Thursday, 8 November 2018

The Pleasure – or not – of Côtes du Rhône

The concept of ‘guilty pleasures’ is one I fail to grasp. Surely it is countered through the pursuit of a simple philosophy: if something makes you feel bad when you do it, then don’t. But be that as it may; it seems that Côtes du Rhône wines have been running a promotion entitled Guilty Pleasures.

I have only felt guilty about wine myself when I have paid too much for it. Perhaps not surprisingly, that seems not to be the gist of the Côtes du Rhone campaign.

“Côtes du Rhône wines are ideal to share with friends,” they say, differentiating them from precisely zero other wines. 

However, they go on to claim that these are, uniquely, wines to “enjoy everyday during those ‘Guilty Pleasure’ occasions such as indulging in your favourite TV series, eating a juicy burger or treating yourself to a pampering session.”

Do you feel guilty watching your favourite TV series? There must be some vegetarians who would feel acutely guilty about eating a juicy burger, and I would advise them not to do so; but that doesn’t apply to me. And nor does a pampering session, to which I am not aware that I have ever “treated myself”, although I have felt quite indulged during a visit to a tailor. But watching my favourite TV series? That’s something I enjoy. That’s why I do it.

But here, in one of their campaign ads, are the guilty parties, as it were. Perhaps their favourite TV series is Police Camera Alcohol, in which drunks fight, vomit and fall off pavements in economically deprived towns – and the reason these two feel guilty is that they’re getting themselves into a similar state, but bingeing on Côtes du Rhône rather than vodka, with the evening terminating in the comfort of their plush-looking sofa rather than the confines of a police van.

So she dances into their living room with a remote control in one hand and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône in the other. Calm down, dear, there’ll be a spillage! He, on the other hand, has taken the adventurous step of loosening his tie, a hideous mauve example which bodes ill for his taste. It all looks such fun; in fact, the ad must have done its job, because I feel I should copy them, perhaps in my own living room, where unlike the one in the ad, a security lanyard is not required.

With the name implanted into my psyche by the promotion, I scan the supermarket shelf like an average punter for a bottle simply and boldly labelled Côtes du Rhône – and there it is!


(No, I did not enter their competition, by posting this picture of my bottle with the hashtag #myrhoneguiltypleasure. Because by the end of the month a whopping 21 other individuals had done so on Twitter, and I worried that 22 might break the internet. Also, the winner is picked at random, which I was always taught was not a competition, but a lottery.)

This particular Côtes du Rhône cost £5.50. The back of the label suggests that it is “perfect with mid-week suppers such as spaghetti Bolognese or sausages and mash”, suspiciously avoiding any connection whatsoever with the flavours of French cuisine.

And equally, it seems to avoid any connection with the flavours of French wine. A slightly oily bouquet, a vague taste of postage-stamp glue and fruit gums, but essentially a bland and flabby wine, empty of flavour and character. Which might put any newcomer off Côtes du Rhône for good.

And ay, there’s the rub – because there is no single Côtes du Rhône wine. Even when that name is prominent on the label, it’s not a uniform and consistent product like Gordon’s gin. It’s one of the biggest appellations in the world, with over 5,000 growers. I have to wonder at the value in promoting Côtes du Rhône as a brand, when its wines vary so much, from the most magnificent, expensive examples down to, well, the one which the promotion got me to drink.

Which at £5.50 didn’t make me feel guilty. But certainly wasn’t much pleasure.



  1. My opinion entirely. BTW I did enter the competition #myrhoneguiltypleasure with a rather lovely white chateau neuf du pape(chateau de Beaucastel) which I purchased there but probably wasn't cheap enough to be classed as Cote de Rhone!! There were meant to be 4 runners up prizes too which made it almost odds on to win some delicious everyday wines! Oh well c'est La vie. Cheers !

    1. There may of course have been more entries on the other social media platforms.

    2. Yes on Instagram and Facebook.. They haven't even bothered to announce who the winners were on those!!

  2. I now have an urge to visit my tailor. He of the gentle hands and soothing manner; hypnotising with murmured arcana and brisk chalk marks. Best of all, there will be no aromatic oils.

    Good writing.