A humbling event transpired Tuesday, to begin my class, when I was quizzed on all things Burgundy, from the Côte d’Or to Beaune and all the history in between to grace the legendary area of France. I received such a dismal grade, worse than expected, from shirking my studying, that I resolved to not have the same thing happen again when it came to the wines of Rhône or my Bordeaux exam the following day. One too many Ducks games perhaps, or too much time spent listening to these guys.

The Rhône produces meaty and savory reds, laced with pepper and dripping with bacon fat (a man’s man kind of wine) all courtesy of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre along with a handful of other grapes that happen along the Southeastern French terrain. Another reason why I was dialed into Tuesday’s subject (Rhône wines) was their ability to pair with burgers—lest that not be forgotten!

Divided by latitude, the North inherits a Continental climate while the South roasts in warmer Mediterranean environs. The Southern region lays claim to Châteauneuf du Pape—singularly the most famous of the Southern appellations—and within one area, outproduces the total production amount of all the Northern Rhone bottlings.

In the North there are some renowned appellations of white and red wines alike, including Château-Grillet, Hermitage, Cornas, Condrieu and others. Syrah is the only red grape permitted in these wines, however Viognier—a white varietal—can be blended in. These respective regions provide some marked differences in flavor profiles and were apparent when we tasted through both regions.

We sipped:

08  Chante-Perdrix Saint-Joseph

89 Chante-Perdrix, Saint-Joseph

07 Ch. Montmirail “Cuvée de L’Ermite”

08 Ch. Gigognan, Vacqueyras

05 Domaine de Fauterie, Cornas

09 La Cabotte

07 Mas des Brousses


The wines of the Rhône matched their descriptions, the Northern batch were redolent of green olives, charcuterie, smoke and fresh ground pepper while the Southern band—most notably from Vacqueryas, surprisingly not Châteauneuf du pape—screamed “I will light you on fire” with  overripe fruit and spiking alcohol, showing their warmer milieu.

Aside from the beautifully embossed bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, its papal insignia beveled in the glass, there was little else capturing my attention. The vertical tasting of Saint-Joseph wines were the other highlight, a difference of 19 years between the two and still some elegance retained in a wine while the rest of the collection showed somewhat blasé. Maybe it was the quiz that had dampened my taste buds but the wines were just mediocre.

Excuses aside, I rebounded quickly from the embarrassing quiz; the next day I aced my Bordeaux final and hope to stay trained on the Rhône varietals and all else that crosses my path. Oh, and as for that Road-To-500, only 427 left on the year!