The spectacular hills of some Côte Rôtie vineyards
Côte Rôtie is a classic red wine made in the northern part of the Rhône valley of southeastern France from the Syrah grape variety. It may include up to 20% Viognier as well. The Syrah supplies earthy, peppery tastes, which the Viognier softens. Connaisseurs will be able to distinguish from grapes grown on the Côte Brune (Brunette Hill) and those grown on the Côte Blonde (Blond Hill). Suggested food pairings include Roast Duck and Tomato-based Fish Stew.
Côte Rôtie starts at about $50 a bottle. In that general price range look for the Domane de Bonserine Côte-Rôtie La Sarrasine that gives you blackberry, licorice, tobacco, and iron. For about $80 move up to the Guigal Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde named for two daughters of a local bigwig way back when. You will get fig paste, currant, tobacco, black olive and iron. Guigal is a specialist in these wines. For example, their 2003 Côte Rôtie sells for $1100. Robert Parker, one of the world's best known wine critics, gave it a 100. And yet their 1984 model cost only $155. When it comes to fine wines, older is not necessarily better.