Here are my favorite wineries of the Southern Côtes du Rhône in the upper price/quality segment. No doubt this is a subjective selection, but here are some basic criteria:
- Price/quality relationship
- Consistency over the years
- Free wine tastings
- Friendly service even when buying smaller quantities
Do not hesitate to visit the wineries. If your French is not up to speed, there is always sign language; the "vignerons" are used to it. The larger ones have staff speaking English. Remember you are in the Northern Provence. Here you find a rugged, beautiful landscape and honest, unpretentious people offering you one of the best bargains in the wine world.
What is the minimum quantity when buying directly? Most wineries allow you to walk out with just 1 bottle. They realize that you are on vacation here and view this as an opportunity of directly marketing their brand. They hope that you come back and buy a a couple of cases or go to your wine store back home and buy their wine. So don't worry, you are buying at retail prices anyway.
In case this selection of wineries is a bit strenuous for the budget, you can also cheat and buy a good selection of Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Village for around Euro 5 per bottle from the smaller producers. Take them home or have them shipped (if you are in Europe) and enjoy life, especially on cold winter evenings in front of your fireplace. This is what many of our friends in London and Paris do. If you want a good selection of the lesser known independant vineyards in the Southern Rhône Valley, click here. Or take a look at the Southern Côtes du Rhône wine cooperatives I recommend. Of course you might also try the less expensive wines of the wineries listed below.
Highly appreciated by wine experts for its very dark, elegant and full bodied wines with a subtle acidity and good aging potential. Real value if compared to the reds from Gigondas or Châteauneuf du Pape at double or triple the price. 20 private wineries operate the Caveau de Belvedere in Cairanne (Tel: 04 90 30 85 71), located next to the town hall (Mairie). A good selection of Cairanne wines including wine tasting; the place to go if you want to buy small quantities.
Domaine Daniel & Denis Alary, the son, Denis, took over from his father, Daniel, in the late 1990's. Using more modern wine making techniques he has gained a lot of recognition in France. Their top wine is the Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Jean de Verde. Try the 2003 and you will agee you get outstanding value for money from this unassuming winery. Fine bouquet with a hint of leather, taste of Provençal garrigue and earth, a complex, slightly tannic red. This is our No.1 CDR Village choice from Cairanne.
La Fons Estevenas, Rte. de Rasteau, 84290 Cairanne, Tel: 04 90 30 82 32
Domaine Brusset, one of the largest producers of Côtes du Rhône Village in Cairanne, now run by the founder's grandson, Laurent Brusset. Produces a wide range of wines, from reasonably priced Côtes du Rhône to very respectable CDR Village Cairanne and superb Gigondas. Their top wine is the Gigondas "Le Grand Montmirail" a wonderful, medium bodied red; slightly sweet bouquet of cherries, Provençal spices and earth. Slightly tannic, lots of alcohol; it will age well. Drink from 2007 on. Try also the 2004 vintage, which should be another good one if aged. The sales outlet is at the intersection of Rt.D8 (Cairanne - Vacqueyras) with Rt.D975.
Open Mo-Sat, 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM. Tel: 04 90 30 82 16.
Domaine Rabasse-Charavin, one of the leading wineries in Cairanne, much beloved by Robert Parker and Mike Tanzer, just to name two of our compatriots here. The domaine is run by Corinne Couturier since 1985, when she took over from her father. Vineyards are located in Cairanne, Rasteau and Violés. Traditional methods produce reds with a lot of character, alcohol and tannin, just the way the aforementioned gentlemen like it.
Open Mo - Fri, 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM - better call beforehand.
La Font d'Estevenas, 84290 Cairanne, Tel: 04 90 30 70 05
Domaine Marcel Richaud, they make wine the traditional way here. Try the 2003 Côtes du Rhône Cuvée La Garrigue and you know what we mean. Marcel Richaud, an avid hang-gliding enthusiast, is not interested in what international wine critics want of wines (lots of oak and alcohol). The 2003 CDR Village Cairanne has a bouquet of Provençal spices, a taste of garrigue and earth, good density and only the slightest tannic hint. Good to drink now.
Open Mo - Fri, 9-12 AM, 2-6 PM.
Route de Rasteau, 84290 Cairanne, Tel: 04 90 30 85 25
Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin, Cairanne, one of my favourite Southern Côtes du Rhône wineries, owned by the Alary brothers, Frederic and Francois. The vineyards have been in the family for 10 generations. Their wine making skills have been fine tuned over generations. 25 ha are planted with very old Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah stock. Read my tasting notes on the Cuvée Prestige, Haut Coustias and Réserve des Seigneurs.
