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Syrah from the Rhone Valley: Cote Rotie

Posted on: September 16th, 2011 by Tom Peiffer No Comments

For those of us “Syrah Hounds” who really like to sample what the world has to offer, there is always a spot or two reserved on the rack for a powerful French Syrah creation from the Côte Rôtie Appellation. Known for a variety of big red wines that are just simply in-your-face, this region produces consistent vintages that are appealing to people around the world.

Because of their relatively low production, wines from this region make it here to the States in quite small quantities.  This makes bottle shop selections limited and the best ones are snapped up by collectors at prices that sometimes skyrocket. Barrel tastings are even rarer and are a unique experience when a winemaker straddles a barrel, pops the bung, and shares a little with a crowd waving their glasses!

So for those who want to experience another angle of what the Syrah grape has to offer, shelling out for one of these puppies to celebrate special occasions is a “must”. And wines from Côte Rôtie just about always make good on their promise of being the good stuff. They are rich and opulent with many subtle complex flavors that keep most tasters revising their notes right on through the second sample.

To make things more confusing, many notice that when combined with red meats, the tasting experience of these wines can change dramatically. At first they seem too acidic, stringent and powerful, but that all disappears with a bite of beef roast, char-broiled steak, or lamb. This uncanny ability to combine with entrees that are high in on-the-hoof protein is the mark of a well-made Syrah.

Many people rave about the bouquet of a Côte Rôtie and others love the deep berry flavors that quietly dissipate into a mineral finish. These wines also have a very well defined attack of what is called the “mid-palate”. To experience this, let the wine roll under your tongue and hold it in your mouth a little longer than usual. Don’t hurry though it and see if you agree. Kickin’ butt!

With pricing that often relegates Côte Rôtie’s to the locked glass case, finding one from a major producer that is below $80 can be a challenge. However, Total Wine  a couple of these beauties priced under this level. These are both produced by Duclaux. One is the Germaine, available for under $50. The other is the Maison Rouge, priced at around $70. Of course, the more expensive one is rated quite well at 93.

It’s the famous price/value decision, your choice. In the end, you may want to check out the lower cost one if you haven’t yet tried this type of wine. Either way, their availability may vary so check with a clerk if you don’t immediately find them on the shelf. If necessary, they may also be able to get stock at one of the other stores.

Serve slightly chilled after 20 minutes in the fridge (60-65 degrees).

Article by Tom Peiffer, Phoenix Wine Shopping Examiner at Examiner.com

View more of Tom’s articles on Examiner.com by visiting his writer’s page.

About the Author - Tom Peiffer

Tom has been an avid wine consumer and collector for over 20 years. This pastime has taken he and his family on many visits to wine growing regions, including Arizona. During these excursions, with the accompanying tastings and lectures, it became clear that there is no "magic bullet" wine. For each wine contains its own character, strong points, and weaknesses. Sharing these experiences to help anyone purchase locally available wines is his goal.

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