After two decades of work on the part of winegrowers, France’s governing body for wine appellations, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO), promoted the three Vaucluse villages of Suze-la-Rousse, Ste.-Cécile and Vaison-la-Romaine. Previously, wines from the three villages could be labeled Côtes du Rhône Villages. Now they can add their village names to that description. This will take effect with the 2016 harvest and affects only red wines.
"I am very happy because it is the culmination of more than 20 years of work," said Vincent Boyer of Domaine de la Bastide in Suze-la-Rousse. "It’s the recognition of the terroir’s homogeneity and its strong qualitative progression. We are very satisfied."
The designated Côtes du Rhône vineyards of the Rhône Valley make up the second-largest French AOP by both surface area and production volume. Over the years, vintners have pushed to refine their terroir and the classifications that define it. These three new additions are the latest to be recognized. In the past, some Côtes du Rhône Villages, such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Vinsobres, have been elevated to standalone appellations, though that would be years away.
Suze-la-Rousse is the biggest of the three at just under 5,000 acres, and has the most diverse soils, with stony, pebbly grounds in some areas and chalky clay in others. The warm, dry climate delivers rich, full-bodied reds. Two cooperatives and around 20 wineries operate here, growing mostly Grenache, with some Syrah and Carignan.
Ste.-Cécile, at 3,400 acres, has clay and limestone soils, with some sandy clay further south. The wines are well-structured and spicy, with Grenache accounting for 68 percent of the planted area, followed by Syrah at 14 percent, Mourvèdre at 8 percent, and some Carignan and Cinsault.
The sloped vineyards of Vaison-la-Romaine reach up to 900 feet above sea level. This is the smallest of the three villages, at 1,600 acres. The vineyards are planted with 70 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah grown in chalky soils made up of sandstone and pebbles. The wines here tend to be fresher, more elegant and aromatic.