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Côtes du Rhône, the eponymous red wine of the Rhone, is a tricky bird to understand. The appellation includes more than 170 villages in an area covering 125 miles along the Rhone River south from Saint-Cyr-sur-le-Rhone to Avignon. Obviously this means the quality arc on the resulting wines can be extreme. So can the price. There are some incredible Côtes du Rhône wines for $15 and terrible examples for twice that amount, although more often than not it is the other way around. And so it can be challenging to find authentic examples that deliver, especially in the lower price range. One main reason is simple; the French tend to keep these wines to drink themselves! But lucky for you and just in time for fall, we have our personal favorite, back today in a dynamic vintage, the 2016 Domaine La Manarine Côtes Du Rhône.
Domaine La Manarine, an organic estate in the southern Rhone, was founded by Gilles Gasq in 2001. Gilles had worked with Paul Jeune, owner of Domaine Monpertuis, the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer before starting his own winery. Gilles started small but year after year has expanded his land under vines to the 82 acres he now farms using organic methods. The vineyards are mainly located within the commune of Travaillan, a plateau northwest of Orange in the southern Rhone. This area, known as the “Le Plan de Dieu” is unique in soil type: A deep layer of 60% hard limestone “galets” (large smooth pebbles). These stones, in addition to the hot, dry Mediterranean climate, with its rainstorms in late August and long days of sunshine are ideal for growing the main grape of the region, Grenache Noir. In addition to the organic practices in the vineyards, cellar work is also natural, with only indigenous yeasts, no fining and only light filtration when needed.
2016 was ideal in the Southern Rhone, with warm dry days balanced by cool nights all through the summer. The perfect conditions went well in September and October, giving the grapes plenty of hang-time to reach full phenolic ripeness. Gilles, with 15 vintages under his belt, was able to make, in my opinion, the best Cote du Rhone of his career.
Classically spicy and full-bodied, this 100% Grenache Côtes du Rhône is aromatically Mediterranean, with dense red fruits and a satisfying finish, one of the most pleasurable wines for the price we offer.