Week 1: What does it mean to be a winemaker in the Southern Rhone?

52 Weeks of Wine on the Mind. Week #1: Region

SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A WINEMAKER IN THE SOUTHERN RHONE?

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For this wine lover, joy emanates from spending time with those who craft my wines. Last week @sftwc had a Rhone wine tasting featuring wines from the North and the South –so joy to all who love Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre among the many other grapes grown there.   I could not resist a picture of a French wine maker for the Southern Rhone, Mr. Jean Paul Versino wearing a stripped shirt and holding a bottle of wine for his vineyards at Domain Bois de Boursan. Where he is from, to be able to call yourself a winemaker, you have to grown the grapes, make the wine and then sell it.  I tasted 3 of his Chateauneuf du Pape: the 2012 Blanc, the 2011 “Tradition” and the 2010 “Cuvee des Felix.”  Jean-Paul shared with me that when making the “tradition” he does zero de-stemming and so the rough and ready wild and complex nature of that wine is enhanced by keeping the stems for fermentation.  Once I am employed again 😉 I plan to buy the last one for a special occasion. (It retails for about $90).

Joining him at the tasting was his fellow winemaker from the Southern Rhone, Giles Gasq of Domaine de la Mararine.  I also tasted 3 of his wines and took home two of them:  the 2012 Cotes du Rhone Rose which was a steal at $13.45 and the 2012 Cotes du Rhone, which was a about $15.

 Heading north we tasted the Syrah –dominant grape of the Northern Rhone – for 2 winemakers who did not make the trek to San Francisco. Nonetheless, I fell in love with the Bernard Levet Cote Rotie “La Chavaroche” which at $62 was well worth the “Benjamins”  – what can I say other than it was spicy on the nose (where the spice is right) luscious in my mouth so that I could not help but smile as I sipped slowly, savoring. Note: when I taste. I spit rather than swallow but I did cheat for this one and the above-mentioned “Cuvee des Felix.” (More to come in future posts on food pairing with those wines.)

Starting South and Going North, I savored my afternoon escape to France, a place where the love of wine remains unsurpassed. Though in 2013 the U.S. passed France as the largest wine market. But think about this: France has a population of 66 million people while the U.S. population is 316 million!

 So tell me what you think of the wines of the Rhone, the grapes they favor, the winemaker rule, and whether you prefer North to South? Or are you a both/and person like me?

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