Lesser Known Rhone Grape Varietal Are Gaining Deserved Recognition in California

The Rhone Report: About Rhone and Rhone-Style Wines and Winemakers is part of an ongoing series.

Of the grape varieties traditionally grown in France’s Rhone Valley, most American wine drinkers know only a few. But some of the lesser known Rhone varietals are beginning to get deserved attention from a number of California’s most interesting wineries.

Among Rhone red varieties, the best known in America is Syrah. Carignan (sometimes spelled Carignane) and Cinsault (sometimes spelled Cinsaut) have long been grown in California, although often for inexpensive wines in the Central Valley. In recent years Grenache Noir and Mourvedre have begun to get credit for making quality wines but aren’t as widely recognized as they should be. Counoise is barely known but small amounts are now being grown in California. Other red Rhone varietals, scarcely grown in France and so far unimportant in the United States, are Muscardin, Picpoul Noir, Vaccarese, and Terrett Noir. Petite Sirah, a cross whose parents include Syrah but which is not a true Rhone varietal, is often treated as such in America because of its frequent planting with true Rhone varietals in California vineyards.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.