Apr 26, 2022
This podcast was recorded after my trip to the Découvertes en
Vallée du Rhône, a wine trade fair that I was invited to by
Inter-Rhône. It was a wonderful learning experience
and I stayed on for a few days afterwards to explore Hermitage,
Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, St. Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, and in the
south, Beaumes de Venise with Claude Chabran of Rhonéa, Gigondas
with Elisa Cheron from Familie Cheron of Domaine du Grand
Montmirail, and a self-guided tour of vineyards in
Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was a fantastic trip and I am grateful to
the people at Inter-Rhone for the opportunity.
Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône at Palais des Papes in
Avignon, Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal
If you are curious about some of the people I mention as
partners in crime in the show:
- Matt Walls, Rhône
expert, Decanter’s Rhône contributor, author of Wines of the
Lechmere, editor of Club Oenologique and prominent wine
- Elizabeth “Liz”
Gabay, MW – Rosé goddess (and the world’s foremost rosé
- Jamie Goode of
Wine Anorak and author or several books
- Also, not mentioned by name (with apologies, but MC Ice had me
thinking of Brits – these guys are fantastic), Kurtis Kolt, a great writer and
consultant from Vancouver, Canada and Gurvinder Bhatia,
Editor-in-Chief of Quench magazine
Photo: The Rhône in Bloom! by Elizabeth
Schneider, Wine For Normal People
- Côtes du Rhône percentages are PLANTINGS, not
blend percentages in Côtes du Rhône wines. So if the requirement is
40% Grenache for a Côtes du Rhône, that is how much Grenache must
be plantedin a vineyard for Côtes du Rhône, not how much
has to be in the blend. Case in point: I had a 99% Syrah that was a
- The producer is a big part of whether you like a wine or not,
but you should still learn region before you learn producer.
Producer can make or break your experience. It’s
hard to learn but once you understand what the region has to offer,
the next step is finding the producers you like.
Great producers: Familie Cheron of Domaine du Grand Montmirail,
- About white grapes in rosé wine…it’s a-ok! I
mentioned Elizabeth “Liz”
Gabay, MW – goddess of pink wine and her son Ben. Look them up.
White wines are allowed to be used in rosé as long as those grapes
are fermented with the juice from red grapes. Whites Clairette,
Picpoul, and Bouboulenc are used to lighten up one of my absolute
favorite rosés, the Rhône cru, Tavel.
- Roussanne grows really well in the southern
Rhône and there is more of it than ever
before. The is distinctive when you taste it in a blend
and there are more whites from Côtes du Rhône and the Villages
planting and growing this awesome grape to make it a bigger part of
blends. Check out the pod we did on this
- Clairette is another a grape that no one talks about it
but is awesome – acidic, refreshing, can be like Sauvignon
Blanc, lighter style Rieslings, zippy, and green fruit notes. It is
used in large proportions in Côtes du Rhône blanc from the
- Cairanne, the cru of the southern Rhône, is light on
its feet and a completely different wine than the rest of the
cru. Because of the larger proportion of Cinsault, the
lighter soils, the Mistral wind, and the terroir, the wines have a
lighter touch than many of the other southern Rhône cru. Cairanne
makes pretty and elegant wine still with great fruit.
- An important point from the trip: Please STOP SENDING
ME COMMENTS ABOUT MY FRENCH.Even when I tried to say names
of regions and wines, I was not understood by folks in the Rhône or
other parts of the south. It often took Google translate to
communicate. If I tried to pronounce things in French it would have
a terrible effect – neither French speakers nor English speakers
would understand me and it would be futile. WFNP is an English
language podcast and I need to pronounce things so that English
language speakers (most of whom speak no French) understand what
wines and regions I am saying so they can seek these wines out.
After this trip, I will no longer be answering these comments and
if you find that offensive, you can feel free to turn off the show.
I’m sorry to see you go, but I’m no longer going to be apologetic
for anglicizing French.
