Cotes du Rhone Villages is an appellation for red and white wines from certain villages of the Rhone region of France. All are in the southern half of the region, to the east and immediate west of the town of Orange. Wines made under the appellation must meet higher standards than those of the plain Cotes de Rhone title, and are from areas that show potential to produce distinctive wines of good quality.
The village of Beaumes-de-Venise, in the southern end of the region, is an example of a place that produces wines at AOC level (it is famous for its sweet wines and increasingly for its dry red wines) and at Cotes du Rhone Villages level (its white and rose wines). The village was granted the Beaumes-de-Venise AOC in 2005 for its red wines, which were consistently of a higher quality than its white and rose wines. The sweet wines made here have had their own appellation, AOC Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise, since 1945.
There are strict regulations governing the production of these wines, as with any AOC. These are to ensure consistency of style and quality, and are the same for all of the villages. The most obvious of these regulations relate to the grape varieties permitted for use and the quantities of each variety allowed in any given wine. Red and rose Cotes du Rhone Villages wines must be made from a minimum of 50% Grenache and a minimum of 20% of Syrah and Mourvedre (either together or separately). Rose wines may also be made from up to 20% white grapes, provided that they are of the varieties described below. Red wines of the appellation are moderately rich in style, with dark fruit flavors and the spice of Syrah ever present. They are generally slightly tannic, but this varies by vintage and according to the particular terroir of the village in question.
White Cotes du Rhone Villages wines are generally made in a fresh, dry style and have a tangy, floral profile. They are made from Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier.
Another key indicator of quality is vineyard yield. Lower yield implies higher quality, as the vines were theoretically able to contribute more of their energy to nurturing a small number of healthier grapes. The yield for Cotes du Rhone Villages wines is between 42 and 45 hectoliters per hectare, compared to the higher yield of 60 hectoliters per hectare for the Cotes du Rhone appellation.
Cotes du Rhone Villages wines are widely accepted as providing a good balance of value and quality, unaffected as they are by the costly prestige associated with names such as Hermitage and Chateauneuf du Pape.
Supplementary information about Rhone Valley wines can be obtained from the region's trade body, Inter Rhone.