After Alsace, the Rhone Valley is probably my next favorite French wine region. The diversity in terrain, climate, and soils, makes for a whole host of grape varieties and wine styles. Much modern winemaking in my home state of California takes its literal and figurative roots from the Rhone, so the history, along with comparative tastings, are of particular interest to me.
Today, we start with an overview of the Rhone Valley. A lot will focus on signature grape varieties of both the Northern and Southern Rhone, as well as some key terms and facts that will help us moving forward. Because my text doesn’t go into the winemaking history of the region, I’m not going to cover that in detail during this series, though I may drop an interesting anecdote here and there if it is relevant to the material being discussed. If interested, The Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition), does have a good historical synopsis. And if you’re interested in the California-French Rhone connection, I highly recommend American Rhone: How Maverick Winemakers Changed the Way Americans Drink by Patrick J. Comiskey.
I’m beginning to have a new appreciation for the Paso Robles AVA and that may be because I’ve found a new wine love: Rhone-style wines. I went to this year’s Rhone Ranger seminar and tasting, as well as the Paso Robles seminar and tasting, and what I’ve learned is that the Paso Robles AVA most mimics the terroir and climate of the French AVAs known to produce Bordeaux and Rhone.
Well, it was at the Rhone Rangers seminar where I first met Jason DiFrancesco of Leverage Wines who introduced me to a great line-up of his productions — everything from a “Big Boy” Rose to a soft and supple Grenache. So when he kindly gifted me some of his newest releases for sampling and reviewing, I knew I was in for a treat.
I’ve been learning a lot about Rhones lately. Specifically New World Rhones from the West Coast here in the US. For me, that means there are a lot of good quality, local wines available. But I can’t help but feel one can only appreciate what the New World has to offer by studying from those who have been doing it the longest.
Where do our modern-day “Rhone Rangers,” like Bonny Doon and their ilk get their influence? How are Old World techniques implemented today? For that we must turn to Old World wines straight from the Motherland, France.
I am but one little woman in the whole wine world and don’t have fancy French labels at my fingertips. Luckily there are producers like Guigal Estate who import affordable French wines for regular folks and wannabe wine snobs like myself.