The diverse climatic and geographic conditions in the Rhone Valley produce a variety of grapes. In the previous Tip of the Days, we already mentioned the most important varieties in both the Northern and Southern Rhone; today let’s talk about their styles and expressions.
The northern Rhone produces the purest Syrah, with dark red colour, firm tannins and great aging potential. The cold climate in the northern Rhone brings out a memorable aroma of mint, black pepper and fruity spice, which, when mature, can take on some gamey characters.
At home in the Northern Rhone, Viognier is known for its scent of spring blossom and jasmine and the rich flavours of apricot and peach. Ripening in warm sunshine, it can become quite heady and exotic with spicy undertones and plenty of body. Because of its spiciness and body, it can be confused in blind tastings with Alsace Pinot Gris.
Marsanne and Roussanne
Along with Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne make up the Rhone Valley trio. With higher yields and alcohol, Marsanne is normally blended with higher-quality Roussanne, which gives the wine finesse, fruitiness and crisp acidity. Together they produce the full-bodied white Hermitage, which can develop a complex nutty and honeyed flavour as it ages.
As a typical Mediterranean red variety, the light-coloured Grenache is at its best in Châteauneuf-du-Pape of the Southern Rhone. It is usually low in tannin, soft, with heady aromas and spicy, robust raspberryish fruit flavours. It also has a hint of the classic Mediterranean garrigue scents of thyme, fennel and rosemary.
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