Originally part of Côtes du Rhône-Villages, the village of Rasteau first gained notoriety for its fortified wines, then became more well-known for its red wines. In recent years the unfortified reds have become quite popular. The appellation's vineyards, mostly located in the eponymous village, produce about 15,000 cases of wine per year.
First created as an AOC in 1944, Rasteau originally was a designation for fortified wines only. Producers of the often good unfortified wines had to label their wines Côtes du Rhône-Villages. After a long struggle between producers and the government, unfortified wines in Rasteau were finally legalized in 2010.
Climate and Viticulture
Rasteau's vineyards are located on hilly slopes. The soil is composed of marl and sand; in some vineyards there is an additional layer of small quartzite pebbles.
The fortified wines are only made with the three types of Grenache: Grenache, the obscure Grenache Gris, and Grenache Blanc. The best fortified wines are those made in the pungent rancio style. Reds are also traditionally made from Grenache, though Syrah and Mourvèdre are gaining in popularity.
The fortified Rasteaus are generally quite reliable, especially those labeled rancio. The reds, however, are more interesting and heterogeneous. We list five producers currently making top-level Rasteaus.
- Domaine Beau Mistral: Fancily labeled, well-made wines. The Vieilles Vignes is fine, but St-Martin and Florianaelle are two cuvées that offer more refined, precise flavors. The 2007 St-Martin was rated 93.
- Domaine Gourt des Mautens: This producer's basic wine is an impressively powerful expression of Grenache, with smooth, woody black fruit flavors combined with scents of spice and herbs. Unfortunately, it is high-priced at $50.
- Perrin et Fils: This domaine's cuvée, labeled L'Andeol, is thick, rich and smooth, with layered red and black fruit flavors plus herbal complexity.
- Domaine Santa Duc: Best here is the Les Blovac cuvée, which is full of ripe, gamy flavors of black fruit and chocolate.
- Domaine la Soumade: Soumade is a very dedicated producer here. The basic wine and the fortified wine are both excellent for under $25. The Cuvée Prestige and Fleur de Confiance cuvées have excellent pedigrees. Best is the floral, feminine Cuvée Confiance, which offers unique flavors in the appellation.