Domaine de la Garrigue is one of the oldest estates in the southern Rhone Valley region and is owned by the Bernard family. The family owns one of the most famous restaurants and inns in the area
called "Les Florets" which is located on the hillside facing the Dentelles in Gigondas. Fashioning some of the most beautiful bottlings of Vacqueyras, Eric Solomon worked with the property to create a custom cuvee of Cotes du Rhone from de-classified Vacqueyras called "Cuvee Romaine."
The climate in the Southern Rhone is extremely warm in the summer, with consistent temperatures in the 90's during July and August. This makes rich, full-bodied, and spicy wines. The soil is similar to that of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, with massive rocks called "galets" dotting the vineyards. The old bush vines of Garrigue are planted on
these "galets" and for most of the vineyards, there is not soil present to the eye, just
This property focuses on making wines with minimal manipulation to let the terroir speak through the wines. The old vines of Domaine de la Garrigue were planted in the late 1940's, just after the Germans left the area following the second World War. Before the war, the area was planted primarily to other crops, including sunflowers and tomatoes. However, the Romans were making wine here centuries ago and shipping it hundreds of miles away. Hence, the cuvee name "Cuvee Romaine".
Learn More About Rhone Red Blends
The Rhone region of France has a delightful selection of red varieties. There are 22 grapes allowed in the Rhone AOC, about half of them red. Most of these varieties are used as secondary blending partners, often comprising less than 10% of the blend. The primary red players of Rhone blends are Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Most wines from the Southern Rhone use Grenache as their primary grape, while Rhone blends in California and Australia like to change up the order, occasionally using a high percentage of Syrah or sometimes Mourvèdre. Wines from the Northern Rhone are Syrah-based, and if not 100% Syrah, the wine may have Viognier blended in for added color and aromatics. Typical wines termed "rhone blends" will have two or more grapes from the Rhone and occasionally, small percentages of the secondary varieties.
Notable Facts Rhone Blends are a wonderful combination of rustic and ripe - showing their flavors and delicious character upon release, although some Rhone wines, particularly those with a good amount of Syrah, are able to age for a few years. Australia's Rhone blends are often called "GSM" or "SGM" - using the initials of the grapes used, the most predominant variety being the first initial. Australia has also had great success with their Northern Rhone Shiraz+Viognier wine styles. You'll find delicious Rhone blends in California as well - the Central Coast and Santa Barbara regions have a similar climate to the Rhone, and the varietals flourish there. South Africa is another blossoming Rhone blend producer. Blends from all regions are good with juicy, gamey meats and food with common French spices, like rosemary or herbs de Provence.
Summing it up Successful Sites: Rhone, California, Australia, South Africa
Common Descriptors: Gamey, jammy, blackberry, pepper, leather
Learn More About Cotes du Rhone, Rhone, France
A Cote of Many Grapes
The appellation of Côtes du Rhône encompasses much of the land of the area, not to mention much of the wine – over two-thirds of the wine produced here is of the Côtes-du-Rhône appellation. Wines here need only be from the Côtes de Rhône geographic area (which is fairly large) and consist of one or more of the 22 varieties permitted. Being such a wide classification, it's a surprise and joy that so many of these wines reach such a high quality. While there are areas in the Northern Rhône that meet the classification of Côtes du Rhône, most all of this appellation is in the Southern Rhône. Wines here are based mostly on Grenache, like other Rhône reds, while the whites focus on Marsanne and Roussanne. Viognier is also allowed although typically used in smaller quantities.
There is one higher level in the Côtes du Rhône called Côtes du Rhône Villages. These wines are from specific village areas that have a few more standards the wine must reach to receive the village label. Some to take note of are Cairanne, Rasteau, Seguret and Beaumes-de-Venise. The good thing about both Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages is that big producers of the smaller appellations are taking the opportunity and freedom offered by this broad appellation and creating wines of very high quality, and lower in price.