Since I’m really looking forward to The Rhone Rangers’s upcoming webinar on White Rhone wines, I decided to devote this article to the Rhone Rangers, a wonderful non-profit dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines. In case you’re not familiar with the Rhone wine region, it’s in the southeast of France, just above Provence.
Who Are The Rhone Rangers?
According to their site, their “mission is to educate the public on Rhone varietal wine grapes grown in America and to promote the production and enjoyment of these wines, with emphasis on integration into our daily lives. For a wine to qualify as a ‘Rhone Rangers’ wine, the winery must be a member of the organization, and 75% of the wine’s content must include one or more of the twenty-two traditional Rhone grape varieties…”
The organization has 93 member wineries.
Which Wines Are Red Rhone Wines?
When you think of Red Rhone wines, you immediately think of the classic MSG blend: Mourvedere, Syrah and Grenache. But the Rhone Rangers website tells me there are many more Rhone reds, including Carignan, Cinsault, Counoise, Muscardin, Petite Sirah, Picpoul Noir, Terret Noir and Vaccarese. Wow. I have a lot of learning (oops, tasting) to do. Of this list, I still have to try Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul Noir, Terret Noir and Vaccarese. How exciting.
Which Wines Are White Rhones?
On this front, I quickly think of three of my favorite wines: Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. According to the Rhone Ranger, in Southern France, Marsanne and Roussanne are often combined. Marsanne provides body, and Roussane provides “aroma, finesse and aging capacity”. Checking out the Rhone Rangers site, I again see many new tasting opportunities for me: Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul and Ugni Blanc. Wow.
Learning About These Wines from the Rhone Rangers
What’s so cool about the Rhone Rangers’s website is that you can click on each of the 21 Rhone grapes and get great information, including both a one liner and, after clicking on the picture, a more detailed explanation. As an example, I learned that Ugni Blanc is better known by its Italian name Trebbiano and is the basis for Brandy.
Why Are Rhone Wines So Cool?
While I can say that Rhone wines are yummy beyond belief, I thought it would be better to rely on an expert. WineEnthusiast provided these helpful notes and really emphasized the differences between Northern Rhone (Syrah and the whites) and Southern Rhone (red blends and whites):
- Northern Rhône reds made with Syrah are big, bold, spicy wines with a firm tannic structure in their youth. They can be rustic and meaty, or supremely elegant, with floral overtones.
- Northern Rhône whites made with Viognier are aromatic, full-bodied wines reminiscent of apricot and summer blossom. Whites based on Marsanne and Roussanne have great herbal aromas, full body and wonderful texture.
- Southern Rhône red blends are based largely on Grenache and have rounded, warm, ripe red fruit flavors. The best reds have the earthy-herbal scent of garrigue, the term used to describe local scrub comprised of bay, lavender, rosemary and juniper.
- Rhone wines are versatile and food friendly.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of Rhone wines. If you’re a Rhone fan, I highly encourage you to join the Rhone Rangers.
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