Côte Rôtie

Côte Rôtie or "Roasted Slope" is a red wine appellation in the far north section of the Northern Rhône, whose revival was started in 1970s by Marcel Guigal and his famed single vineyard wines but whose history starts as far back as the Romans. Settled in the near by town of Vienne it is believed this could be where they first grew vines in Gaul. Plantings have expanded from 70ha in the 60s to well over 200ha today. The vines are east and south east facing, planted on sheer slopes of schist. The vineyards are so treacherously steep that winches are in use in parts. The north wine can whistle through the valley quite visciously here so vines are staked to hold them in place. Theoretically there are two dinstinct zones: The Côte Blonde, where there are ligther yellower soils producing floral feminine wines and the Côte Brune, where darker, heavier soils predominate making for bigger, muscular, savoury wines. However these distinctions are in reality rather blurred both zones offer too much of a marble of soils to allow such great generalisation, a furthermore vine age, winemaking technique and the components within the blend can further complicate things: Growers use varying degrees of new oak or none at all, de-stalk or ferment with whole bunches, can be lightly or heavily extracted and either make a wine 100% from the red Syrah variety or can include up to 20% of the white Viognier in the blend. Wines with a blend of the latter, even in very small proportions, are very distinctly lighter in colour with pungent floral aromas. A classic Côte Rôtie will contain the tiniest proportions of Viognier or none at all, betray ripe red and black fruit flavours together with a distinct peppery spice and a savoury sap or undergrowth quality. The wine would ordinarily be less heavy and rich than those from the due south facing sunbaked Hermitage hill and but typically be more refined and have higher acidity owing to the acidic schistous soils. A good Côte Rôtie should need 5-7 years after the vintage before being approached and age well for a further 15 years at least. In addition to Guigal some excellent examples are made by Clusel-Roch, René Rostaing and Jamet.

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