If you want character, warmth and depth without spending much more than a fiver, you won’t go wrong with a Côte du Rhône
Taste the Differenc Côtes du Rhône Villages, France 2018 (£7, Sainsbury’s) A recipe for comfort and cosiness at this time of year: a hotpot just out of the oven and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône. In the pot: anything deeply flavoured and slow-cooked, such as Nigel Slater’s silky, earthy multi-mushroom bourgignon. In the glass? Well, in my experience Côtes du Rhône is among the most reliable wine regions around. You get bad bottles, of course. Nowhere can avoid that. And you’ll get bottles that don’t match your own taste or sense of what wines from the region should be like. But you get a remarkable reliability, too. When I’m looking for a red wine to provide character, warmth and depth without sweetness or breaking too far beyond a fiver, a classic Côtes du Rhône Villages such as Sainsbury’s own-label seldom disappoints.
Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône, France 2016 (£11.99, or £9.99 as part of a mixed case of six, Majestic) Part of the reason for Côtes du Rhône’s consistency is that it has some of France’s better larger firms, who can draw on vineyards throughout the large Rhône region from just south of Lyon to Provence. One of the oldest of these is Vidal-Fleury, which makes the most of being the Rhône’s oldest continuously operating winery (it was established before the French Revolution in 1781) although it has been owned since the mid-1980s by Guigal. The house’s 2016 is from an excellent vintage in the valley and hits that classic Côtes du Rhône sweet spot of wild blackberry and raspberry fruitiness, spiciness and supple drinkability. Stablemate Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2016 (same price, same shop is just as good, with a touch more intensity and weight.
Côtes du Rhône wines to pair with autumn stews | David Williams