Côte-Rôtie is one of the most famous of the northern Rhône appellations with some single vineyard cuvees now selling for the same prices at first growth Bordeaux. It is the northernmost outpost of the Syrah grape
Cote-Rotie translates as ‘roasted hillside’, as the south-facing slopes are exposed to maximum sunlight. The appellation covers 500 hectares with 200 hectares of vineyards stretching over 8 killometers. Vines have been planted here since Roman times although the appellation was only created in 1940.
Phylloxera devastated vineyards in the late 1800s and Côte-Rôtie’s fortunes remained in the doldrums for another 100 years - After the war a farmer would receive double the price for a kilo of apricots as for a kilo of grapes so vineyards were grubbed up and wine production became smaller every year.
It has only really been recognised as a top quality wine producing area since the 1970s with Guigal being the main impetus behind the revival..The two best slopes, Côte Brune and Côte Blonde, rise steeply behind Ampuis and overlook the river. The Côte Brune wines are much firmer and more masculine (the soils are clay and ironstone), whereas the Côte Blonde makes wines with more finesse and elegance due to the light, sandy-limestone soils. Côte Brune & Côte Blonde vineyards rise to 1000 feet with a gradient of 30-50 degrees.
The wines are made from the Syrah grape, however up to 20% of Viogner can be used in the blend. This adds finesse, elegance and floral characteristics to the wine. Viognier ripens more quickly than Syrah and the appellation rules stipulate that the grapes must be added to the fermentation rather than blended later. The best Côte-Rôtie are very deep in colour, tannic and spicy and need 10 years to evolve and develop.
There are nearly 60 official vineyards (lieu dit). Best-known are: Côte Blonde: La Mouline, La Chatillonne (Vidal-Fleury owned by Guigal), La Garde (Rostaing). Côte de Brune :La Viaillere (Rostaing), La Landonne (Guigal, Rostaing) and La Turque (Guigal).
Styles vary from heavily extracted tannic wines which need many years to soften through to lighter, supple and less structured wines which do not require extended bottle ageing. The most famous wines of Côte-Rôtie are Guigal’s three single vineyard cuvees – La Mouline, La Turque and La Landonne. These are aged in new wood for 48 months and demand for them amongst connoisseurs and collectors is huge leading to prices sometimes comparable to Bordeaux first growths.
Recommended Producers: Guigal, Gerrin, Rostaing, Ogier, Burgaud
Best Vintages: 2006,2005,2004, 2001, 1999, 1991, 1990, 1985