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Lifestyle

Uncorked: Surprising finds await in Côtes du Rhône wines

Unique bottle designs tie wines to a specific variety and region. 

Individuality made Bordeaux and Burgundy bottles easily recognized, but the Rhône Valley had no such marker. The sun-drenched vineyards in the south of France named for the river that runs through them needed their own calling card.

They found it in 1967, when the Union of Côtes du Rhône winegrowers, a collective of 2,300 wine-growing families, found its own marker. 

“Bordeaux has its own bottle and Burgundy has its own bottle,” said Cellier des Dauphins winemaker Laurent Paré. “If you want to make an impact, you’ve got to do something different. The bottle used to be even smaller and chubbier. So, we’ve kept the idea of the historic bottle, but we’ve made it elegant and thinner to show [the] range of the new brand.”

It’s a brand that is easy to fall in love with for its style and its price. Inside the “chubby” bottle with a raised crest just above the label is a medium-bodied red, the Cellier des Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Reserve Red 2018 ($13.99), that seamlessly blends 60% grenache and 40% syrah. 

In the blend, Paré showcased the vibrant, juicy red fruit and spice notes offered by grenache, and the floral, delicate violet and black cherry flavors brought forth by syrah. 

There’s no “harsh tannins,” Paré said, and the flavor profile perfectly fits the “2.0 version” they were going for when they redesigned the bottle and label. 

“When we did our upgrade, we had more to achieve,” Paré said. “We adapted our grapes to the 2.0 version that was more accessible to the customer. We have a riper, more balanced, high-quality wine.”

The Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2019 ($13.99) showed a remarkable tension between the three main flavors and aromas of citrus, grapefruit and floral notes.

It’s crisp, fresh and drinks like it belongs on the back porch and deck or poolside on a warm summer night, which is exactly what Paré wanted.

“Rosé is all about pleasure,” Paré said. “It’s a no-brainer to be with friends and enjoy it. It’s a versatile wine, too, that can pair with food or just chill with friends as an aperitif.”

Freshness is the key for Paré, who goes to extraordinary lengths to preserve what he said is a “special quality.” The red grapes harvested for rosé are brought in a little earlier than usual, and a cold fermentation is done in the cellar to keep the grapefruit and citrus flavors intact. 

“With just a touch of bitter, you feel like you want another glass,” Paré said. “You’ve got to find the balance and not make a wine that is too heavy or too acidic.”

There is a wide array of wines from Cellier des Dauphins that highlights specific appellations, vineyards and varietals. Expansion of the brand continues as Paré said, with a new rosé, sparkling rosé and wine-dedicated vineyards planted at high altitudes. 

“We are in one of the sunniest areas of France,” Paré said. “We get over 300 days of sunshine. We have the mistral winds that blow out the clouds and let us naturally ripen.”

The Rhône wines made from sunny days are perfect for your sunny summer day.

• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at jamesnokes25@yahoo.com.

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