On these slopes, the vines are planted on stony terraces and the sunlight is important. Côte Rôtie is a wine produced exclusively in red and to produce it, only two grape varieties are allowed, Syrah which must not exceed 80% during blending and Viognier which must not exceed 20% during blending. For ageing (the time spent in the vat), the AOC standards do not specify a length of time, generally it takes 1 to 3 years. These wines have a very high ageing potential, between 5 and 20 years or more.
The Côte-Rôtie production area has an interesting history. Indeed, it is considered as the oldest vineyard in the Rhone Valley. It is also described as the first site of vine cultivation in Gaul. Located 30 km from Lyon, this area is worth a visit.
History of the Côte-Rôtie appellation
The Côte-Rôtie appellation designates a red wine produced in the communes of Ampuis, Saint-Cyr-sur-le-Rhône and Tupins-et-Semons. However, it is more focused on Ampuis. During Antiquity, the commune was a Greek and then Roman trading post.
The fame of Côte-Rôtie wines began in the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, it has progressively grown stronger. The estates are located on the steep slopes of the Côte Blonde and Côte Brune, benefiting from a favourable south/south-east orientation. According to the legend, these appellations would be due to the two heirs of the vineyard who were blond and brown.
The AOC Côte-Rôtie is located on a mica schist land regularly covered by scree. The terroir is composed of stones slightly buried under sandy and granular elements. The soil is therefore hard and acidic.
The appellation benefits from a semi-continental climate with a Mediterranean influence. Thanks to its southern exposure, it benefits from mild and rainy autumns. Summers are hot and sunny. On the other hand, the winters are quite cold. The crossing breeze only accentuates this feeling.
What you need to know about Côte-Rôtie appellation
Côte-Rôtie wines are made mainly from the Syrah grape variety. The latter is mainly used in the northern part of the production area. Once processed, syrah produces high quality reds, very colourful wines rich in tannins.
Worked with care, the Syrah gives wines with exceptional ageing potential. Sometimes, it can be blended with 20% Viognier, a white grape that is also a local variety (both are fermented). Thanks to this vine, the reds of Ampuis are fine and complex with a touch of femininity. They are also very aromatic.
A visit to Domaine Pierre Gaillard in Malleval will allow you to get to know the Côte-Rôtie wines better. The owner of the premises will be happy to share his knowledge with you. And if you pass through Tain l'Hermitage, stop by the Ferration Père et Fils cellar. It is known for its quality wines, especially the Côte-Rôtie. During your visit, you will learn more about where and how grapes are processed.
And in order to remind you every single step of your journey, make a purchase of Ampuis wines in each vineyard.
How to recognize the Ampuis appellation
The reds of Côte-Rôtie have a garnet colour when bottled. As the years go by, it shows a more orange hue. These wines release rich and varied scents. In their early youth, they have aromas of black fruits such as blackberry, blueberry and blackcurrant and sweet spices. Later, they have an aroma of cooked or candied fruits.
Wines made from a blend of Syrah and Viognier have floral notes that are close to violet. When tasted, Syrah-based drinks are fine and elegant. Over time, they become mellow and round on the palate. The ones that are the result of a blend are fatter.
After a purchase of Ampuis wines, ask about the right food and wine pairings. Know that they are delicious with munster or livarot, terrines or pheasant and duck. Turkey with chestnuts, lamb navarin or pigeon with spices are recipes to try with Côte-Rôtie reds.