In this post, we will explore the primary red Rhône grape varieties, as well as the distinct features of each grape. Be sure to stop by The Rhône Room this weekend to sip and learn more about Rhône wines!
The Rhône Valley is home to seven primary grape varieties. The red varieties include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. The white varieties include Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. Today, we will be detailing the primary red varietals that make up the Rhône wines we all love and enjoy!
Grenache is one of the most grown grapes in the Rhône Valley. Today, Grenache vineyards can be found in an array of countries, including Italy, Greece, Portugal, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, California, Argentina, and Australia - just to name a few.
This varietal carries with it a wide range of distinct flavors. In the glass it is full of both flavor and roundness. In rosé versions, Grenache can be described as pale, silky on the palate, and loaded with fruit flavors such as strawberry, black cherry, and raspberry. In red wines, it has a fullness to it alongside flavors of blackcurrant, rich spices, oregano, lavender, and tobacco.
The Grenache grape is one of the easiest to identify on the vine. It is tough, with a thick blue skin. The grapes grow in large clusters on the vine with smooth bright green, round leaves.
Syrah is a low-yielding grape variety, so it is highly valued by those who enjoy it. Though it was believed to have originated in Persia or Syria, deeper analyses have discovered that Syrah was in fact born in Savoy (a region in Western Europe) and the Ardèche (a region in south-central France).
This varietal typically results in wines with spicy characteristics, deep color, and intense flavor. Overall, the Syrah grape is black, peppery, and well-structured. Due to their high tannins and low acidity, Syrah wines are usually great wines to let age. This results in reds that are fruity with flavors of blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, and blackberries, with floral notes and hints of spice such as truffle, pepper, and liquorice.
On the vine, Syrah grapes tend to be fragile in their early years, with vibrant green leaves. When fully-grown, Syrah leaves will have five lobes, and grapes will be dark purple and on the smaller side.
Cinsault is a strong variety that typically yields well each harvest. One reason for its strength is due to the fact that it is resistant to drought and strong winds (which is good knowing the weather we've had here in California these past few years!).
The Cinsault variety is great for crafting rosé wines using the "saignee" method. This is a method in which the grapes are pressed to ferment with the skins at the beginning of the process. Overall, Cinsault varietals of wine have a deep color with fruity flavors, low acidity, and supple tannins.
For a long period of time in history, Mourvèdre was known to be a secondary variety. However, it is now largely grown in the Rhône Valley. Though it is sometimes underestimated, Mourvèdre is known to have a very strong personality. The wines crafted using this varietal are typically deep in color, full-bodied, and structured well with tannins that are light in texture.
In the glass, Mourvèdre that has not been aged is usually rich in pear, blackcurrant, and blackberry. As Mourvèdre is aged it develops a rounder, more complex flavor that is comprised of hints of truffle, leather, plum, blackberry, and blueberry, as well as scents of wild game and spices often times.
On the vine, Mourvèdre grows upright and the grapes develop a very thick skin. Clusters of grapes grow closely together, and are on the larger side. These grapes are also typically conical in shape and narrow, rather than round like other varietals. One interesting and unusual fact about this grape variety is that it takes a long period of time to ripen.
Source: To learn more and discover other red Rhône varietals, click here.
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