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02.13.2006

WBW#19 Has Been Announced: When in Rhone...

wbw_icon.jpgThe next edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, the Web's only virtual wine tasting event, has been announced. This month's tasting, hosted by Jathan over at Wineexpression.com, is taking all the participating bloggers on a wine tasting tour of Rhone blends, either from the New world or the Old. Not sure what qualifies as a Rhone blend? Jathan has provided a list as well as links to some appropriate resources for folks to learn more. If you've got a blog and want to participate, just drink a wine, take some notes, and post them on Wednesday March 8th, 2006 along with an e-mail to the host. Last month over 44 people around the world participated.

So bust out your Chateaneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Cotes-du-Rhone, Cornas, Hermitage, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Marsanne, Rousanne, or any other of your obscure favorites.

Comments (6)

Iris wrote:
02.14.06 at 2:06 AM

I looked up the definition of "Rhône" on Jathans blog - it's a list of grape varieties, which you can find in the Rhône-valley, but also in different blends all around the Languedoc-Roussillon.

It made me once again become conscientious of the total difference of the American and the French way of approaching wine: for me a Rhône-wine must imperatively be a wine from the Rhône appellation area, or, with other words: from a geographically determined terroir.

And if I tried to communicate about my 100% Mourvèdre wine grown in my place as a "Rhôny" (or - what would be more precise - a "Bandol") I would feel wrong and perhaps even have a law pursuit for abuse of protected names (like Champagne, Roquefort, vendange tardive etc.).

But nevertheless I will be curious to read all about your rhôny wines worldwide, on wineblogging Wednesday.

Tony wrote:
02.14.06 at 3:02 AM

Is it ok for China to pirate U.S. products or brands?

Is it ok for the U.S. to pirate European brands? The Rhone region like many others in Europe have set up laws to provide a product a certain way, and carefully crafted their regions into brands. Since they succeeded, is it ok for us to pirate it to make a buck?

How would you like to buy a bottle labelled Napa only to read the fine print later and find out it was produced in Lebanon?

Alder wrote:
02.14.06 at 8:58 AM

Whoa. Let's be clear. None of the U.S. wines that might be drunk for this event would likely have the word "Rhone" in their names, nor do they use any of the names of any French appellations on the bottle. This is NOT analagous to making some sparkling wine and labelling it Champagne from Napa.

In the U.S. (as well as elsewhere in the world, I might add) we use a shorthand to describe styles of wine that mirror existing traditions. Blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec are known the world over as "Bordeaux style blends." The Rhone Rangers is a society of winemakers in California dedicated to growing and making wines from typical Rhone varietals. But none of these people are labelling their wine as "Rhone." The closest I've ever seen is someone who named their Syrah blend "Goats do Roam."

Independent of the trade agreement that was recently signed by France and the US protecting place names, California wines must be labelled with either the varietal (if the wine is at least 75% of one grape) or with the phrase "red table wine" if the blend is too diverse.

Sure, some of the varieties that are listed as "Rhone" varieties are grown elsewhere but that's true of most grapes in this world. And just because you happen to be growing grapes that are traditionally from some specific area, doesn’t mean that your wine can't express terroir.

Tony wrote:
02.15.06 at 12:21 AM

I have never experienced the Rhone Rangers, but what you say about them sounds good. You portray them as a group paying tribute to one of the great wine regions. However, this is not always the case. As you mentioned, California is well known for calling their sparkling wine Champagne, and Pinot Noir is sometimes labelled Burgundy. It also goes beyond wine to foods such as sausage, cured meats, and cheese.

In the world of business, there is a lot of complaining about other countries such as Russia and China pirating products and brands from the U.S. This is very justifiable; however, I feel it is hypocritical of us to ignore the fact that we are also pirating brands from other countries.

I got a whiff of this when I read your blog, and I am glad to read that the Rhone Rangers are paying hommage.

02.15.06 at 8:03 AM

So I just went through this whole ordeal with labeling a Rhone blend from the SF Bay appellation. And while I understand the Rhone Rangers are behind a move to get "Rhone Varietal Blend" as a legally accepted option for California Rhone blend Wines, I don't see it happenning. I hope it does though.

The situation forces a sort of wierd decision on us as winemakers, which is: come up with a proprietary blend name for that wine, which the critics don't seem to be too fond of, or just call it a california red wine, or red table wine, which I'm frankly not too fond of, and I don't think the public is willing to pay over 10 dollars for.

So if you're like me, you pour over hundreds of wierd names in your head. Rhonitage, Rhone-hypnol, Boney Ma Rhoney, and possibly the worst: Frenchy McRhonestein. But what you really want is to be able to say something like Rhone varietal blend, or Rhone style Red Wine.

It will drive you crazy. And if Wine Spectator is correct, and Rhone varietals are the next big thing (I think they must have a zillion acres of syrah hidden away somewhere the way they push it), the number of Rhone blends on the market is only going to increase.

Someone needs to have a contest like they did with Meritage, so that winemakers like me don't walk around looking crazy, muttering "rhone... bone... loan... tone..."

Groan.

J

Alder wrote:
02.15.06 at 8:51 AM

Jeremy,

Thanks very much for the comments. It's nice to hear from the trenches...

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