Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone 2011
Chateau de Saint Cosme is the leading estate of Gigondas and produces the appellation’s benchmark wines. Wine has been produced on the site of Saint Cosme since Roman times, evident by the ancient Gallo-Roman vats carved into the limestone below the chateau. The property has been in the hands of Louis Barruol’s family since 1570. Henri and Claude Barruol took over in 1957 and gradually moved Saint Cosme away from the bulk wine business. Henri was one of the first in the region to work organically beginning in the 1970s. Louis Barruol took over from his father in 1992, making a dramatic shift to quality, adding a négociant arm to the business in 1997, and converting to biodynamics in 2010.
Typically thought of as a baby Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the term Côtes du Rhone actually doesn’t merely apply to the flatter outskirts of the major southern Rhône appellations, it also includes the fringes of well-respected northern Rhône appellations. White can be produced under the appellation name, but very little is actually made.
The region offers some of the best values in France and even some first-rate and age-worthy reds. Red varieties include most of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape varieties like Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Counoise, as well as Carignan. White grapes grown include Grenache blanc, Roussanne and Viognier, among others.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, red Rhône blends originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre typically form the base of the blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. With some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in Priorat, Washington, Australia and California.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit and a plush texture. Syrah supplies dark fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy and earthy notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume and earthy flavor as well as structure and a healthy dose of color. New World examples tend to be fruit-forward in style, while those from the Old World will often have more earth, structure and herbal components on top of ripe red and blue fruit.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. These can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes, playing equally well with beef, pork, lamb or game. Braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork and squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the red Rhône blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.