Provençal Pairings: Wine with Food

‘Tis the Season

by David Scott Allen

Winery: Domaine de Corps de Loup
Cuvée: Marions-Les!
Appellation: Côte-Rôtie, Northern Rhône
Type: Red
Vintage: 2016
Grape Varieties: 80% Syrah, 20% Viognier
Alcohol: 12.5%
Average Retail Price: France €34

No, not that season! It’s grilling season. And I have to say that Rhône wines are pretty perfect for pairing with grilled meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and fruits. Why is that, I wonder?

I don’t want to get into the science side of things. For one, I am not really qualified. Really, this is about Provence in the summer. The ease, romance, beauty, and flavor. Summer food with summer wines. Sigh.

I find that grilling brings out the inherent sweetness in all the above-mentioned foods. Even without any marinade, sugars concentrate when proteins are grilled to make everything taste just a bit sweeter. And then we add marinades and barbecue sauces, which are often rife with sugar and honey, the sweetness is accentuated.

This week, I paired a 2016 Côte-Rôtie with one of my family favorites – grilled steak sandwiches. For the recipe(s), head over to Cocoa & Lavender. For the wine, read on.

Côte-Rôtie wines are new to me. I have to admit that I have been a bit pressed as of late, and wasn’t thinking clearly when I popped the cork. Normally, I look into the wine a bit further, but this time I looked only far enough to see that it was a Syrah, and knew that it was good with grilled meats. I planned my menu and never thought another thing about the wine.

Until I popped the cork, that is, and poured a glass to check the nose. The first sniff had me running back to the bottle to look at the blend. Nothing there, so I went online. Once I discovered that this was a blend and not 100% Syrah, I muttered, as the French often do, “Ça explique tout!”

While they are comprised primarily of Syrah, this particular wine from Domaine de Corps de Loup adds 20% Viognier, the maximum amount allowed to be considered a Côte-Rôtie. But I didn’t know this when I first checked the bouquet. Tart cherry and… citrus? And not just citrus, lemon! This was not what I expected but I proceeded to taste – and that tart cherry and lemon followed on the palate. Additionally, I detected red currant and black pepper.

To me, for a wine this complex, it comes across as very simple and light – the Viognier brings it around a corner to something very summery and refreshing. It paired nicely with the steak – which was marinated in a paprika-laden mixture with Dijon mustard, herbs and a touch of sugar – and kept its refreshing nature throughout the meal.

Given our very hot weather (I think we peaked at 109°F that day) and the 65°F serving temperature recommended by the estate (on their website), I thought the wine might benefit from a few minutes on ice, so I tried that with the remainder the next day. Five minutes of chilling did make it even more refreshing for a hot summer day.

One thing for sure, this is definitely a food wine, not one to sip on its own. It really comes into its own with the right food. I think I could have added more sugar – or honey, agave syrup, etc. – to the marinade and it might have increased my enjoyment of the wine. That said, it is a very nice wine and I look forward for trying other Côte-Rôties, and perhaps next time a 100% Syrah, just for argument’s sake.


  1. Hi David, what an interesting article! I did not know that a Côte-Rôtie could have as much as 20% Viognier in it. Viognier sounds like a nice addition to soften a big Syrah for summer drinking on the deck. I personally like grilled meat all year round and a nice Syrah is a perfect match any month of the year but sometimes it seems just too heavy for the warm evenings with BBQ! Do you know if this is available for purchase in the USA? I would love to try it!

    • Hello Peter! It really did round out the wine. Some reviewers actually said they felt it was Rosé-esque but I think that is far from the reality. Sadly, I have not been able to locate this wine in the U.S. – my bottle came directly from France. Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting!

  2. Hi David. I love Côte-Rôtie wines. Don’t generally think of them in the summer heat here in Provence but will try this one next time the steak’s on the grill. Thanks.

  3. David, we just had a Syrah from Ojai, CA with our meal and it reminded me that there are Syrahs and then “special” Syrahs–like the ones from Côtes-Rôtie! A good Syrah, like the Marions-Les!, can be elegant, fresh, spicy and balanced and pair nicely with a variety of dishes. I wish more winemakers would pull a cork on a Côte-Rôtie (as a benchmark) and strive to make this style of wine over here! Glad you liked it!

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