Rhône Valley producer Cellier des Dauphins is bidding to boost the region’s reputation for quality wines by championing a number of premium ranges.

It has enjoyed plenty of success with its Les Dauphins ranges, replete with eye-catching labels, in retailers like Tesco, Asda and Waitrose.

These wines remain a major focus for the business, but it is also seeking listings for higher priced wines designed to reflect the individual terroirs from across the region.

It launched a Cellier des Dauphins Reserve range, consisting of a red, white and rosé, at Prowein earlier this year and it has already gained listings across the world for it.

It has also unveiled a single village range under the Cellier des Dauphins banner, highlighting the grower responsible for the graps and the area in which they were grown.

Cellier des Dauphins is a co-op consisting of 2,300 winegrowers. Its land under vine spans 12,500ha and it claims to account for 30% of the southern Rhône’s production.

The plan is to celebrate the work of the individual growers within the co-op to a greater extent in future.

The final new tier is a range of crus: Cairanne, Vinsobres, Vacqueyras and Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Export director Jean-Francois Chabod told DRN: “We needed to valorise the wine and promote our single villages.

“We have 2,300 families, and we needed to focus more on the terroir.

“We wanted to put forward the unique terroir of each village. We can express really nice variety of terroir profile. We see really great potential in promoting the individual work of these growers. Les Dauphins will continue to be strong, but we think it’s the right time to promote these small areas.

“We have just started to see the new wines in the UK market. We are in discussions for next year with some big players.”

Wines from the southern Rhône have always been hugely popular among UK shoppers and they often provide excellent value for money compared to rival French regions. Yet own-label offerings and non-branded wines from smaller producers have always dominated the more premium price points, so Cellier des Dauphins sees an opportunity there.

It has changed the shape of Les Dauphins’ bottles, so that the entire portfolio now has the same bottle shape, and it hopes this will allow it to take British consumers on a journey from Les Dauphins and Reserve through to the single village wines and the crus.  

Chabod said: “Consumers are more and more educated and knowledgeable, and they want to find something unique. We are very lucky to have this diversity of terroir in the southern Rhone.

“We want to promote wines with lots of elegance, but still with the characteristics of the Rhône Valley.

“In addition to the current distribution, with the villages and crus we are now targeting more premium distribution, like independents and other players in the market.”

Seventy percent of the group’s production is red and 20% is rosé. It tries to extract little colour but plenty of flavour from the grapes when producing the rosé, in order to attain the pale colour consumers love, while retaining structure and flavour.

It feels that the red and rosé from the region is a fairly easy sell, as consumers know what to expect, but the whites – which account for a tenth of its production – are more challenging due to the taste profile and the lesser known grapes used.

“When it’s white Cotes du Rhône, buyers are sometimes reluctant,” said Chabod. “Our idea is to get into the IGP and focus on varietals. Viognier is a good example of something quite trendy that we can offer. Les Dauphins has sold as a white at Tesco and Asda and sales are good.”

Cellier des Dauphins has also worked hard on boosting its sustainability credentials over the past year.

Winemaker Laurent Paré said: “All of our growers and engaged in and committed to sustainability. They want to produce great grapes, but they are all involved in sustainable initiatives.

“Ten percent of our vineyard is organic. It’s important to protect the environment. We are looking to become 100% HVE [gain High Environment Value certification]. All of our growers will be part of this new scheme.

“We promote solar panels. We made the choice to turn all our cardboard into neutral cardboard, and we use natural ink, so it is all easy to recycle. We are going to turn capsules into corn starch. It’s a big step for us. We removed the handle from our bag in box. We are going to be able to avoid plastic to wrap our pallets, and we are reducing the weight of our bottles. It’s an ongoing process.”

He admits that climate change is an issue for this warm region, but he feels the growers are well placed to resist it. “There are some impacts of climate change. Most of our vineyards are resisting it. We have lots of old vines that go deep into the ground and they are able to get some water and resist the dry. It’s hard to resist climate change, but we are looking for more resistant grape varietals. The work has to be done in the vineyard to have healthy soils.”