And then there’s the juice. The Rhone River might as well flow red wine for the Syrah and Grenache grapes that form the pillars of the region. The blends of the Rhone are balanced and have a bounty of fresh red fruit. The young wines are easy to drink and drink and drink…while older vintages, the Cotes Du Rhone named villages and Cru wines, are more spicey and complex. These are wines to savor and are excellent with flavorful meals.
There are two secrets of the Rhone region that only a visit to the area will best reveal. The ancient roman architectural influences, sweeping views of vines, terra cotta roofs and easy nature of the locals are spell binding. It’s hard to comprehend how more people don’t cancel their return flight back home to take up a new life as a wine maker.
Many wine regions have the reputation of a star producer and the Cotes du Rhone A-list name is Chapoutier. Visiting one of the Rhone region’s many wine routes you will encounter more mom and pop wine makers where you’ll likely see the son, or more often the daughter, these days, of the vintner working the bottling line or in some other area of production. At one of these wineries a line might max 200 750 mL bottles an hour, a snail’s pace compared to a facility like that of Chapoutier or Guigal and Jaboulet, two other major producers in the region to note for becoming acquainted with the Rhone. The charm and quality of the smaller producers rivals the modernization of the larger producers, and both are boosting the region into the much-deserved limelight.
The other secret to the Rhone is the white wine. To fall head over heels in love with white wine is to drink a Rhone white. The whites have perfect acidity, are lush yet light on the palate with a lingering finish, hints of oak and worthy of applause. On a visit to Chapoutier, the head of exports, charming, French of course, but speaking perfect English and schooled at one of the best business institutions in Europe, will likely offer a “winter white” as part of the mix of a guided tasting at the producer’s academic style classroom in Tain l'Hermitage. Remember to bring a pen and note it down along as winter whites are excellent by the fireplace or at the table with lobster claw in butter, a salad of bib lettuce with a slice of boucheron that’s been grilled or rabbit loin in a mustard sauce and white asparagus, a local side favored in the Rhone.
The end of summer usually means saying goodbye to watery Pinot Grigios and mediocre Chardonnays and hello again to red wine. So for those who sometimes crave the freshness of a white wine with body in cooler weather should look no further than Rhone. Many argue that the Cru village of Condrieu produces the best white wine in the world. If you see a Condrieu on a menu or at a wine shop, run and get it. And if it’s a Condrieu by Yves Cuilleron, share it only with dear friends but share it often.
By carrie crespo