An AOC created to champion the better wines of the Rhône Valley that may lay outside of the small and well-known appellations, but are of a higher quality than simple AC Côtes du Rhône. These wines can be a nice transition from the simple Côtes du Rhône wines to the world-class yet expensive versions created in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Côtes du Rhône-Villages is the name of wine sold from 17 villages located in the southern Rhône. The wines are sold either as Côtes du Rhône-Villages, in which they are a blend of wines created from more than one village, or as Côtes du Rhône-Villages with the name of a specific village added to the end, in which the wine comes entirely from that village.
Though technically in the Côtes du Rhône, these villages have excellent sites, with varied yet quality soil conditions and excellent exposure. The wines they create are of a higher quality, and they are bound by more restrictive practices than simple Côtes du Rhône. The minimum alcohol content is higher (12.5% versus 11%), the yields are lower and the wines are produced from higher percentages of quality varietals instead of the hodgepodge that the usual Côtes du Rhône wine can be. Grenache plays a major role, with Syrah and Mourvèdre the usual blending partners. Cinsault and Carignan are also allowed, but only up to 10% of the total. Though two million cases are produced, only about 2% of this is white, which has only been permitted since 1984.
Of the Côtes du Rhône Villages, the best are Cairanne, Sablet and Séguret located near Gigondas and Vacquerays, which themselves used to be Côtes du Rhône-Villages before they were promoted to full AC status. Other quality villages are Valréas and Visan to the north and St. Gervais which is located on the other side of the Rhône. Generally, the wines will be of a higher quality and price than Côtes du Rhône, yet a step down in both from Chateuaneuf-du-Pape.
The red wines are typical of the region, with full fruits, but plenty of game, spice, earth and warmth. The white wines of Côtes du Rhône-Villages can be quite pleasant, and are usually a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne with a little Viognier thrown in.