Open Mo - Fri, 9-12 AM, 2-6 PM.
Rte. St Roman de Malegarde, 84290 Cairanne, Tel: 04 90 30 82 07.
Châteauneuf du Pape
This is the most famous wine area of the Southern Rhône Valley. Vineyards are located around the village and in the neighboring Bédarrides, Courthézon and Sorgues between Avignon and Orange. Besides Grenach Noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre, 10 more grape varieties can be used for the red. The wines are known for their full body and aroma and their long aging potential. This and the name recognition make these wines so valuable to the better heeled consumers in the US and UK.
Domaine Grand Veneur, consistently one of the highest regarded wineries, owned by Alain Jaume, who is handing over the winery to his two sons. Great reds with a lot of poise. Try the 2003 Les Origines, a very elegant red, faint bouquet of blackcurrant, ripe raspberry palate, nice acidity and tannins. Worth a couple of bottles for the cellar to drink years later.
Rte. de Châteauneuf du Pape, 84100 Orange, Tel : 04.90.34.68.70
Domaine de Marcoux, the two sisters Catherine and Sophie Armenier use bio-dynamic techniques and consistently produce highly acclaimed reds. Try the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape, a very pleasing bouquet of ripe black berries; full-bodied, smooth palate with a hint of garrigue. Keep in your cellar and drink from 2008 onwards. Or try their top red, the Châteauneuf du Pape "Vieilles Vignes", with a magnificent raisin and blackcurrant bouquet. Wonderful taste of fruits with a good balance of acidity, sweetness and enough tanin to last. Great investment if you can get it. Rue Alphonse Daudet runs North from Avenue du Général de Gaulle in the village.
Rue Alphonse Daudet, 84230 Châteauneuf du Pape, Tel: 04 90 83 52 19
Domaine du Père Caboche, a highly rated winery owned and managed by Nicolas and Emilie Boisson. The 70 hectares vineyard produces red and white Châteauneuf du Pape, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Côtes du Rhône and Vin du Pay de Vaucluse. The 2009 Côtes du Rhône red (80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Cinsault) is well balanced, with an appealing blend of earthy fruit and herbal flavors.
Route de Courthézon, 84231 Châteauneuf du Pape, Tel: 04 90 83 71 44
Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, run by by the brothers Daniel and Frederic Brunier and located in Bédarrides on the site of an old optical telegraph station. Classical and highly regarded Châteauneuf du Pape producer. Try the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape, very aromatic bouquet, full palate with a hint of blackberry, tannic and alcoholic; this one will last. Drink from 2008 onwards. One notch up is the 2003 "Les Origines", an elegant and full bodied Châteauneuf du Pape.
3 Rte. Châteauneuf, 84370 Bédarrides, Tel: 04 90 33 00 31
Red wines produced at Gigondas are mainly made from Grenache Noir (80% maximum) to which Syrah and Mourvèdre (15% minimum) are added. Gigondas wines generally are robust and with pretty rustic characters in which emerge aromas of red berries and spices. After Châteauneuf du Pape the most distinguished wine producing area in the Southern Rhône Valley.
Château Redortier is owned and run by Etienne de Menthon, who lives in tiny Suzette behind the Dentelles de Montmirail. He is a staunch supporter of traditional values - no oak barrels here. He produces one of the most elegant Gigondas and Beaumes de Venise. You can try any of his 2002 (excellent despite the rain), 2003 and 2004 Gigondas A.O.C. as well as his CDR Village and from Beaumes de Venise. Suzette is a short drive North from Beaumes de Venise, wonderful area.
84190 Suzette, Tel: 04 90 62 96 43
Château du Trignon has been in the hands of the Roux family since 1896; it is now managed by Pascal. The château and winery are located in Sablet close to Gigondas.
Open Mo - Fri, 9-11 AM, 2-6 PM.
84190 Gigondas, Tel: 04 90 46 90 27
Domaine de Cabasse, we love their reds, both the Gigondas and the Côtes du Rhône Villages - Seguret and Sablet. Owned by the Swiss Haeni family, winery and hotel/restaurant are located in Seguret (hotel and restaurant are on our respective recommendation lists). Winery is less known in the US and UK, but very respected on the Continent.
Open Mo - Fri, 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM.
Domaine de Cabasse, 84110 Séguret, Tel: 04 90 46 91 12
Domaine Les Goubert, known for its traditional and uncompromising Gigondas; our personal favorite. Its wines are described as full bodied, tannic, with a minerally finish, the right wine to accompany a hearty Provençal meat dish or to drink by the fireside in the winter. They also produce first class Beaumes de Venise.
