Cotes de Blaye is the appellation for dry white wines from about 40 parishes around the town of Blaye, at the western end of the right bank of Bordeaux. Introduced in September 1936, the Cotes de Blaye title has always exclusively covered dry white wines. Until 2009 (when various changes were introduced around the arrival of the Cotes de Bordeaux appellation), the entirely separate Blaye appellation also covered white wines, but those are now sold as Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye.
(©CIVB / Philippe Roy)
It may seem strange that dry white wines from this single area should have had three different titles, but there are important differences between Cotes de Blaye whites and the others. Firstly, the Cotes de Blaye appellation law demands a higher final alcohol level in the wines and a lower maximum yield from the vineyards, theoretically resulting in wines of superior quality. Secondly, there is a difference in the style of the wines and their intended target market. While the idea of the Cotes de Bordeaux title was to make the wines more identifiable and marketable for export, Cotes de Blaye wines have retained their traditional style, which lies largely in their encepagement. Whereas internationally popular varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are dominant in Cotes de Bordeaux whites, Cotes de Blaye wines are made from 60% to 90% Colombard and Ugni Blanc; these grapes are much less popular and increasingly relegated to cheaper wines and distillation into brandy.
The above description may not imply much promise for the future of the Cotes de Blaye name, but it is dependent on international wine fashions. There is no hard and fast rule about which varieties (and corresponding wine styles) will become popular in a given time and place, and the world's wine consumers are increasingly willing to accept appropriately marketed novelties. Viognier is a good example; just a few decades ago the variety was planted in only a few acres of the Rhone Valley, yet it is now being added to vineyards across the world. The fact that Cotes de Blaye wines are made with two generally less-prestigious varieties does not necessarily dicatate their potential quality.
Only a small vineyard area is currently used to produce Cotes de Blaye; its future size will depend on the continued success of the wines produced here.