Two Rhône Villages Gain AOC Status
Two areas of the Southern Rhône Valley can now label their 2005 bottlings with their own village names instead of with a subdistrict appellation, thanks to a recent decision by the French government.
The Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, which oversees France's wine-classification system, voted to elevate wines from both Vinsobres and Beaumes-de-Venise from the regional Côtes du Rhône-Villages designation to individual Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée. Both villages have been petitioning for the change for several years. The INAO published the decision regarding Beaumes-de-Venise last month, and plans to officially publish Vinsobres' new status in January.
Both Vinsobres and Beaumes-de-Venise make typical Southern Rhône red blends, chiefly from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. "Vinsobres is the most Northern Rhône-style wine in the Southern Rhône," said Marc Perrin of Perrin & Fils, whose 2003 Côtes du Rhône-Villages from Vinsobres scored 91 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. "For us, it's one of the best places to grow Syrah in the southern Rhône Valley, because thanks to its altitude and specific climate, the Syrah keeps the finesse and elegance that it can lose in other places." The Vinsobres AOC will cover only the best 2,965 acres out of the area's roughly 4,950 acres of vineyards. The remaining land will simply be Côtes du Rhône.
Beaumes-de-Venise already makes one appellation contrôlée wine, an acclaimed sweet, fortified Muscat. But the town's wooded hillsides border both Gigondas and Vacqueyras, which suggests it has plenty to offer in red wines, too. The Beaumes-de-Venise AOC will cover almost 1,500 acres of vineyards.
There are 16 areas in the Southern Rhône that can add their village name to wines with the Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation, and producers in several of them hope to gain individual village AOC status as they raise their standards. Vignerons in both Cairanne and Rasteau (which has AOC recognition only for its sweet wines) have been petitioning for AOC status for their dry wines, according to François Drounau, head of export marketing at Inter Rhône, which represents the valley's growers and négociants.