Fresh Like the Rhone

rhone photo

Sunshine is abundant and warms the ground. Summers are hot and dry and the Mistral wind blows through the region and cleans up the air. This is the kind of Mediterranean climate where the vines destined to producing Côtes du Rhône wines are growing. Located between Vienne and Avignon, the appellation covers some 30,000 hectares and includes 171 communes where the wines are made. Despite the southern climate present in the whole region, numerous microclimates coexist, giving some 34 different varieties the possibility of flourishing on a multitude of different soils. This is what gives birth to a whole range of wines with diverse tones ranging from opulent to elegant and from warming to refreshing.

With spring in the air and summer just around the corner, easy-drinking wines with a good dose of freshness are a particularly great way to raise a toast to brighter days. The region’s rosés are a perfect apéro, especially when they come from more northern parts of the appellation like the villages of Valréas or Visan, where elegance and finesse are definitely part of the signature. While many varieties are authorized, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre are generally the core elements of these rosés. They offer great pairings with summer salads, ceviches and salmon or tuna tartares. Recommended serving temperature is between 8 and 10°C, to optimize their thirst-quenching qualities.
While Côtes du Rhône wines show amplitude and a rich texture, a pleasant touch of bitterness on the finish also gives the wines a lovely mouthwatering quality. There is a long list of white varieties available, and blends vary significantly from one area and one producer to the next. But as we’re focusing on freshness, good examples of this character in white Mediterranean varieties come from the likes of Bourboulenc, with its floral aromas; Clairette, with its finesse, notes of linden and peach and slight bitterness, as well as Ugni Blanc with its bright acidity. With its rocky soils made of limestone scree, Côtes du Rhône Villages Laudun is a distinctive example. Clairette is a big part of local blends and the wines showcase remarkable elegance and minerality, with a chalky texture. It’s a natural match for shellfish such as scallops or delicate fish such as halibut. Recommended serving temperature is the same as for rosés: it moderates the warming sensation of alcohol levels that are often between 13 and 14%.
Freshness is also a signature of many reds. Simple, fruity and easy-going red Côtes du Rhône, most often made from a high percentage of Grenache, are a great match for ratatouille and grilled chicken. They often benefit from being served with a slight chill, around 15-16°C. You can easily cool them down by setting them in a bucket of ice and cold water for about twenty minutes. For more complexity and depth, as well as elegance, Côtes du Rhône Villages Séguret, an appellation located just below the beautiful Dentelles de Montmirail, is worth seeking out. The wines are mainly made of Grenache, complemented by Syrah and Mourvèdre. The diversity of soils (the fertile terraces of the Ouvèze valley, the clay-limestone hillsides surrounding the village, and the poorer, drier soils found on some arid, steep slopes) allow the vignerons to create complex, balanced and refreshing wines.
Although the Côtes du Rhône are wrapped in a generally warm and dry climate, the wide range of terroirs and grape varieties gives the vignerons opportunities to create wines that have a sunny disposition, but are also fresh and easy-drinking. The list of appellations that show this character is much longer than what is mentioned here. To explore Rhône appellations in all their nuances, visit the Côtes du Rhône website at Detailed information will allow you to find the wines you need to carry through the hot days of the coming months with a splash of freshness. Santé!


Rhone logo