WHITE WINE / Rhone Blend
The term Rhone Blend commonly refers to wines produced or inspired by the traditional wines from the southern Rhone Valley located around Avignon with Châteauneuf du Pape its most famous appellation. Wines from the Rhone are divided into Northern and Southern growing regions with the Northern Rhone being devoted to Syrah or Syrah blended with small quantities of Viognier while the most planted variety in the southern Rhone is Grenache which can be blended with up to 12 other varieties. After Grenache, the most common are Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise, Terre Noir, Vaccarese and Muscardin while some of the main white varieties are Marsanne, Roussane, Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc. Grenache's characteristics of sweet fruit, high alcohol, low tannin and acidity forms the basis of these red blends with Syrah and Mourvedre typically adding colour, tannin and structure to the blend. These Southern Rhone Blends offer some of the best value French wines available. The ripe nature of the wines makes them easy to consume young and they offer a window into the more concentrated wines from the vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape proper. For example, Guigal’s delicious Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2010 at around $20 is one of the world’s great wine bargains. Other outstanding producers include Guigal, Delas, Charvin, Domaine Marcoux, Domaine Usseglio and Vieux Telegraphe.
The traditional blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre is also produced in other wine regions in France including parts of the Languedoc, Costières de Nimes, Provence and Bandol (here Mouvedre is king). In the New World the most important regions for Rhone style blends is the McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley in South Australia, and more recently California, and South Africa. Rhone inspired blends from South Australia are typically higher in alcohol, deeper in colour, with rich ripe fruit profiles tending to blackberry, softer tannins and less savoury spice. Outstanding producers include Yalumba, Charles Melton, Hewitson, Cirillo, Landhaus and S C Pannell.
The Oxford Wine Companion, (ed) Jancis Robinson MW
The Wines of The Rhone Valley, Robert Parker Jnr