A Bluffer’s Guide to wine: Côtes du Rhône

We often get sent new boozes to sample, many of which pass muster and adorn the pages of our New Booze section, but when a giant box of wines and tasty French fancies came a-knocking at TTG HQ we thought that it deserved a bit more space. We’ve got to admit, grape-based wine is one of the areas in which we are least familiar. We’re all over country wines like a rash – you’ll find many easy to make wines in our book, Brew It Yourself, (highlights of which include fig wine, oak leaf wine, and a ‘sounds hideous but is actually very nice’ mint wine) – but personally I’ve* never actually made anything from grapes. This is partly down to:

(a) An inability to grow grapes on the allotment without deer munching through the vines before they even reach knee height.

(b) A stubborn resistance to embrace grape-y wine after an unfortunate incident at the Frankfurt book fair, when a foreign licence meeting for Brew It Yourself almost ended in tears and fisticuffs. “You simply cannot make wine from parsnips” the prospective French publisher declared, pointing at our book and dismissing it with a sneer and wafty hand gesture. Anyway, we had the last laugh – stiff French opposition crumbled under the deadpan death stare from our agent, and a French language book eventually made it to print. If you stand on the Dover cliffs when the wind is blowing fair, you can still hear french vinologists guffawing into their glasses of Grenache…

But we digress…

Having gone a bit lockdown loopy over summer, stuck inside with not even a sniff of boozy press trips in the offing, we were more than happy to delve into the box-dwelling Gallic treats we were sent. It offered us the very essence of France without the need for a two week quarantine and an invasive, swab-based procedure. Inside we found:

A baguette (naturally)
Some duck pate
Candied walnuts
Beaufort cheese
Reblochon cheese
A truffle-infused brie
A coil of saucisson as big as a baby’s arm
Six bottles of wine, as follows…


M. Chapoutier Signargues 2014
A full-bodied, toe-tingling tannic treat, ripe with dark berries and a tickle of liquorice. We quaffed this with the rustic baguette, but held off on the supplied duck liver pate out of loyalty to our feathered freinds.


Cellier des Dauphins Reserve 2018 
A deep, ruby-coloured wine with smoky spice and notes of blackcurrant. We had no qualms demolishing this wine with the coil of saucisson. So much so we lost the label in the feeding frenzy and couldn’t tell you its origin, but we are pleased to report that was a delicious piggy treat right up until the last two inches, at which point the cat licked it and it had to go in the bin.


Domaine des Escaravailles La Ponce, 2018
A curveball white, made from Marsanne, Rousanne, Clairette grapes. Massively floral and complex. Candied walnuts and Reblochon cheese were gobbled with this.


Montirius La Muse Papilles, 2015
Truffle-infused brie was consumed with this grenache-heavy, rich red number. The truffle-infused brie climbed into our ‘top ten cheese list, and kept on climbing the more we drank/ate until reaching ‘peak brie’, at which point it was immediately demoted and currently sits just below gouda.


Domaine de Dionysos Jardin de Robert, 2016
A lovely glass of red wine. Terrifically tannic, with the taste of ripe hedgerow berries accompanying every sip. We paired this beauty with the pungent Beaufort cheese.


Domaines Vincent Moreau Sainte Cécile 
A blend of grenache and syrah grape go to make this dark, fruity treat. We ran out of posh french snacks by this stage, so had to pair it with a bag of beef Monster Munch, which kind of worked.


Our bluffers guide to Côtes du Rhône wines

Don’t get caught with your pantalons down when confronted with a fancy wine list – here’s our quick Côtes du Rhône crib sheet to revise and remember.

The Côtes du Rhône region straddles the Rhône river valley, from Lyon down to Avignon. At 86,000 acres it is the second-largest wine region in France. The region is split into two distinctive styles: Wines found in the north of the appellation tend to be dominated by the Syrah grape which are grown on rocky, terraced slopes. Head south and you’ll find juicy red and rose blends made from up to 21 varieties of grape.

Expect full bodied deep, fruity wines with rounded tannins. Côtes du Rhône wines made with a predominance of Syrah grape will be smoky and spicy. Look out for Côtes du Rhône ‘Villages’ wines, which tend to be complex and high in alcohol, making them perfect for ageing.

What not to say to a French sommelier
This wine list is way too fancy. Do you have anything made from parsnips?


Thanks to the fine folk at The Belleville Collective for sending the goods.


* Nick claims to have made a ‘great’ grape wine, but I’ve never seen any evidence. And if his pea pod wine is anything to go by, it’s a lucky escape…


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