The 2011 Chapelle-St-Arnoux Cotes-du-Rhone Red is a blend of 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, the vineyards used featured vines that where at least 50 years old. This bottle is from the Negociant Eleveur side of Arnoux & Fils, a family owned wine business founded in 1717. A Negociant Eleveur purchases excess wine from existing wineries and “improves” the wine by either further aging it or blending it with other purchased wine. Negociants have a long history in France, Arnoux & Fils have been doing it for almost 300 years, they have long term relationships with the wineries they use to purchase wine and in France, Negociants can be counted on for high quality wines at a fair price. The Cotes-du Rhone (translates to Sides or Hills of the Rhone) region covers the Southern end of the Rhone Valley in Southern France and is well known for their Red wine blends featuring mainly Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. As a side note, the Cotes-du Rhone is one of the few wine regions where a small amount of White wine is allowed to be used in the Red wine blends. The alcohol content is 13.5%.
The color is a clean, rich, see-thru black cherry red. The nose is blackberry, a hint of smoke from cooking meat, a little pepper and a touch of cedar. This Red blend has a silky mouth feel and a blend of fresh fruit and earthy flavors. It tastes of cassis, black cherry, herbs, licorice and tart raspberry. The mid palate brings a real earthy flavor sensation, almost like the dirt on a freshly picked vegetable, a slight tug from the tannins and a late slap of blueberry. The tannins and acidity are well balanced. The finish is cassis and herbs and it never goes away, you will be tasting this Red blend long after the bottle is empty.
For some reason, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir are the cool kids and Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre are sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to ask them to dance. It is not easy finding knock-out 10 buck Cabernets and Merlots, but the Southern Rhone Valley is loaded with interesting, delicious, well made bargain Red blends. I really like these Cotes-du Rhone blends, they bring a bit of old world French wine sensibility and make it translate to the new world wine drinking crowd. The wines of the Cotes-du-Rhone drink very well and have all sorts of structure that you that you rarely see on comparatively priced American wines. If you want to learn a little something about French wines and you don’t want to spend a ton of money for some very solid examples, the Cotes-du-Rhone is the way to go.