Saturday, September 18, 2021

Côtes du Rhône Wines and Perfect Fried Rice #Winophiles

Côtes du Rhône wines and
Perfect Fried Rice (left: vegetarian, ground beef, chicken, shrimp)

I was sent with six #sample - two Côtes du Rhône wines and four Côtes du Rhône Villages wines for the September Côtes du Rhône #Winophiles event, which was hosted by Wendy Klik from A Day in the Life on a Farm. The beautiful collection of Rosé, Viognier, and the Red blends like GSM (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre) inspires me to pair them with a Chinese or Asian staple, fried fact five styles of fried rice I cooked, ranging from vegetarian, beef, chicken, shrimp, and SPAM. Before I share tips in cooking perfect fried rice, let's learn about Côtes du Rhône. 

Photo Credit: Wine Folly

Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Village Wines

Côtes du Rhône, which means the hillsides of the Rhône River, is one of the world's oldest wine regions. It is the second largest wine region in France, locating in south-eastern part of the country. Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages wines, a combined area which stretches across 98,000 acres, annually produce about 40 million gallons.The Reds and Rosés are primarily a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, and the whites are mostly Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, and Roussanne. The Côtes du Rhône AOC has 171 towns and villages, while the Côtes du Rhône Villages, a separate AOC, has 95 villages. Between these two AOCs, only 21 grape varieties are permitted to use for producing  wines. The Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC is a "step-up" in the Côtes du Rhône pyramid, where more stringent rules on quality and geographical sourcing of the grapes apply. 

Photo Credit:

Out of the 95 Côtes du Rhône Villages, 22 of them attach their village name to the label, a higher grade that shows more complex wines that are good for ageability and vintage collections. The wines from the named Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC can only use grapes that are grown within the named village. If grapes from other villages are used, the named Village can't appear on the label. Red Côtes du Rhône Villages wines must, as a minimum, contain Grenache and one of the two other main varieties, Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. 

Photo Credit: Côtes du Rhône

Why Drink Côtes du Rhône AOC and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC Wines?

The sun-drenched Côtes du Rhône vineyards, located at both side of the gentle banks of the Rhône River, flourish along the River in the Mediterranean climate. The summer is hot and dry, but is refreshed by cleansing Mistral wind. There are multiple soil types in the AOC, including rocky clay soils, nutrient- and moisture-rich pebbles and stony deposits on hills and slopes. At night, the stones also release the heat stored during the day to the vines, creating  conditions that are well-suited to producing wines with good ageing potential. Loose and sandy soils on the other hand provide a less uniform water supply, which are more suited to making lighter Reds and Rosé. The climate and terroir of Côtes du Rhône Villages vineyards is similar to the Côtes du Rhône's. Grenache is the leading grape in both AOCs. In typical Reds, they are easy-drinking, full-bodied wine features flavors of wild berries, plums, and warm spices, with approachable tannins and a lingering finish. Some traditional Whites, such as Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Clairette, are creating balance in acidity, floral-scented and full-bodied wines with peach, lemon, and honey notes. In addition, while some wines, especially the ones with cellaring and vintage-collection potentials, from these appellations can fetch top dollars, most of the wines are still affordable, starting from SRP$14. 

Six Côtes du Rhône Wines To Taste

Certified Biodynamic GSM - Domaine Les Aphillanthes Cuvée Les Galets 2019 (SRP$24) - Nose: blackberry, licorice, earthy, Palate: wild game, mesquite, herbaceous, Mouthfeel: rich, lush with a long finish
Domaine Les Aphillanthes, located near Gigondas - Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu AOC, is owned and managed by Daniel Boulle and his wife, Hélène, whose 98-acres vineyards is famous for practising biodynamic principles. The couple keep their yields low and take a hands-off and minimalist approach to their winemaking in the cellar, truly letting their wines revealing the terroirs.

Rotem and Mounir Saouma Inopia Rouge 2017 (SRP$31) - Nose: dark cherries, plums, lavender and a hint of brinines, Palate: lively, deep, silky, phenolic, weathered leather, Mouthfeel: layered, nuanced
Rotem and Mounir Saouma venture out in completely new directions, producing wines that are much more in the spirit of Rhône à la Burgundy in the Côtes du Rhône Villages. They have purchased around 20 acres vineyards which terroirs are like kaleidoscope. Some of their vineyards adjoin those of Chateauneuf du Pape's high-end Château Rayas, around the lieu-dit of Pignan. Barrels, concrete, eggs, and foudres are all in their playbooks for fermentation. The level of focus, precision and purity in their winemaking is unparalleled. The Inopia Rouge 2017 consists of mainly Grenache, plus Mourvèdre, Counoise, Syrah, and Cinsault.
GSM - Xavier Vignon Arcane XIX Le Soleil 2015 (SRP$29) - Nose: cherries, blackberries, graphite, violet, and a tad of cocoa, Palate: blackberries, minerality, chocolate, Mouthfeel: fuller-bodied, richer, long and lingering finish
Xavier Vignon, a northern French naive from Picardie, is proud of his roots and of his humble beginning. His encounter in Reims with an oenologist sparked his interest in grape-growing and winemaking. Xavier brings an impressively wide perspective to his dual roles as a "terroir hunter" and "master blender" due to his more than thirty harvests from diverse wine regions around the world. Each of the Arcane series emphasizes on a specific grape variety, terroir, or vintage. The 2015 vintage is crafted largely from old vines, and the Grenache grape (80%) is selected from nine parcels around the Côtes du Rhône Village of Vaucluse, plus 10% in each of Syrah and Mourvèdre.

