Rhone Valley & Spanish Rhone-style Wines Tasted at the 2008 Hospice du Rhone Events

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

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Last month we reported on American Rhone-style wines we tasted at the 16th annual Hospice du Rhone events in Paso Robles, California from May 1 to 3, 2008.  We noted that this event was an opportunity to consider Rhone-style wines from a fresh perspective because, unlike most tasting opportunities, these events included Rhone-style wines from the Rhone Valley itself (51 wineries), elsewhere in France (4 wineries) as well as from Spain (4 wineries), Australia (17 wineries), South Africa (6 wineries), Chile (2 wineries), Argentina (1 winery) and the United States.  While this was a California-dominated event, and while many of the Rhone Valley’s best producers weren’t represented, there was still sufficient European and other entries to make for interesting comparisons and contrasts.

This month we’ll address the European wines. 

Rhone wines are named for and modeled after France’s Rhone Valley.  But at least two important red Rhone varietals really originated in Spain.  Considering that both Grenache and Mourvedre probably originated in Spain (where they are called Garnacha and Monastrell/Mataro, respectively), it is fair to consider vineyards in both countries to be the source of Rhone varietals despite the fact that the Rhone River Valley itself is in France.  We tasted a wide range of French wines from the Rhone Valley and wines from Spain. 

As we tasted both American and European Rhone-style wines, we kept comparing and contrasting them.  We are fans of the best of both worlds.  In comparing and contrasting, we searched for insights.

Nearly all of the European wines tasted more acidic and astringent compared to their American counterparts, which often tasted sweeter, duller and heavier.  Partially this is due to different climatic conditions and other environmental factors, and partially it is due to different vineyard and winemaking practices (reflecting a different aesthetic).  In general, most of the European wines have a more nuanced balance, a subtler profile and more elegant flavors.  Their higher acidity makes them better mates for most foods.

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.