Cote of many colours

Perhaps it’s just me but I sometimes feel that we are drowning in a sea of acronyms.

From ADD, to BBC, CPI, ECG, FYI, GHB, HBO through to YTD - acronyms cover all aspects of society.

The world of wine has its own variants including ABC (Anything But Chardonnay), AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee), DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). But the one that stirs my heart is GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre).

These three red grapes are the backbone of the red wines of the Rhone Valley in France. They are also widespread in the French regions of Provence and Languedoc, other parts of Europe (particularly Spain), and one or other of them can be found in wine regions around the world.

In their spiritual homeland of the Rhone, Grenache is dominant in the south, Syrah the key grape in the north and Mourvedre a valuable component in the blends in the south.

This triumvirate of grapes reaches its pinnacle in the wines of the Cotes du Rhone, from the flagship and justifiably expensive Chateauneuf-du-Pape, all the way though to the humble Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages renditions which are accessible, affordable and heart warming as we settle into the winter months.

Northern Rhone-based houses play to their strengths and typically craft Syrah-dominant blends.

The south is significantly larger by volume and there Grenache is king; the blends commonly rely on a backbone of 65%-80% Grenache with a seasoning of the other two grapes. A number of extra varieties often join the key trio.

Calling the wine style a cote of many colours might be a bit of a stretch - although a smidgen of white grapes can be used in some wines — but I like to think of winemakers building their blends having a palette of flavours to work with. Mixing colours/grapes, each bringing their own strengths to the final wine, chiaroscuro perhaps, that interplay of light and shade that contributes to the whole.

What I find so engaging about these wines is not only their sheer drinkability and wallet friendliness but also their incredible compatibility with food.

Whether it be a chicken casserole, a beef or venison braise or a vegetarian bake, the earthy spicy flavours in these wintry slow-cooked dishes will find a willing foil in the wine.

Curries can also work too, providing you haven’t had too over zealous a hand with the chilli.

It seems the perfect time of year to reintroduce you all to this wine style and let’s face it, if you do need to add a glug of wine to one of your deliciously slow-cooked wonders, these are not going to break the bank.


2021 Le Cabanon des Alexandrins Syrah

Promo Price $27-$28

Rating Very Good

Fresh, a basket of berryfruits, perfumed florality, some earthy touches coming into play.

Medium-weight with nice juiciness, initially emphasising the berryfruits before a lick of tannin appears, adding to the structure and food friendliness.

Heart on its sleeve stuff, oh so drinkable, fruit sweet yet closes appealingly dry.


2019 Famille Perrin Nature Organic Cotes du Rhone

Promo price: $25-$26

Rating: Excellent

A sense of volume on the nose, classic tilled earth, spiced berry compote, attractive perfume, a fleeting wisp of balsamic.

Mouthfilling, berryfruits and garrigue herb, a woodsy aspect wrapped in a corset of tannins giving this real backbone, lending a lip-smacking, crunchy feel to the close.

Powerful, brimming with energy, sure to be great with food.


2020 Guigal Cotes du Rhone

Promo price: $26-$28

Rating: Excellent

Bright red fruits leap out, cherry jam, plum, backed by a waft of spice, earth and herb, licorice later.

Sweet raspberry and red fruits lead, spices follow, a deceptive tannic backbone flowing to a juicy close, capturing the fruit elements on the nose while retaining juiciness and elegance.

Not trying to be big, but quietly effortless and very drinkable.


2021 Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve

Promo price: $27-$29

Rating: Very Good to Excellent


The fruit swells, blueberry, red and dark fruits.

A fragrant musky note against a backdrop of clay and graphite draws me back for more.

Youthful fruit here that is quite engaging, touches of spice and tar with fine, nicely integrated tannins that begin to grow as you sip the wine.

With time, classic garrigue herbs join in. Nicely balanced, quite an elegant style.