With the change from lockdown to tiers and the nights drawing in so quickly, it’s definitely time for a glass of comforting red wine. If your mind is full of present shopping, festive decorations and you’ve no time to think, there’s one region you can rely on to deliver exactly this style of Christmassy red wine: Rasteau AOC from the southern Rhône Valley in France.
Helena Nicklin gives us the lowdown on this need-to-know region.
What is Rasteau AOC?
Rasteau is an appellation, which is essentially a small wine region, celebrating ten years since its promotion to the celebrated AOC*, ‘cru’ status in 2010. Before that, Rasteau was one of the 22 named villages forming part of the much-loved ‘Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC’. Now, it stands proudly alongside it, like a singer forging its own successful, solo career having left the celebrated band… on good terms of course.
This is a wine style that you can rely on for full-bodied, rich, concentrated red wines (the AOC is for red wine only) with notes of ripe strawberry, bramble fruit, violet and cinnamon spice – it’s Christmas cake in a glass! These are flavoursome, but not over-blown red wines that drink well when young, vibrant and fruity as well as being able to age impressively well.
The secret to their success is the blend, where at least 50% Grenache grapes must be used, giving it that homely, soft, strawberry flavour as well as some Syrah and Mourvedre grapes, which offer notes of violet and dried herbs (the former), grilled meat notes and structure (the latter).
What to eat with Rasteau wine?
The ravishing red wines of Rasteau were born to go with food and are incredibly versatile. They can take meaty dishes from game to beef stew and beef wellington, they love hard, nutty cheeses, cold cuts, grilled vegetables and are also a great match with dark chocolate – especially the younger ones and those with more Syrah in them. Great for drinking – and for gifting.
Rasteau wines start from around £10, which are perfect for mid-week drinking but there’s a sweet spot around £20- £25 too for special occasion wines and those that would be great for gifting as they can either be put down for a while or be drunk straight away. Here’s a selection of ravishing Rasteau reds that cover all bases:
Domaine La Luminaille, Rasteau ‘Luminaris’, 2017 – £19.99 from winebuyers.com
Brooding red-purple in colour, this is an intense wine packed with notes of forest fruits, herbs and liquorice. Round and ripe with a peppery kick! It will also be beautiful in a couple of years once those secondary, leafy aromas come out to play, so a good one for gifting and the cellar.
Domaine Escaravailles ‘La Ponce’, Rasteau 2017 – £9.99 from The Wine Society
A total bargain for the price tag, this is a knock-your-socks-off, rich, fruity wine with spice and a good bit of age on it. It’s also fairly hefty on the alcohol, so definitely one for those wintery meat stews or roast beef.
M. Rasteau, Chapoutier, 2019 – £13.78 from gourmethunters.com
A youthful, concentrated and relatively simple Rasteau red, albeit in a good way. Think bright, crunchy forest fruit notes and a hint of spice and liquorice. Great alone or with some cold cuts and cheese.
Château de la Gardine, Rasteau 2017 £17.95 from Gerrard Seel
I love this old fashioned bottle. It’s certainly distinctive, and so is the wine! Big, bold and well-structured, this wine is showing its tannins, which are starting to soften with age. There’s lovely dark cherry and ‘spirity’ plum fruit here with enticing garrigue notes of rosemary and thyme. With a bit of air and food, it will sing.
*AOC stands for ‘Appellation d’Origine Controllée’, which is a wine-producing area with strictly controlled rules aimed at preserving quality.
Read more wine articles by Helena in our dedicated section here.