My love story with Côtes du Rhône wines really took off when I moved to France in 2009 to pursue my studies at Université du Vin in Suze-la-Rousse.
To put it in context, this is the Northern limit of the South of France. Here, the accent changes, the crickets start singing, olives trees and lavender grow, and the ambient smell is second to none. The wines showcase generosity and accessibility, and if you ever find yourself in a restaurant and don’t know what to order Côtes du Rhône should be your go-to. It’s a crowd-pleaser, always delicious, versatile and easy to digest.
On the quality spectrum, beyond Côtes du Rhône and the slightly more complex wines called Côtes du Rhône Villages you will encounter distinct Côtes du Rhône Villages labelled the specific village of their origin. Only 21 such regional towns are allowed to affix their names to an AOC label, and each has their own unique terroir, resulting in a wine of distinct characteristics.
Here’s a look at three:
Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu
Literally translating into God’s Plain, this area is flat and pebbly. We used to visit after class, and this area produces consistent, reliable Grenache dominated wines. Spicy and fragrant with tons of morello cherries confit aromas it brings le bonheur every day. Simple and tasty it is a perfect match with charcuterie or turkey and cranberry.
Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas
Beautiful wines are produced in the village of Valréas. Expect freshness and vitality from those hillside wines. Often the presence of Syrah brings a certain pepperiness and create an inkier blend with grip and personality. Think winter dishes, a maple log in the fireplace and braised short ribs ‘’pot au feu’’ or even juicy lamb cutlet with Herbes de Provence. Great Sunday Roast wine.
Côtes du Rhône Villages Laudun
This is white wine territory. Rich, textural with lots of apricots and lemon confit tones. Gastronomic wines have been produced for centuries in Landun, and they should be matched with comfort food. A nice crusty, flaky chicken pot pie or a butternut squash soup with aged cheddar and croutons. Length and creaminess wonderfully complement Côtes du Rhône Villages Laudun wines.
Pier-Alexis Soulière has dedicated the past 12 years of his career to providing world-class wine service and enhancing guest experience in some of the most demanding environments.
The journey started in Montréal, and brought him to excel in 3 different continents; from London to Sydney to New York City and California. He has been working in some of the most prestigious Michelin starred establishments, such as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal **, The Modern **, and Manresa Restaurant***.
In 2014, he won the World Young Sommelier of the Year competition held in Copenhagen. In 2016, he became one of very few to earn the Master Sommelier title before the age of 30, a title held by a total of 5 individuals in Canada, only 2 in the province of Québec, and 257 worldwide. The Master Sommelier Diploma is one of the most difficult certifications to obtain in the world of wine. To obtain the Master Sommelier title, successful candidates must exemplify blind tasting skills, extensive wine knowledge, and outstanding abilities in service and beverage management.
In 2017, Pier-Alexis was named Québec’s Best Sommelier by the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers and one year later he won Best Sommelier of the Americas by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale amongst 20 participants from 10 countries. In 2019, he represented the Americas at the World’s Best Sommelier Competition in Belgium and reached the World Top 10. Follow Pier on Instagram @pa_souliere