White Rhones - Oh Yes I Did

The story behind Viognier and its siblings


A lot of people have asked me what the hell I am doing writing about “White Rhône.” The Viognier part they get, they are popular, plentiful and fun to write about, but what’s the story with all the other varieties?

Well, what is the story with those other varieties, or the blends for that matter? Yes, I am actually asking that question. The way to get an answer involves reading about the wines, tasting the wines and writing about the wines. Well hello, that’s exactly what this is all about then isn’t it?

Yes it is. You see this whole Global Tasting Initiative is not just a gimmick to get you all tasting specific groups of wines, it’s also a gimmick to get me to taste those wines.

Photo courtesy quinn.anya via Flickr/CC
I can honestly say that there would be no other way that I would have sat down to taste through three dozen Viogniers, a mess of white Chateauneuf, or a myriad of other wines, and that would have made me a lesser wine lover!

It’s so easy to get caught in traps when exploring wine and the only out is by tasting. Not just one wine, which might give you the impression that Viognier is all peaches and honeysuckles and low acid to boot. No, you have to taste many examples so that you can see what oak ageing does to Viognier and what mark climates from Oregon to Australia, California to France put on the wines.

To be a well-rounded lover of the grape you have to understand the citrussy side of Viognier and the minerally side, and why stop there? If we’re talking about white Rhône, there are Roussannes to be tasted, Marsannes to search for, Grenache Blancs to be bowled over by, and of course all the blends and their glorious combinations of varieties.

Take some time one day to take a step back and consider where you might need a bit of testing. This round with white Rhônes has taught me a few things. It has for one taught me that good Roussanne seems to be very hard to come by, though Texas does have some promise. It has taught me that Viognier is peaches and honeysuckles, except when it’s even more interesting as ginger and jasmine and Asian pear. And finally, it has taught me that white Rhône blends have come a long way over the past decade or so. Most of the wines today marry the fat of the past with real, sprightly acid! What a positive development and one that would have continued to pass me by had I not decided that now was the time to revisit the white wines of Rhone and their siblings.

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