Photo: Dentelles du Montmirail in Gigondas,
Schneider, Wine For Normal People
- Gigondas is NOT a baby Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in my
opinion. Some is very tannic and harsh, some is just
beautiful but it is all about skill and terroir. The best producers
aren’t trying to mimic Châteauneuf-du-Pape. They are their own
expression of mainly Grenache in a hot, mistral effected areas of
the Dentelles du Montmirail. Moulin de la Gardette and Domaine de Longue Toque are exquisite
examples of terroir-driven Gigondas wines that are not trying to
Photo: Condrieu, by Elizabeth
Schneider, Wine For
- Condrieu has a lot more to it than you may
- First, it has two different parts, In the north where the wines
are almost Sauvignon Blanc like – herbal, lime-like, lightly floral
(jasmine) with higher acidity and a lighter body. In the south the
wines are more like a traditional Viognier – peachy, sweet lemon,
apricot notes with a fuller body but still with more acidity than
New World Viognier
- Condrieu has some rows of vines that, because of the undulation
of the hills, face north or northeast. These north facing rows are
not considered Condrieu and are declassified into IGP Viognier,
according to Aurelien Chirat from Vignoble Chirat.
- Finally, whole bunch fermentation can be used to add texture to
wines but also to dilute or absorb alcohol. The stems have water in
them that will dilute alcohol, they also can absorb some of the
alcohol into their wood.
Aurelien Chirat of
Vignoble Chirat in Condrieu
- Most winemakers use outside labs as required by the AOC laws.
There is use of technology as a check on the health of the wine,
but analysis is not a decision making tool unless there is a
problem. This is a very different philosophical bent than the New
Photo, Côte Rôtie, by Elizabeth
Schneider, Wine For Normal
- Two things on Côte Rôtie…
- Despite what I have heard and read in recent times, Côte Rôtie
has have Viognier in it – I didn’t find a producer who made a wine
without at least a little. Most had 3-5% Viognier in their Syrah
wine. The only wines that didn’t have Syrah were special old vine
plots or from designated vineyards, from which the winemakers
wanted to showcase the Syrah for that particular wine.
- The plateau of Côte Rôtie has high quality, even though wine
people malign it. I loved some of the wines from there – they are
softer and easier to drink younger. Some of the wines smelled like
manure and carnations – there are several theories as to why, which
we discuss in the show.
Photo: Hermitage, by Elizabeth
Schneider, Wine For Normal
- A few things on the very small appellation of Hermitage
- Books say producers are permitted to blend in Marsanne and
Roussanne into the Syrah. That is true, but there isn’t one
producer who is doing that. The style is 100% Syrah and although
that is for flavor, it’s also because producers need white grapes
for the white wine of Hermitage, which represents 30% of what is
grown and made.
- If you haven’t had a white Hermitage, that should be your next
investment! This is rare wine and it’s a bargain for how little
there is in the world.
- Crozes-Hermitage has two parts around the base of the
hill of Hermitage each makes different wine styles. The
northern side is on uniform granite. This is the old part of the
appellation before it was expanded many times into southern flatter
areas after World War II. Crozes Hermitage makes 50% of all the
wine of the northern Rhone and the flat, southern part is less
expensive than any other part of the Rhone, so younger producers
have a chance to move in and get established. This is a good thing,
even if it means the wine can be variable.
Photo: St.Joseph, by Elizabeth
Schneider, Wine For Normal
- St. Joseph is a tannic wine and it is not similar to
Crozes-Hermitage, as many books will tell you.The
appellation is varied, with many different types of granite (it
really should be broken up into pieces). Although the wines from
farther north are a little softer, I found them to be so harsh in
tannin I could barely drink them. The verdict is out on if they
will mellow with time, but to drink the young wine was nearly
impossible for me. If you love harsh tannin, this is your
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape is bigger than the entire northern
Rhone combined. It is VERY varied in terroir, farming, and
quality, so caveat emptor!
There are a million other little tidbits woven into this show.
If you want to explore Rhône beyond study guides and
generalizations, this show will get you far in understanding how
different reality is from what may be published in books.
I hope you enjoy our “myth-busters, Rhône edition”!
Thanks to our sponsors this week:
Our sponsor: Wine Spies!
Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on big
names or boutique brands from all over the world at up to 75% off!
It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a
build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying
free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to
use on your first order! Check them out today!
If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two
of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get
even more great content, live interactions and classes!
To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with
Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes