Monday, February 7, 2011

Côtes du Rhône blind in VT Feb 2011

One of the great problems with wine is a lack of information to base one's purchases on. The Côtes du Rhône stands as a classic example of that. The appellation of Côtes du Rhône includes many different climates and soils and therefore plenty of variety in grapes grown and styles of wines. Add to that the Côtes du Rhône Villages, of which there are currently 17 villages allowed to append their name to the CdR (Côte du Rhône) name and usually charge a bit more for the wines.

The reason I am writing this now is two-fold, to help me flesh-out a new wine article, and because of a recent blind tasting I was subjected to. As an Advanced Sommelier and Master Sommelier Candidate (means I'm allowed to attempt the exam every few years), I am often used as a sort of party entertainer. People will bring foiled wines and test my abilities. So while in Southern Vermont for a ski this past weekend I was subjected to a foil covered wine courtesy of a few Mount Snow Patrolmen. My first attempt was the right one, but naturally I waffled and offered some other possibilities. I thought the wine in question was a Grenache based Côtes du Rhône. It turned out to be a 2007 Coudoulet du Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône from the famed Château du Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Coudoulet vineyard is across the road (A7) from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region, hence the Côtes du Rhône designation. But the wine is produced from the same grapes (Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault) as found in many CdP's (short for Châteauneuf-du-Pape as I am tired of typing it). As a good wine professional, I was also prepared for the evenings dinner with some wines I brought along, one of which was also a Côtes du Rhône. But the 2008 Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône was produced in a much different style, Saint Cosme is known for the wines it produces in the northern Rhône as well as the Southern Rhône (where Châteauneuf-du-Pape hails), and while their CdR is from vineyards near CdP, the wine is 100% Syrah (only red grape allowed in Northern Rhône).

In summary, two very different wines and at that, two very different prices. It turns out that while the Coudoulet was very good (maybe a bit young still), the Saint Cosme was easily as good and for my palate and some other guests, the better wine that particular evening. Price for the Saint Cosme; about $14, price for the Coudoulet du Beaucastel; about $30. I personally thought both wines were well worth upwards of $24. So the name of the Beaucastel and the vintage being the exceptional 2007 makes one pay a bit of a premium, nothing wrong with that as long as the buyer understands such as well as the difference between the styles of each wine. Both showed notes of spice and dark berries but the Saint Cosme had a bit more balance and black pepper notes that Syrah shows when the grapes don't get too ripe. Given that the Coudoulet has a good amount of Mourvédre, it too was nicely balance but with more weight and alcohol notes surrounding the spice and fruits.

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