Wine Talk

Snooth User: Lucha Vino

Bordeaux v. Cotes du Rhone

Posted by Lucha Vino, Feb 2, 2010.

I am just starting to explore French reds.

The few Cotes du Rhones that I have tried all seem to be more appealing the second day after having been opened. Maybe I need to try some older vintages that have had a chance to age? So far, most of these examples have been from 2007 and they seem to be overly tart (tannic?).

I just tried a Bordeaux for the first time this weekend and really preferred it to the Cotes du Rhone.

The Bordeaux was a 2005 blend of 85% Merlot and 15 % Cabernet Sauvignon. It had a good full body and consistent smooth finish. I do not recall the blend of the Cotes du Rhones that I have tried so unfortunately cannot offer much guidance for specific comparison.

What can you all tell me about the typical characteristics of these two Bordeaux regions?

Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 2, 2010.

To start with, can you give any more info about the Côtes du Rhône and Bordeaux you drank, like the names on the label?

Hard to make direct comparisons because Bordeaux (up the Gironde River from the Atlantic coast of France) is a huge producer with all sorts of wines there. Your blend sounds left bank (of the Gironde river; includes Medoc and Graves) with a large cab and lesser merlot component, though most makers also throw in a smattering of cabernet franc, maybe petit verdot and even malbec. The right bank wines (includes St. Emilion and Pomerol) usually reverse the percentage with more merlot than cab. But they also usually have those other varietals at lesser percentages. Thus, whether left or right bank of the river, the term 'Bordeaux blend'. If you had only a 'Bordeaux' or 'Bordeaux Supérieur', and not a classified growth, these are the cheapest wines of the area (though not always the worst) and are generally made to drink earlier in their lives these days than used to be the case in the past.

If not quite the production volume of Bordeaux, the Rhone area up and down the section of the Rhone River near Avignon, just before the river terminates into the Mediterranean, also sees large volumes of production. It's usually divided into two zones, one north (Cote Rotie, Hermitage, St. Joseph) and the other south (Chateauneuf du Pape). Those wines that don't fall within specific geographical or content descriptions get the Côtes du Rhône classification. This is also often a 2nd or 3rd label for many producers. The grapes (and earth) are very different here, with syrah the main component in the north, but also including viognier, marsanne and roussanne. The south also sees plenty of syrah, but in addition lots of grenache, as well as mourvedre, carignan and cinsault (and more in the C9dP blends) to blend to the flavor and effects the winemaker wants.

2007 was a huge year--especially for the Rhone. Some people have called it the vintage of the century there, though this century's still pretty young. ;-) That's why they're so powerful and just-plain-young that you like them better after a lot of contact with the air.

This is all general background. If you tell us what the wines actually were, then more specific explanations will be possible.

Personally I like both types of wines you discuss. If you want to see a variety of Côtes du Rhône, check this page:
http://www.klwines.com/content.asp?...
I've had both the 2007 Perrin & Fils "Reserve" and the 2007 Delas "St-Esprit" and think they're not only good wiines, but a *great* value for under $10.

For a look at more Bordeaux, here's their page from the same vendor:
http://www.klwines.com/Content.asp?...
The first wine they show, Pontet-Canet, is one of my favorites, though we're talking a whole different level of quality (and price) than what we've been talking about so far (sorry to go off topic with it, but it just popped off the page when I opened it and I started immediately salivating, though of course I would lay that baby down several years before popping its cork). Sliding down to page two they offer a 2003 Potensac for just under $20 that I would definitely buy, and it's already got a little bottle age on it.

20
5978
Reply by dmcker, Feb 2, 2010.

To start with, can you give any more info about the Côtes du Rhône and Bordeaux you drank, like the names on the label?

Hard to make direct comparisons because Bordeaux (up the Gironde River from the Atlantic coast of France) is a huge producer with all sorts of wines there. Your blend sounds left bank (of the Gironde river; includes Medoc and Graves) with a large cab and lesser merlot component, though most makers also throw in a smattering of cabernet franc, maybe petit verdot and even malbec. The right bank wines (includes St. Emilion and Pomerol) usually reverse the percentage with more merlot than cab. But they also usually have those other varietals at lesser percentages. Thus, whether left or right bank of the river, the term 'Bordeaux blend'. If you had only a 'Bordeaux' or 'Bordeaux Supérieur', and not a classified growth, these are the cheapest wines of the area (though not always the worst) and are generally made to drink earlier in their lives these days than used to be the case in the past.

If not quite the production volume of Bordeaux, the Rhone area up and down the section of the Rhone River near Avignon, just before the river terminates into the Mediterranean, also sees large volumes of production. It's usually divided into two zones, one north (Cote Rotie, Hermitage, St. Joseph) and the other south (Chateauneuf du Pape). Those wines that don't fall within specific geographical or content descriptions get the Côtes du Rhône classification. This is also often a 2nd or 3rd label for many producers. The grapes (and earth) are very different here, with syrah the main component in the north, but also including viognier, marsanne and roussanne. The south also sees plenty of syrah, but in addition lots of grenache, as well as mourvedre, carignan and cinsault (and more in the C9dP blends) to blend to the flavor and effects the winemaker wants.

