The white wines can have a soft, round texture, delivering flavors like green apple or pear, stone fruits, minerality and a refreshing crispness.
These wines, in all three colors, are almost always blends of more than 20 allowable grape varieties. Reds and rosés are often based on grenache with syrah, mourvedre, cinsault and carignan (among others). Whites can be a combination of mainly marsanne, roussanne, viognier and grenache blanc.
About three out of every four bottles produced in the Rhone Valley are Cotes du Rhone wines, or Cotes du Rhone-Villages wines, a designation limited to wines produced in 18 specific villages, which can also be included on the label.
The low prices on these bottles allow for experimentation and discovery. Below are notes from a recent tasting of Cotes du Rhone wines. They are grouped by style (red, white and rosé) and listed in ascending order, according to price. Of the 12 wines, 10 of them ring up for $16 or less.
2014 Ferraton Pere & Fils Samorens Cotes du Rhone. This grenache-dominant blend offers raspberry and other red fruits along with white pepper, blueberry and spice. $14
2015 Domaine La Garrigue Cuvee Romaine Cotes du Rhone. This big wine tastes of berries, damp earth, forest floor, cigar box, pine needles and bright acidity. $15
2015 Michel Gassier?Cercius Cotes du Rhone. Tangy, rich and fresh, this old-vine wine is full of dark fruit, baking spices, herbs and blueberry. $15
2015 Xavier Vignon Cotes du Rhone. Silky, with luscious dark fruit, fennel, raspberry and a touch of tobacco, this one is worth every penny and more. $15
2015 Domaine La Manarine Cotes du Rhone. Jammy dark fruit mixed with notes of black olive, pencil shavings, cedar and tobacco in this lively winner. $16
2015?Domaine Les Aphillanthes Rouge Carmin Cotes du Rhone. Intense, stewed red and dark fruits are joined by nutmeg and black licorice in this rich wine. $16
2015 Domaine de la Mordoree Cotes Du Rhone. Red fruits, cherry, cedar, earth and chocolate comingled in this one, which packs 14 percent alcohol. $17
2015?Mas de Boislauzon Cotes du Rhone Villages. Plum, raspberry and other bright red fruits give way to notes of pine delivered with grippy tannins. $17.50
2015 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone. Beginning with floral notes and jasmine, this wine moves into apricot, minerality and subtle flashes of tropical fruit. $13
2015 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone. Pear, anise, fennel and green apple commingle in this soft wine, which finishes clean, with a touch of lemon. $15
2016 Chateau Beauchene Le Pavillon Cotes du Rhone. Herbal and floral with a long, rich strawberry finish, this rosé is made from cinsault and grenache. $12
2016 Domaine Les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone. This pale pink beauty offers crisp and subtle bursts of strawberry and watermelon, plus a long finish of almond and peach. $15