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Walls: Brune and blonde soils in Côte-Rôtie – do they really make all the difference?

How important are Côte-Rôtie's soil types when it comes to the resulting style of wine? Matt Walls takes a look and recommends 28 wines to try.

There are two words that crop up more than any other when exploring Côte-Rôtie in the Northern Rhône: brune (brown or brunette in English) and blonde (blonde).

They’re used in cuvée names, names of lieux-dits, regional designations and even local legends. Effectively what they refer to is the two main soil types: dark brown mica schist (brune) and pale yellow gneiss (blonde).

Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for 28 Côte-Rôtie wines

The way these terms are used can be confusing to English speakers. Once this is clarified, we’ll take a look at these two different soil types and how they influence wine style, longevity and quality.

There’s some argument as to how important these soils types are when it comes to the resulting style of Côte-Rôtie, but it’s a convenient starting point for understanding the appellation.

Confusing terminology

Today, there are 73 official lieux-dits in Côte-Rôtie. Looming over the town of Ampuis that sits at the heart of the appellation there are two lieux-dits that sit almost side-by-side: one is called Côte Brune, the other Côte Blonde.

Brune and Blonde soils in Côte-Rôtie: Matt Walls’ top picks

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