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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.

Photo: Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône at Palais des Papes in Avignon, Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People


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 Rhône
  • Adam Lechmere, editor of Club Oenologique and prominent wine writer
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Gabay, MW – Rosé goddess (and the world’s foremost rosé expert)
  • 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


  1. 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 Village wine.


  1. 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, Gigondas


  1. 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.


  1. 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 wonderful grape.


  1. 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 south.


  1. 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.


  1. 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, by Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People


  1. 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 emulate Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Photo: Condrieu, by Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People

  1. Condrieu has a lot more to it than you may think.
    • 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

  1. 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 World.

Photo, Côte Rôtie, by Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People 

  1. 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 People 

  1. 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.


  1. 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 People 

  1. 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 wine.


  1. 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:

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