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The Côte-Rôtie is the Oldest Vineyard in the Rhone Valley
The story begins in the 2nd century AD, with the people of Allobroges. Following their romanization, they are allowed to plant vines in the Rhone region. They will produce "Allobrogica", a drink whose name is also that of the vine. Genetic studies have demonstrated a kinship between this grape variety and the Syrah.
The first writings on the vineyard of Côte Rôtie and Ampuis date from the 6th century, making them the oldest evidence of the existence of a vineyard in this region.
In the Middle Ages, the ascent of the Rhône and Saône rivers for the marketing of wines was difficult due to the taxes applied to the border cities of the Kingdom of France.
In the 17th century, the discovery of a navigation route from the Loire to Paris is a revelation for the marketing of wines from the right bank of the Rhone Valley. They will acquire an undeniable reputation which will be worth tasting in England, Russia or Prussia.
Like all the world's vineyards, it did not escape the phylloxera crisis at the end of the 19th century. Following this crisis, the difficulties were only just beginning. The First World War and the industrialization of the Rhone Valley made labor scarce, even though it was essential to maintain and rebuild the Côtes Rôties vineyards. These events almost led to the disappearance of the vineyard. It was not until 1960, to see the rebirth of the Côte Rôtie vineyard and 2010 to see the pre phylloxera surface fully exploited again.
In 1940, the recognition of the AOC Côte Rôtie by the INAO and the enlargement of its appellation area in 1960 are elements of recognition of the quality of the wines. Today they have an international reputation that leaves every wine lover dreaming. Since 1928, the annual and unavoidable meeting of the Côtes Rôties wines takes place at the marché des vins d'Ampuis..
The AOC Côte-Rôtie is Based on 2 Very Distinct Terroirs
The Côte Rôtie appellation is located on the right bank of the Rhône valley. It is the northernmost cru of the Côtes du Rhône and extends over three communes: Ampuis, Saint-Cyr-sur-Rhône and Tupin-Semons. The area of production of the AOC is 319 ha with 73 lieux-dits classés. This vineyard is planted between 180 and 235 m above sea level, on steep terraces which earned it the nickname "Perched Gardens of the Côtes du Rhône". The geology of the appellation explains its separation between "Côte Brune" and "Côte Blonde".
In the north of the appellation, on the commune of Saint-Cyr-sur-Rhône and the north of the commune of Ampuis, the mother rock is micaschist which by decomposition will give clayey and stony soils, rich in iron. These more stable soils are of a very dark color and will thus confer to this area the name of "Brown Coast". They will be laid out in terraces, in other words in "Chaillées".
In the south of the appellation, between Ampuis and the commune of Tupin-Semons, the soils are clear due to their composition which earned them the name of "Côte blonde". The mother rock is mostly gneiss with a lower proportion of migmatites. It gives sandy soils with stony elements. They are often covered with loess which is the cause of soil recalcification. The maintenance of the soils is carried out by stone walls called "Cheys". It is on this part of the Côtes Rôties that are mainly planted with Syrah and Viognier. Indeed, the specifications allow a 20% planting of Viognier (white grape variety).
The climate is "Lyonnais", meaning that winters are temperate and summers are hot. The cold and dry north winds force the winegrowers to choose sheltered plots. The warm and humid south wind compensates for the prevailing north wind on this part of the Rhone valley. Annual rainfall is 800 mm/year.
What are the Organoleptic Qualities of a Côte-Rôtie?
The wines of this appellation are very different from one vine grower to another, from one parcel to another and from one blend to another. We find common characteristics that have earned them an international reputation.
Syrah brings a dense and deep ruby-colored ruby color. The complex nose confers aromas of black fruits, flowers and spices such as pepper and cloves. When Viognier is present we find notes of yellow fruits and white flowers. As the wine ages, the tertiary aromas develop to give smokier notes of coffee, cocoa, toast and candied fruit. In the mouth, we find this complexity but also the aromatic intensity of Syrah. The tannins are silky and the mouth presents a more fat side when Viognier is used.
How to Appreciate a Côte-Rôtie?
The intensity, elegance and finesse of these wines are perfect for grilled red meat, game and matured cheeses. The agreement with a 70% chocolate square is surprising but it is a real delight. These great wines require a little patience before the consumer can appreciate their complexity.
What are the great vintages in Côte-Rôtie?
On such demanding terroirs, it is not enough to have good weather and exceptional climatic conditions. You need rigor, discipline and patience. The vintages that have proved to be exceptional for this terroir are 1929, 1961, 1978, 1983, 1989, 1995 and 1999. Closer to us are 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Great estates in Côte-Rôtie
Maison Guigal:It is impossible to talk about the Côtes Rôties without talking about the maison Guigal. A must in the Côtes du Rhône, he has owned the Château d'Ampuis since 1995. House created in 1946 by E.Guigal in Ampuis, the domain is today in the hands of Philippe Guigal. The approach is simple, preserving the terroir and the environment which allows them to obtain these great wines. This house arouses all covetousness with its famous trilogy: "La Landonne", "La Mouline" and "La Turque ».
Domain Pierre GaillardThe one located in Malleval is also one of the headliners of the Côtes Rôties. On these three estates, he works in the most natural way possible with an inescapable respect of the raw material to obtain wines that reflect their terroir. He vinifies 2 wines of the AOC Côte Rôtie.
We could also mention the domaine Georges Vernay, Pierre Jean Villa, Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Gangloff, Clusel-Roch, Stéphane Ogier and many others.