Cotes du Rhone: Superb wines (for $15 or less) from a 200-year-old winery
Chateau Beauchene Chateau Beauchene--a 200-year-old winery
In America most of the famous names in wine have been around for less than a century, and some for less than a decade. In the Rhone region of southern France, there is evidence that grapes were harvested for thousands of years.
Today the Rhone is one of the top wine regions in the world and home to one of the best all-around wines under $20, simply named Cotes du Rhone. Here are five superb wines you can find in the Twin Cities (four of them $15 or less) from one of the region's top wineries, the 200-year-old Chateau Beauchene.
Chateau Beauchene is owned by the Bernard family, which purchased its first vineyards in 1794. Generations later, Michel and Dominique Bernard run the Chateau and harvest grapes on nearly 200 acres.
Like most producers in the Rhone, they make several types of cuvees. A cuvee is a blend of various vineyards, and it often combines multiple grape varieties to create interesting, complex wines. The most common red variety in the southern Rhone is grenache, found in almost all the region's wines. Other red grapes used in blending are syrah, mourvedre, carignan, and cinsault.
Cotes du Rhone wines are the work horse of the Rhone appellation and account for 80 percent of the wines produced. Chateau Beauchene makes a red, white, and rose Cotes du Rhone wine, and when it adds Villages to the label it means the grapes are sourced from more desirable vineyard sites. Here are a few Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone reviews from a recent tasting with Lori Makela, with importer Wine Adventures.
2008 Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone Grande Reserve Viognier $13
Very refreshing wine with minerals, apricots, melon, and apples. Concentrated white and medium finish. Enjoy with grilled fish. 88 points
Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone Rose $13
The best rose wines are found either in the Rhone or Provence (south of the Rhone). This is a great dry summer sipper with floral, minerals, and strawberries. Simple but tasty. Enjoy with a salad or cheeses. 87 points
2007 Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone Grande Reserve $13
Raspberry, minerals, spices, and cherry on this balanced and easy-drinking wine. Enjoy with a burger or meat pizza. 89 points
2007 Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone Villages Vignoble De La Vialle $15
A step in quality but not much in price over the Grande Reserve. A classic Rhone nose with a little barrel funk, stone, cranberry, and spices. The palate picks up some coffee notes, and the acidity level will allow you to enjoy with grilled meats and meat pasta dishes. 91 points
Chateau Beauchene Chateauneuf du Pape Label
Chateauneuf du Pape is the most famous subappellation of the southern Rhone, and it produces the best wines. The appellation refers to the "new castle of the Pope," since a pope made his residence there in the 1300s. In 1923 Chateauneuf du Pape was the first appellation in France to implement strict growing standards, and Burgundy and Bordeaux quickly followed. Only 13 grape varieties can be blended into Chateauneuf du Pape, and grenache is the main grape.
2007 Chateau Beauchene Chateauneuf du Pape Grande Reserve $40
An amazing wine at a great price. Great nose with spices, mild oak, cherry, and toast. On the palate it picks up coffee and stone notes. Medium and concentrated finish. Should improve with age. This wine was ranked 13th out of 200 Chateauneuf du Pape wines in a blind tasting, and it is one of the best values in the Rhone. You'll find wines at twice the price with lower scores.
All wines are available at the Cellars (all locations) and Zipp's in Minneapolis.
For a video of the Chateau Beauchene tasting with Lori Makela, visit the YouTube Wineglas Video Channel.