Lavau La Décelle 2018 (SRP$14) - Nose: blackberries, red cherries, marzipan, Palate: hints of graphite, dark chocolate, violets, Mouthfeel: medium with a lingering finish

Benoît and Frédéric Lavau fell in love with this 205-acres estate in the Valréas and purchased it in 2010. Situated in the heart of the historic Enclave des Papes, the vineyards of Domaine la Décelle benefit from the perfect combination of diverse soils, microclimates and altitude. Having inherited their family sense of adventure, they have significantly expanded their holdings to additional vineyards in Valréas, Rasteau, and Côtes du Rhône, becoming a key player in southern Rhône. The Lavau La Décelle 2018, which has 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah, is a true steal for a complex, fresh and structured Côtes du Rhône Villages wine.

Chateau Beauchène Blanc 2019 (SRP$18) - Nose/Palate: honey, white peach, dried apricot, toasted almond and vanilla, Mouthfeel: rich and weighty, 100% Viognier

The Bernard family has been making wine since the 17th century, procuring their first vineyard after the redistribution of land following the French Revolution. Since 1971, the Château has been managed by Michel Bernard and his wife, Dominique, along with their eldest daughter, who joined the management team in 2004. Today, their land include 175 acres of prized Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône-Villages vineyards. Following their ancestral widsom, the family continues to farm in a minimalist way, and has long truly practising sustainability with the old vines to make the best wines the land could. 
Certified Organic Alain Jaume Bellissime Rosé 2020 (SRP$15) - Nose: thyme and lavender, Palate: dry, strawberries and a hint of white pepper 
The Jaume family has been growing grapes since 1826. At its fifth generation, Alain Jaume, and sixth generations, his children Christophe, Sébastien, and Hélène, the Jaume are skilled grape growers and winemakers who produce wines that are intense, rich and complex. To do so, they vinify the grape variety and parcel separately across their 225-acre estate. The Alain Jaume Bellissime Rosé 2020 is a Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah blend.

Perfect Fried Rice

Fried rice appears to be a very simple dish. Everyone cooks it, and what is the big deal? To cook perfect fried rice, there are four important things to remember:
  • Have dry cooked rice (e.g., one day old or left over rice) ready. Each grain of the cooked rice should be easily separated instead of soggy rice sticking together. 
  • Invest in a rice cooker, even though it is a cheaper one. You will cook constant good rice using it. Cooking rice over the stovetop not only requires a lot of work to stir, the rice is also so easy to stick at the bottom. Ideally, if you have a non-stick rice cooker, the rice will never stick to the bottom and turn out great every time. However, if you don't want to spend the money, there is a tip to  make sure the cooked rice come out easily from a regular rice cooker. Once the rice is cooked, just unplug it from the outlet and let it cool off for at least 1/2 hour. 
  • Chose the right rice grains. Long grains such as Basmati or Chinese rice are great for fried rice. However, the short grains Korean or Japanese rice provide more chewy texture. But the key thing is not to let the rice turn soggy.
  • Add fresh herb such as cilantro, spring onion, basil, and/or parsley to bring color and aromas to the fried rice. 
Let's check out how to cook one of my favorite fried rice dishes - SPAM Fried Rice. 

SPAM Fried Rice Recipe

  • Cook 2 cups of rice in a rice cooker. Dry it overnight in the cooker or in the fridge for ideal result. Rice needs to be completely cool down before use.
  • Cut one can of SPAM into 1/2 inch cubes. Brown it in non-sticking frying pan.
  • Fry three eggs and cut it in small pieces.
  • Pan-fry any vegetable you like. Frozen mixed vegetable is an easy choice too. 
  • Combine SPAM, egg, vegetable, and rice in the pan and stir until they are all mixed together. Add salt and pepper sparsely as SPAM has already brought in the saltiness.
  • Drizzle some sesame oil to add toastiness to your rice.
Extra Tip:
  • Freeze the extra rice for your or your kids' lunch. Add one tbsp of water to the frozen rice and microwave it on high for one minute.  

I found the SPAM, ground beef and chicken fried rice pair really well with the Domaine Les Aphillanthes Cuvée Les Galets, Xavier Vignon Arcane XIX Le Soleil, and Lavau La Décelle. The meaty fried rice is a balanced meal by itself that goes well with the medium-bodied Reds. The vegetarian and shrimp fried rice is a no-brainer for the Chateau Beauchène Blanc and Alain Jaume Bellissime Rosé. I didn't have a chance to enjoy the Rotem and Mounir Saouma Inopia Rouge with any fried rice as I already drank it all before I cooked anything!

*The wines are samples. The ideas of the post are my own.

If you need more ideas pairing ideas for your Côtes du Rhône wines, check out the #Winophiles bloggers' posts below:


  1. I love your fried rice tips! My mom always had a rice cooker and I have never invested in one. I should fix that, because we love fried rice and it would be nice to make it at home!

  2. Thanks for the fried rice cooking tips! I'm also guilty of never investing in a rick cooker. Hmmm. Love how you kept to fried rice pairings for these wines (except for the Inopia).