On June 9 the French appellation contrôlée regulator INAO elevated Rasteau’s dry red wines from Côtes du Rhône Villages status to full AOC in its own right, following an initial request from the local winegrowers’ syndicate and its chairman Daniel Ferran in 2002.
“This decision is a natural acknowledgement of the quality of the Rasteau terroir, a point that had to be made clear to consumers, and a definite message to the market,” said Jean-Jacques Dost, general manager of Ortas Cave de Rasteau, the leading producer and marketer of the new AOC Rasteau wines.
Rasteau becomes the latest to join a list of southern Rhône AOC villages that includes Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Tavel, Lirac, Gigondas and Beaumes de Venise. The last two villages to be similarly recognized were Vacqueyras in 1990, followed by Vinsobres in 2006.
During the assessment process for the new Rasteau AOC the area’s current 1300 hectare delimited area was reduced by about 100ha. The region has had an AOC for its dessert-style Vin Doux Naturel wines since 1944, but these now account for only about 5% of the Rasteau’s production.
Noted for its relatively low yields of up to 38hl/ha, the Rasteau terroir features clay-limestone terraces covered with medium-sized, smooth stones, with 75% of its vineyards on slopes at between 500 to 1000 feet elevation. Estimates place the first vineyards plantings in the region at 30 BC.