AOC CÔTE RÔTIE, NORTHERN RHÔNE VALLEY
The beautiful Côte-Rôtie vineyard, located in Northern Rhone Valley wine region, in France. It stretches along the Rhone river. Climate here is moderate continental, with influence from the strong and cold Mistral.
Vines are planted on steep slopes, facing south, south-est. It improves sunlight exposure and therefore grape ripening, and offer protection from the wind, that can destroy vines.
Syrah is the only red grape variety planted (and very emblematic). Viognier, a white grape variety, can be used as well, as long as it is fermented with Syrah, and do not reach 20% of the blend. In practise, it is less and less used.
On the very steep slopes, grapes are grown on terraced vineyards, and trellised on poles called "échalas". Erosion is a constant challenge, rocky walls need lots of maintenance. All the works in the vineyard have to be done by hand, as machines can not go in these areas. Costs of production are therefore quite high.
The 2020 vintage was especially warm, leading to a higher evapotranspiration rate. Less water was available to the vines, especially in these well-draining rocky soils. Overall, grapes were therefore more concentrated, yields lower, and harvest earlier.
High production costs, lower yield, and demand for this high-quality wines means they usually command premium prices.
If you plan to travel to Côte-Rôtie, definitely stop by the nearby nice city of Vienne!