Open Mo - Fri, 9-11 AM, 2-6 PM, just ring the bell.
1 domaine Les Goubert, 84190 Gigondas, Tel. 04 90 65 86 38
Domaine les Pallieres produces consistently a highly regarded Gigondas. The winery was bought in 1998 by the Bruniers (Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe - look under Châteauneuf du Pape) with financial support of importer Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, California.
Open Mo - Fri, 9-11 AM, 2-5 PM. Tel: 04 90 65 85 07
An ancient wine growing village originally specializing in natural sweet wines. As these gradually lost favor, red wine production became more important. In 1967 its wines became CDR Village and since 2010 they carry their own AOC label, AOC Rasteau. Rasteau reds have a strong aroma and spicy and rustic taste. More powerful than the gentler Cairanne Reds.
Domaine Bressy-Masson, a top wine grower in Rasteau. Try their top wine, the Cuvée Paul-Emile. The 2001 is superb but difficult to get nowadays, the 2002 unavailable and the 2003 wonderful, especially after some more ageing. Otherwise the 2003 CDR Village can be recommended. The Cuvée Paul-Emiles have nice floral bouquets, are very soft and rich on the palate with a moderate amount of tannin. Definitely candidates to take back home, will age well. Also try their Rasteau Rancio, a natural sweet wine, somewhere between a Port and Sherry. View my tasting notes here. From the Rasteau roundabout take Rt.D975 to Orange for 2 km, the winery is on the right side up on the hill (follow the sign).
Open Mo - Fri 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM. Route d'Orange, 84110 Rasteau, Tel: 04 90 46 10 45
Didier Charavin, one of the stalwarts in Rasteau. Didier and his wife (he runs the vineyards, she runs the business) produces classical CDR Villages at very reasonable prices. I have tasting notes on the 2004 Côtes du Rhône Village Rasteau, the 2003 Côtes du Rhône Village Rasteau Rouge "Prestige" and the Côtes du Rhône Village Rasteau Rouge "Les Parpaiouns".
On Rt.975 from the Rasteau roundabout to Vaison la Romaine, 200 m on the left.
Open Mo - Sat 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM. Rte Vaison, 84110 Rasteau, Tel: 04 90 46 15 63
Domaine de la Soumade is one of the top vineyards in Rasteau, owned and run by André Roméro, his wife and son. He offers three levels of CDR Village Cuvée: Normale, Prestige and Confiance; typical Rasteau CDR Villages, rustic and made to age. Now I have a bit of an issue here because even if I call in advance I can't get anyone to talk to other than what appears to be their cleaning lady. Why construct this new caveau if there is nobody there to attend to clients?. On Rt.D975 Rasteau to Orange, 2km after the new Rasteau roundabout on the left side.
Open Mo - Fri 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM.
Quartier St Martin, 84110 Rasteau, Tel: 04 90 46 13 63
Near Bagnols sur Cèze in the Gard Provençal, on the right side of the Rhône, this small village is well known for excellent Côtes du Rhône Village. In 1650 the first regulations were introduced in France to guarantee origin and quality and by 1737 all the wine casks from what is today the Gard Provençal had to be labeled with "C.D.R.". Only in the middle of the 19th century were the wine growing regions on the left bank of the Rhône added to this label and the Côte du Rhône became Côtes du Rhône.
Domaine Sainte Anne, established in 1965 and run by Jean and Alain Steinmaier, originally a vintner family from Burgundy, this is a consistent producer of highly regarded Côtes du Rhône wines.
Open Mo - Fri, 9-11 AM, 2-6 PM.
Cellettes, 30200 St.Gervais, Tel:04 66 82 77 41
Domaine Clavel owned by Denis & Françoise Clavel, well regarded Côtes du Rhône Village producer.
Open: Mo-Fr 9 AM - 7 PM, but better phone beforehand or try your luck ringing the bell.
Rue Pigeonnier, 30200 St.Gervais, Tel: (33) 466 82 78 90.
The Uchaux Massif is an ancient wine growing region between Bollène and Orange. They obtained the CDR Villages appellation in 1983 and were elevated to CDR Villages status in 2005.
The vineyards are located around 5 villages, one more picturesque than the other: Lagarde-Paréol, Mondragon, Piolenc, Sérignan du Comtat and Uchaux .
