When we consider Côtes du Rhône, the largest and most popular appellation in the Southern Rhône Valley of France, we tend to think of ubiquitous red blends. But did you know that there are also superb white Côtes du Rhône wines?
One of them is the 2019 Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas from Clos Bellane. In the Côtes du Rhône hierarchy, wines with the “Villages” designation are from a much smaller area within the vast appellation — one of which is the village of Valréas. They tend to be a step up in quality from those labeled simply “Côtes du Rhône.”
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And that’s certainly the case with this wine, a blend of Marsanne, Viognier, and Roussanne that is one of the most alluring, moderately-priced white Rhônes I’ve tasted in recent years. This is not surprising when you consider its pedigree.
Clos Bellane is in the northernmost part of the Southern Rhône, a cool-climate area of rolling limestone hills that reach over 1,200 feet and can yield highly distinctive fruit. Beyond the geography, winemaker Stephane Vedeau, who purchased the property in 2010, farms organically and uses only indigenous yeasts in fermentation. His wines are aged in stainless steel and concrete tanks as well as large, older barrels, so the influence of wood is nonexistent.
There’s no need for it. His wines are all about “delicacy, freshness, and vibrancy,” according to the U.S. importer, Skurnik Wines. This description sums up Clos Bellane’s Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas.
The wine has beautiful fruit tastes and a wonderful mineral texture. While white Côtes du Rhône can be overly herbal and floral, those are background notes here. Ripe white peach and green apple are in the forefront; apple skin, orange pith, and subtle baking spices are accents; and it all resolves with a creaminess on the long finish.
Pair it with sautéed filets of sole with lemon and butter, herbed roasted chicken, blanquette de veau, or just on its own. It’s around $24, and it won’t disappoint.