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2011 Côtes du Rhône Villages, La Cadène Blanc, Domaine Chaume Arnaud
Domaine Chaume-Arnaud is owned and run by Valérie and Philippe Chaume-Arnaud, a young and vibrant couple with 13.5 hectares situated in and around Vinsobres, made up principally of Grenache (60%); Syrah (20%) with some ancient Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvedre (10%) plus Viognier and Marsanne (10%). Yields are kept low, all soil treatments are organic, and harvesting is done solely by hand. Most of the vines average 30 years old, going up to 65 for the Carignan in the Vinsobres cuvée.
Philippe looks after the vines while Valérie works the cellar, all under the watchful eye of her parents - her mother's method of tracking Philippe down is to drive literally into a vineyard and stand and scream at the top of her voice until he appears.
There are over 200 different grape varieties used in modern wine making (from a total of over 1000). Most lesser known blends and varieties are traditional to specific parts of the world.
Classified in 1937, Côtes du Rhône is an enormous appellation encompassing red, white and rosé wines covering an area of 40,300 ha and producing a crop that is 3 times larger than Beaujolais and almost as much as Bordeaux. Although this wine can come from across the Rhône region, more than 90% comes from the south. With the honourable exception of those produced by famous northern names like Jaboulet and Guigal, the finest examples are made in the south.
Red wine dominates, made with a minimum of 40% Grenache (except in the north where Syrah is allowed to be top dog) normally partnered by Syrah and/or Mourvèdre; another 18 varieties are also permitted. Typically light and fruity, the best examples can be rich, spicy and full-bodied. Almost all are best drunk young.
Quality varies from the very ordinary to the exceptional. Much is produced by cooperatives but the best come from the increasing number of individual estates and Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers like Beaucastel who produce premium entry wines here. White and rosé Côtes du Rhônes account for only 2% and 4% respectively, although both can be very good.