Château St.Estève d'Uchaux was originally a silkworm farm. This magnificent estate has a state of the art wine making facility and consistently ranks among the top producers. They host the Liszt en Provence classical concert series in July each year. Try the 2003 CDR Villages, Vielles Vignes, a lively and fresh red, red berries with hints of spice. On Rt.D172 Sérignan du Comtat to Piolenc, near intersection with Rt.D11.
Open Mo - Sat 9-12 AM, 2-6 PM.
Rte.Sérignan, 84100 Uchaux, Tel: 04 90 40 62 38
Historic village at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail. It received the A.O.C. Côtes du Rhône Decree appellation in 1937. It could add its village name to the CDR Village status in 1990 and received its own appellation - A.O.C. Vacqueyras in 1995. If you do not want to spend the money for a Gigondas, buy a Vacqueyras.
Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, the "Blood of the Stones" winery, one of the top vineyards of Vacqueyras. The father of this wine wonder is Serge Férigoule, who after working on the vineyard since 1979, took it over in 1993. Steady improvment over the next 5 years elevated this winery to the top level. Try the 2003 Cuvee Azalais, a clear but very dark red with an appealing aroma, pleasant taste of black berry fruit with a touch of acidity and tannins. Or try the 2003 Loupy. Never mind the horrible blood red building at the sharp left turn on Rt.D52 from Vacqueyras to Sarrians. His strength is in wine making not architecture. Ask yourself: why buy a Châteauneuf du Pape at double or triple the price?
Open Mo - Fri: 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM.
Rt. de Vacqueyras, 84260 Sarrians, Tel: 04 90 65 88 64
Domaine de la Monardière, owned by Martine et Christian Vache, a highly regarded smaller winery in Vacqueyras. Try the 2003 Reserve des Deux Monardes a rustic, earthy, full bodied red with great aging potential. Try also their Blanc, one of our favorite white wines of this region. Located near Rt.D8 between Vacqueyras and Violès, turn left 1 km before the Violès roundabaout.
Open Mo - Sat: 9-12 AM, 2-6 PM, Les Grès, 84190 Vacqueyras.
Tel: 04 90 65 87 20.
Domaine des Armouriers, one of the larger wineries in the region. Jocelyn Chudzikewicz, 3rd generation vintner died in a tragic accident in 1997, but her 2nd husband Patrick Gras continues her work. He produces a wonderful red with a lot of density and earth; try the 2003 AOC Vacqueyras Rouge Cuvée Signature.
Open Mo - Sat 8-12 AM, 2-6:30 PM.
Chemin Garrigues de l'Etang, 84260 Sarrians, Tel: 04 90 65 83 22
Domaine la Garrigue, Garigue or Garrigue is term for the scrubland vegetation of Southern France, leathery, aromatic evergreen shrubs like mints, laurels and myrtles. This vineyard, one of the largest in Vacqueyras, is owned by the Bernard family. They also own Les Florets, a hotel and restaurant on our recommendation list in Gigondas. You can get the 2003 Gigondas in Les Florets, they only produce very small quantities. But try their 2001, 2002 or 2003 Vacqueyras or even Côtes du Rhône, you will not be disappointed.
Open Mo - Fri: 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM.
84190 Vacqueyras, Tel : 04 90 65 84 60
There are some excellent CdR Villages and CdRs produced in the Drôme Provençale, the region a bit further up the Rhône, between Orange and Montélimar. Vinsobres, just south of Nyons, became a cru in February 2006. A bit further south, in St.Maurice sur Eygues, you find Domaine Viret, another distinguished producer.
Domaine Chaume-Arnaud in Vinsobres is a small vineyard owned and run by Valérie and Philippe Chaume-Arnaud, a dynamic couple. Soil treatment is organic, yields are kept low and harvesting is done by hand. Try the 2003 CDR Village, a nice spicy bouquet, slightly fruity taste with a hint of tannin. From Nyons on Rt.D94 to Ste.Cécile les Vignes, turn right about the 2nd exit to Vinsobres and take 3rd road (Les Côtes) left.
Open Mo - Fri: 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM.
Les Côtes, 26110 Vinsobres, Tel: 04 75 27 66 85
Domaine Viret in St.Maurice sur Eygues, between Ste.Cécile les Vignes and Nyons, a winery using cosmoculture methods. Regardless what you think about this concept they produce wonderful albeit alcohlic reds. Always worth a visit. Read my tasting notes.
Open Mo - Fri: 9-12 AM, 2-5 PM.
Domaine Viret, 26110 St. Maurice sur Eygues, Tel:+33 (0)4 75 27 62 77.