Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ranging through the Rhône

The Rhône is a darling of critics, with wines available in basically all price points, from under-$10 for Côtes du Rhône through "that wine is how much?" for the best from Châteauneuf du Pape.

Essentially, the Rhône is split into two regions, the northern Rhône, which runs between Vienne in the extreme north, to Valence in the south.  The dominant grape here is Syrah, although there are some white grapes grown here, primarily Viognier, with some Marsanne and Rousanne.  This area has the unusual distinction of being a place where red and white may be blended -- by way of example, the wines of the Côte-Rôtie generally has 5% Viognier blended into the Syrah, although they may be anywhere from 0% to 20% Viognier.  

These tend to be comparatively fruit-forward wines, lighter in style than comparable Shiraz from Australia, with lower alcohol levels.  There is often a pronounced earthy note to the wine as well, something you often don't find in the New World counterparts to these wines.

In the southern Rhône, by contrast, many grapes are grown -- primarily Grenache, with Syrah and Mouvedre, although a number of other grapes are allowed.  In Châteauneuf du Pape, for example, 13 grapes are allowed, and of those 13, 2 have both red and black varieties, allowing for up to 15 types of base wine!  As a bit of trivia, one producer, Château Beaucastel, uses all 13 varieties in their wines.

Good bets for places to get fine wine in the southern Rhône include the aforementioned Châteauneuf du Pape (where you do pay for the privilege of drinking well-known wine, but it's well-known for a reason), as well as Vacquyras (known for powerful wines), Gigondas, and indeed, the Côtes du Rhône (very accessible for new drinkers, the wines from here tend to be softer than their higher-priced cousins).

So why drink Rhône?  Especially with the summer coming up, Rhône wines offer great pairings with traditional cuisine.  Steaks on the grill with potato salad and cream corn?  A Vacquyras should be perfect with that!  Picnicing with sandwiches?  Côtes du Rhône works well!

Map from Wikipedia, created by Lofo7

No comments:

Post a Comment