My sub allows me to quote parts of the articles, and their conclusion is pretty clear; they tasted 50 different CdRs over several nights, all from 2003 and 2004. They mention this has been a favorite region for them both for many years:
To us, one of the most charming, satisfying and consistent inexpensive reds in the world is Côtes-du-Rhône, from the Rhône Valley of France. We think of it as a classic meatloaf wine, and our thoughts turn to it as soon as we feel the first hint of autumn. At the kind of informal restaurants where people eat hamburgers and liver with onions and bacon, while everyone else drinks beer, we drink Côtes-du-Rhône if one is available. Its charming roughness and generally low price are perfect for comfort food. We have been drinking this wine for decades and recommending it for years.
Some great, very serious wines are made in the Rhône Valley, but Côtes-du-Rhône is simpler, more informal and fun. It can be made from many grape types, though Syrah and Grenache are the most common. We like it young and vibrant, when its peppery, herbal, blackberry and earthy tastes seem charmingly unrestrained and delightful. These are wines designed to make you smile.
Our best of tasting was clear. In the midst of such a disappointing tasting, as soon as Dottie smelled it, she said, "Come to Mama!" This had a combination of guts and easy-drinking blackberry charm that we thoroughly enjoyed. It was J. L. Chave Selection "Mon Coeur." One of its U.S. importers, Erin Cannon Imports of Manhasset, N.Y., said that the winery made 4,000 cases and that more than half were distributed in the U.S. It's 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. Unfortunately, it bounced right up against our price limit, at $19.99. In fact, of our seven favorites, none cost less than $10 -- a shame, considering that, in the past, this was one of those inexpensive wines that we could count on in the store.
By the way, at the end of the day, all of our favorites were from the 2004 vintage. In fact, in cases where we tasted the same wine from both vintages, the 2004 was consistently better.
So here's our bottom line: We know there are many people out there who are very fond of their easy-drinking Côtes-du-Rhône. If there's one you like at a price you think is good, that's great; stay with it. And if you have a good wine merchant whom you trust who knows how to cherry-pick among the many Côtes-du Rhônes on the shelves, give it a shot (and focus on 2004). But we would advise you to avoid that aisle for now if you're on your own and looking for a fun, reliable red for dinner tonight. There are better bets in the store.
I must say my own experience has been very much the same; mostly disappointing from both years, and 2004 much better. CdR has been a go to wine for me, but not recently.