

Grenach and Syrah grapes grow from the 11,000 acres of the Cotes du Rhone village's clay and limestone earth and produce 19 million bottles of medium body fruity reds.

The history of Gigondas wine can be traced back to the Romans, where advantage is taken of the Mediterranean weather and the red clay soil to produce an aromatic alternative to the expensive Chateauneuf du Pape. 3,000 acres are dedicated to producing the Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre which make 5.5 million bottles.

Vignobles Darriaud's Grenache Syrah is perfect for those that need a little shock of pleasure. This is a full-bodied red with earthy and plumy aromas. After aging for 3-5 years, chocolate tones combine with a peppery finish.

The slope of Chateauneuf du Pape, lying between Orange and Avignon was once the summer home of many Popes. The wine from this area is thick, powerful and a very rich red made from Grenache, Syrah, Clairette and ten other varieties. The soil on this 7,600 acres is quarts and sandy red clay and grows enough vines to produce 13 million bottles that can age as long as 20 years with aromas of red fruits, cinnamon and vanilla.

Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.

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