Côtes du Rhône is one of those ever-reliable French red wines. You know, the one you can always pick off a wine list and know you’ll get something drinkable.

So what’s different about a Côtes du Rhône Villages wine?

In essence, they’re a notch up from a ‘straight CdR’. It all started back in 1966, a year forever notched in the memories of football fans. Now some 90 communes are included, though only 19 can put their name on the label.

Hence ‘Plan de Dieu’ – the name of a Côtes du Rhône village. Meaning ‘plain of God’, when bandits roamed the countryside so you literally took your life into your own hands in this region. Today you’d be more likely to be marvelling at how brilliant its wines are, and wishing you’d have discovered them sooner.

This is a knockout wine, verging on ‘fine wine’ territory, but without the price tag.

Good old Grenache plays the main role, with Syrah and Mourvèdre supporting (~20%).

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Rhône Villages 2013

best Cotes du Rhone wine

Still intensely purple-red colour, invitingly dense and rich just from sight alone.

It’s an invitation that’s reflected on the nose, with an alluringly complex, fruit compote, heady array of aromas, hint of vanilla, with a touch of spice.

It quietly whispers quality and lets you know that a lot of care and attention have gone into its creation. There’s nothing amiss, no off notes, just a portend of things to come.

There’s an instant rush of dark and red berry fruit once the wine hits your tongue. This rapidly builds and increases the tempo until you’ve got a mouthful of incredibly focused, vibrant flavours assaulting your senses. Violets and ever-so-subtle elements begin to appear; the sensation keeps you struggling to identify them.

This isn’t a fruit bomb wine, however, it’s something far more sophisticated that deserves something of similar weight food-wise to show at its best. There are finely-grained tannins, that will pair superbly with the right dish. Weight but not weighty. Sleek, supple wine that’s a beautiful expression of the Rhône’s potential and careful winemaking.

We’re not the only ones raving about this ravishing Rhône. Antonio Galloni gave it a 90 point rating, and a drinking window from 2017-2021.

A cellar-worthy Rhône red wine, which will continue to improve over the next few years.