When tasting wines for the Rhône under £20 feature in the December issue of Decanter, more than a third were AP Côtes du Rhône.
It was a highly variable assortment from this generic appellation (some were dreadful), but the best were really delightful wines, some for as little as £10/$15 a bottle.
If you’re looking for value, exploring the straight Côtes du Rhône of top producers such as Stéphane Ogier, Domaine Alain Voge and Domaine Gramenon is a shrewd place to start – in good vintages, they are some of the most convincing bargains of the wine world.
Côtes du Rhône villages
As expected, there were plenty of rewarding options among the Côtes du Rhône ‘Named Villages’. If you’re looking for robust reds, Plan de Dieu is an obvious place to start; for finesse, try Sablet.
One of my personal favourites is Massif d’Uchaux, an intriguing limestone and sandstone terroir hidden among woodland producing tense, vibrant reds that remain, for the time being, largely undiscovered. Try them.
Colour and vintage
I found the standard of white wines to be remarkably steady – if anything, more reliable than the reds. That said, there were fewer that really stood out.
Cheaper whites are generally best drunk young, but I found a couple from 2017 drawn from old vines in good sites that were mature and drinking well.
Getting the vintage right can make all the difference, especially at the cheaper end. If in doubt, with inexpensive reds, go young. And if this means 2019, so much the better; it’s shaping up to be a ripe, vibrant and juicy vintage.