The vast appellation of Côtes du Rhône produces enough wine to fill 59 Olympic swimming pools per annum yet is remarkably qualitatively consistent and successful on both domestic and export markets. Producing fruit-accentuated, fairly full-bodied, predominantly red wines that are good value for money it has been hugely successful in providing consumers with exactly what they want.
The Meffre family's white 'Domaine Saint Gayan' Sablet is a relative rarity, with white wines accounting for just 6% of regional Côtes du Rhône production. Made from a blend of Viognier, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Clairette and Grenache it has citrus and stone fruit scents and flavours and a smoothly-textured palate with a fresh, dry finish. Their excellent, red Côtes du Rhône, from a Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blend, is similarly superb and is packed with juicy garrigue berry fruit supported by supple tannins. Completing the range is a brick pink rosé redolent of redcurrants and raspberries offset by a fresh acidity.
Yvès Chéron is a seasoned wine-maker whose 'Pascal Frères' négociant bottling of Côtes du Rhône has justifiably developed a loyal following. Made from a traditional blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault it has a bouquet of dark autumnal fruit and mid-weight peppery palate with fine-grained tannins. The current 2016 vintage is à point for drinking now with steak frites or a mushroom risotto.
Jean-Louis Chave, of Hermitage fame, also produces a cracking négociant Côtes du Rhône evocatively named 'Mon Coeur'. Made from mature Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah rootstock from the hill villages of Vinsobres and Cairanne it has enticing black fruit aromas and a core of sleek stewed plum and damson characteristics. It is readily approachable from release and will cellar well for 3-5 years.
Based in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Boisson family are renowned for their full and fruity red wines. Their 'Petit Caboche', made from an innovative mixture of Caledoc, Syrah, Marselan and Egiodola is only a humble Vin de Pays but punches well above its weight with bags of blackberry and dark cherry fruit and subtle spice and wild herb notes. It's a versatile crowd pleaser that amply illustrates the value to be found in the Southern Rhône.
Christine Vernay's 'Sainte Agathe' is a pure Syrah from the Northern Rhône and a relative bargain if you consider the current cost of Côte-Rôtie. It exhibits her signature glossy forest fruit hallmarks deftly interwoven with ripe tannins and a fresh acidity. Already hard to resist, it will support up to 5 years bottle age.