Discovering the Delicious Wines of an Under-the-Radar French Appellation

In a world enamored by the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, France’s Rhone appellation often gets overlooked.

That’s too bad, because this region — which straddles the Rhone River south of the Burgundy appellation — produces some big, earthy, gutsy wines unlike any others found in France.

The Northern Rhone reds, in particular, are big, mouth-filling, anything-but-shy wines. Most of these Syrah-based cuvees can age for five years and some can age for much longer.

Look for:

* Cote Rotie

* Hermitage

* Crozes-Hermitage

* Cornas

* St. Joseph

The whites of the Northern Rhone are crafted from Viognier or blends of Marsanne and Roussanne. These are substantial wines and well worth checking out.

Look for:

* Condrieu

* Hermitage

* Crozes-Hermitage

In the Southern Rhone, Grenache-based cuvees rule. They’re typically blended with varying percentages of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Duriff. If you love big wines that still exhibit a good deal of fruit, this is the place to be.

Look for:

* Cotes-du-Rhone

* Gigondas

* Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Although few and far between, the whites of the Southern Rhone are dominated by Marsanne and Roussanne, and if you’re burned out on Chardonnay, can make tasty alternatives.

Look for: 

* Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc

* Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc

But the real star of the Rhone isn’t red and isn’t white. It’s the Southern Rhone rosé known as Taval. In fact, the reputation of Taval — made primarily from Grenache and in a dry style — stretches far beyond the borders of France.

Some consider it the finest rosé in the world.

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Posted in Wine Region Profiles
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