2007 was a huge year--especially for the Rhone. Some people have called it the vintage of the century there, though this century's still pretty young. ;-) That's why they're so powerful and just-plain-young that you like them better after a lot of contact with the air.

This is all general background. If you tell us what the wines actually were, then more specific explanations will be possible.

Personally I like both types of wines you discuss. If you want to see a variety of Côtes du Rhône, check this page:
http://www.klwines.com/content.asp?...
I've had both the 2007 Perrin & Fils "Reserve" and the 2007 Delas "St-Esprit" and think they're not only good wiines, but a *great* value for under $10.

For a look at more Bordeaux, here's their page from the same vendor:
http://www.klwines.com/Content.asp?...
The first wine they show, Pontet-Canet, is one of my favorites, though we're talking a whole different level of quality (and price) than what we've been talking about so far (sorry to go off topic with it, but it just popped off the page when I opened it and I started immediately salivating, though of course I would lay that baby down several years before popping its cork). Sliding down to page two they offer a 2003 Potensac for just under $20 that I would definitely buy, and it's already got a little bottle age on it.

20
5978
Reply by dmcker, Feb 2, 2010.

Sorry for the double posting, but I wasn't seeing that it went through the first time...

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 2, 2010.

BTW, if you want to try something hybrid, that bridges the gap between the two areas, look for a Domaine du Dragon "Cuvée St. Michel" Rouge from Provence. 2007s (again a *great* vintage) are on the market now.

It's got that Rhone power but with some Bordeaux class, blending 50% syrah, 45% cabernet sauvignon and 5% grenache, Aromas of blackberries ad plums over a layer of cinnamon and vanilla. Intense, complex, yet fresh. Longish finish with pepper and a hint of soysauce dribbled over a grilling steak. Surprised me with how delicious it was. Should be able to find it for around $20....

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Reply by Lucha Vino, Feb 2, 2010.

dmcker,

Thanks for the detailed replies. I have not kept up on my notes for the Cotes du Rhones that I have sampled. Here is one that I was able to find notes on:

Serrano Pere & Fils Cotes du Rhone cuvee Vieilles Vignes 2007 (cannot find it on Snooth). The blend is 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah

The bordeaux that I just had was this one:

http://www.snooth.com/wine/chateau-...

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Reply by gregt, Feb 3, 2010.

In addition to dmucker's reply, I think you're tasting vintage difference as well as varietal differences. As he mentioned, the 2007 Rhone vintage was really warm and ripe and your grenache is going to be big, alcoholic, fruity and ripe. All of the 2007s I've had are pretty ripe wines and frankly, I'm not so sure that they're the wines I'd really age or even buy. I've liked some of the "lesser" vintages like 2004, 2006 and the recently tasted 2008s that were barrel samples in a few cases.

In the south Rhone, which is where your CdR is from, the riper vintages are pretty jammy whereas some of the lesser vintages tend to have more acidity and less pruney notes. Sometimes they're just diluted and flavorless but the S Rhone hasn't had a vintage like that since 2002. In Bordeaux on the other hand, the good vintages have wines with big tannins and structure and the weaker vintages can be weedy and green and diluted, like some of the 2007s I've just tasted.

Those are really gross generalizations of course, so don't take them to the bank, but partly they come from what's growing in the regions and partly from the weather. Grenache is late-ripening and needs a long season and doesn't really have a lot of tannin or even acidity. So it's often blended with other grapes that contribute those things, like the syrah was doing in your wine. The merlot, cab, cab franc, and petite verdot and malbec and carmenere that they grow in Bordeaux all tend to have decent tannins and it's more about getting those tannins ripe and getting the fruit to develop because it's a coastal region with lots of humidity. When the wines are unripe, they're definitely going to have acidity.

So you have completely different profiles and completely different vintages. As D said, the 2007 Rhone is lauded by many critics. The 2006 Bordeaux, even if it hadn't come on the heels of the hyped 2005 vintage, would still have been pretty much dismissed by many. A good winemaker can make good wine in a tough vintage, but it's usually not going to be as glorious as his wine from a better vintage.

So in addition to what D said, you may simply like wine with more structure, more tannin and more acidity. The only way to find out is if you try a lot more wine! Cheers!

And again, the comments are really generalizations.

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 3, 2010.

Good addition, Greg.

So UWS you're looking at major differences in grape varietals, terroir, vintage and style of wine in your comparison between the two. Also a bit of bottle age, since you were comparing the wildly ripe 2007 Rhones against the extremely well balanced 2005 Bordeauxs. Two very interesting regions and vintages, though, both of which I enjoy very much. Perhaps you can spend years drinking and comparing them, and rounding out your 'education' regarding them. :-)

Sounds like delicious fun!

0
2680
Reply by gregt, Feb 3, 2010.

Sure does.

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Reply by Lucha Vino, Feb 4, 2010.

Indeed. The tasting journey continues! Thanks for all the information.


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