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06.20.2012

Syrah - The End of an Era?

bring_out_yer_rhones.jpgFor the past 20 years, the last weekend in April or the first weekend in May has always meant the same thing for thousands of wine lovers in California. Each spring at this time, we hop in our cars and make a pilgrimage to the town of Paso Robles for a round of inebriated bowling followed by two days of Syrah, Grenache, Carignane, Cinsault, and every other grape you'd expect in the line-up at an event named Hospice du Rhône.

The event, which grew out of wine lover Matt Garretson's love of Viognier, has long been the premier Rhône-focused event in the country, and attracted a significant number of top French producers every year to its intimate, laid-back and deeply passionate activities. Seven weeks ago the event celebrated its 20th anniversary, selling out of its 1,300 tickets in a matter of weeks. I didn't attend, but by all accounts it was, as usual, a hell of a party.

According to a letter published on the event's web site two weeks ago, however, it was also the last time this event will be held. In a move that has shocked many of the event's most ardent supporters, winemaker John Alban and executive director Vicki Carroll have decided to end the three-day event and seek 'new areas to showcase the wines, philosophies, and insights of Rhône producers.' Continue reading this article on JancisRobinson.Com.

This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is available only to subscribers of her web site. If you're not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It's only £6.99 a month or £69 per year ($11/mo or $109 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

Comments (19)

gianpaolo wrote:
06.21.12 at 2:00 AM

Hi Alder, I've read the interview to Grahm, and I was almost in shock to read that someone like him is starting to question the production model of wines made in the New World: "Why am I spending $45 for this wine, when I can get something from Europe I like for the same price or cheaper?"
That question, I think, is not only interesting for New World's winemakers, but even more for the Old World's ones: why should I make Cab. + Merlot in Tuscany when people can buy wines made with those varieties all over the world?
It is probably true what Grahm says, it is now possible to source wines quite easily from everywhere, and that is changing the whole thing. Possible solution (maybe easier for Old World)?: make something that is really true to your place, with your grapes, without using wine making techniques that tend to make all the wines look the same.

Alder wrote:
06.21.12 at 12:04 PM

Gianpaolo,

To perhaps clarify, I think Randall is purely questioning the economics of the model -- how to make wines that will sell profitably and predictably.

Alder

Duane wrote:
06.24.12 at 9:54 AM

Just read part of the story - didn't want to have to pay Ms. Robinson to read the rest.

06.24.12 at 2:55 PM

Virginia should assume the mantle for Viognier and start a yearly event like this, especially if CA is throwing in the towel. The state is producing some great Viognier and people are getting excited.

As for Syrah? Sad to think about, but maybe it is the end of an erah.

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