Encompassing 171 communes across the Northern and Southern Rhône, the Côtes du Rhône appellation has long been a go-to destination for wine lovers who seek affordable luxury; premium wines, that speak of variety and place and don’t cost the earth. Whether it’s the elegant softness and fruit finesse of red Côtes du Rhône, the vibrancy of aromatic rosés, or the exotic opulence of a Marsanne/Roussanne blend, there is much to tempt the curious oenophile in this spectacular and ancient landscape.
Four keystone pledges
Yet the Côtes du Rhône’s most remarkable achievement is the synergy between tradition and progressive action: ecological and social responsibility is now at the heart of the appellation’s DNA, while its historic winegrowing legacy is being preserved for future generations. Indeed, Côtes du Rhône is a brand committed to driving change, building on its historic achievements with passion and determination. As it embraces the future while remaining deeply rooted in its heritage, the appellation has made four keystone pledges: ensure the transparency of practices, protect biodiversity, respect terroirs & preserve resources, and pass on a legacy.
The first promise embraces a wide remit, including the regulation of viticultural practices, the use of particular grape varieties, the methods and density of planting, and maximum yields per hectare. The rules also require winegrowers to keep the soil in a state of good health. Oversight and quality control, meanwhile, are carried out by an independent body mandated by the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO), which reports to the French Ministry of Agriculture. In addition, a new guarantee seal was unveiled in 2020 to provide complete transparency and traceability of each bottle, from vine to glass.
The protection of biodiversity and local terroir is, of course, both a complimentary and mutually beneficial goal. In recent years, the volume of synthetic chemicals used in French viticulture has fallen dramatically, with Côtes du Rhône emerging as a centre of sustainable best practices.
Changing to a vine management regime without synthetic pesticides and herbicides, growers must, in order to protect their crop while adhering to an eco-friendly paradigm, promote the natural resilience of the vineyard. One of the main ways to do so, outlined in the second pledge, is to encourage a biodiverse vineyard environment, with a vibrant ecosystem of flora and fauna existing in harmony with the vines – a coexistence that promotes the health of the soil and naturally reduces disease pressure.
Meanwhile, an innovative system of grants and mentor schemes is helping to bring the younger and more diverse demographic into winegrowing. Among many other pioneering initiatives, the association ‘Femmes Vignes Rhône’ continues its vital work in promoting the female winemaking profession in a spirit of openness and solidarity.
Today’s Côtes du Rhône is part of a global firmament that displays a sincere commitment to progressive winemaking. Buoyed by a unified focus and a dynamic community of winegrowers, the region’s four pillars are building a better future for all.
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