“There is no question that among the world’s greatest red wines, Rhônes are the most untamed. Their howling spicy, dark flavors can seem almost caged, ready to explode with fierceness. Rhônes are the wine equivalent of a primal scream.”
“The Wine Bible” – Karen MacNeil
It is obvious from MacNeil’s description of Rhône wines that food paired with a Rhône wine needs to match the wine’s flavor intensity. A northern Rhône Syrah like M. Chapoutier’s 2015 Crozes-Hermitage “Les Meysonniers” Rouge screams to be paired with a flavor-packed French inspired bison burger.
This month the French #winophiles are exploring the wines of the Rhône Valley. Thanks to Liz Barrett of “What’s in That Bottle?” for arranging wine samples from M. Chapoutier. At the bottom of this post check out my fellow French #winophiles discoveries along the Rhône Valley. Join our conversation on Twitter Saturday, March 17th at 11:00 am ET using hashtag #winophiles.
A few Key Points about the Rhône Valley
- The Rhône Valley is located in southeastern France. Map of the Rhône Valley
- It is divided into two distinct regions; the northern Rhône and the southern Rhône.
Northern Rhône Valley
- 7 main appellations from north to south
Côte-Rôtie (red wine)
Condrieu (white wine)
Château-Grillet (white wine)
St. Joseph (red +white wine)
Hermitage (red + white wine)
Crozes-Hermitage (red + white wine)
Cornas (red wine)
- Best vineyards are along steep terraced slopes above the Rhône river with soils of granite and slate
- Continental climate
- Syrah is the only permitted red grape variety
- The flavor intensity of northern Rhône syrah wines is attributed to the age of the vines, many between 40-100 years old
- Viognier, marsanne, and roussane are the three white grape varieties
- No rosé wines are made in northern Rhône
Southern Rhône Valley
- 7 main appellations
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red + white wine)
Gigondas (red +rosé wine)
Vacqueyras (red, white, + rosé wine)
Rasteau (red wine)
Tavel (rosé wine)
Côtes-du-Rhône and Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (red +white + rosé wine)
Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (fortified sweet wine)
- Vineyards lay 20-30 miles from the Rhône river inland on flat and gentle hills
- The soils are riverbed rock, clay, sandy limestone, or gravel
- Mediterranean climate
- Grenache is the premier red grape variety; wines are usually a blend
- Main red grape varieties; grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, cinsaut, and carignan. Secondary red varieties usually in small quantities; calitor, carignan, counoise, gamay, muscardin, pinot noir, terret noir, and vaccarèse
- Main white grape varieties: grenache blanc, clairette, bourboulenc, roussanne, viognier, and muscat blanc à petits grains. Secondary white varieties: marsanne, roussanne, picardan, picpoul, viognier, ugni blanc, macabeo, and muscat blanc à petits grains
- Rosé wines can be a combination of any of the above grape varieties, red and white.
My Tasting Notes
2016 M.Chapoutier Luberon “La Ciboise” Blanc
13% abv | $16 SRP (sample) | Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Ugni Blanc, Roussane
Luberon appellation is located in the southeastern area of the Rhône Valley. The appellation is classified as a Mediterranean climate, however, due to the influence of the Alps, the climate is more continental. “La Ciboise” vineyard is located in the center of the town Tain l’Hermitage.
Soil type: scree(talus) on clay-based sand at the foot of the Luberon mountain base
Farming: La Ciboise vineyard is organically farmed
Aging: on fine lees in vats without malolactic fermentation
Pale lemon in color. Medium- bodied, medium+ acidity with citrusy notes. A nice balanced mouthfeel with a lingering finish.
Food Pairing: Braised salmon with basil, almonds, and lemon
2015 M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage “Les Meysonniers” Rouge
13% abv | $44 SRP (sample) | 100% Syrah
The Crozes-Hermitage vineyards surround the great Hermitage hill. “Les Meysonniers” vineyards are at least 25 years old.
Soil type: a blend of shingles and gravels
Farming: organic and biodynamic
Harvest: by hand
Aging: mostly in concrete tanks for about 12 months
Deep dark ruby in color with a hint of purple at the rim. Full bodied, medium+ acidity, and high tannins. Smoky notes with black currant and black plum.
Food Pairing: “French Inspired” Bison Burger (recipe below) – The flavor intensity and complexity of the wine match the flavor-packed bison burger with French seasonings of sun-dried tomatoes, capers, cornichons, fresh tarragon, and parsley. Grilling the burgers echoes the smoky notes found in the wine.
2015 M. Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Bernardine” Rouge
14.5% abv | $60 SRP (sample) | 90% Grenache 10% Syrah
Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation is located between the cities of Orange and Avignon. It was named after the “Pope’s new house” when the Papacy relocated to Avignon in the fourteenth century. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is considered to be the most important appellation in the southern Rhône for its quality wines.
Soil type: quaternary terrace with a surface of shingles coming from the former bed of the Rhône river.
Harvest: only the best bunches of grapes are used as in accordance with the appellation regulations
Aging: between 12-15 months
Ruby red in color. Medium+ bodied, low acidity, and medium+ tannins. A peppery nose with notes of black currant, cherry, and roasted coffee.
Food Pairing: Purple Haze goat cheese
The wines of the Rhône Valley are full of concentrated flavors and make for food pairings that meet those flavors of vivid intensity. I found adding herbs in the food pairings proved to be an enhancing affinity with the wines. (Basil with the Luberon “La Ciboise” Blanc, tarragon, and parsley with the Crozes-Hermitage “Les Meysonniers” Rouge, and Lavender and fennel pollen with the Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Bernardine” Rouge.
"French Inspired" Bison Burger
- 1 medium red onion, sliced thinly for topping
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 1/4 cup capers, drained
- 6 cornichons
- 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1 and 1/2 lb. ground bison
- salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese, shaved thinly with a vegetable peeler for topping
- 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
- whole grain French mustard for topping
- ketchup, if you must for topping
- Prep your outdoor grill.
- In a large frying pan add olive oil over medium high heat. Add the red onion slices and sauté for about 5-8 minutes or until soft and just starting to brown. Set aside in a small bowl.
- In a food processor, add the sun-dried tomatoes, capers, cornichons, tarragon leaves, and parsley leaves. Pulse until mixture is chopped and combined.
- In a large bowl, add the ground bison and sun-dried tomato mixture. Mix gently with your hands until combined. Shape into 4 burgers about 3/4 of an inch thick.
- Grill burgers over medium high heat for about 5 minutes per side or until grilled to your preference. (Medium 140 degrees F internal temperature when measured with an instant thermometer.
- Transfer the burgers to a platter and top with Parmesan cheese. Serve with whole grain French mustard and ketchup.
*I used “The Wine Bible” by Karen MacNeil to research the Rhône Valley for this blog post.
My Fellow French #Winophiles Rhône Valley Discoveries~
- Gwendolyn Alley at Wine Predator tells us about “Duck à l’Orange with M. Chapoutier’s Biodynamic, Organic Rhone Wines”
- Jill Barth from L’Occasion writes about “Braille on the Label and Other Pioneering Moments of Chapoutier”
- J.R. Boynton from Great Big Reds writes about “The Dark Side of Syrah, with Domaine Fondreche Persia 2012 (Ventoux)”
- Jeff Burrows from Food Wine Click shares “Northern Rhone Wines and My Steak Tartare Disaster”
- David Crowley at Cooking Chat at tells us about “London Broil Steak with Châteauneuf-du-Pape”
- Rob Frisch at Odd Bacchus writes about “Return to the Rhône”
- Susannah Gold at Avvinare writes about “Rhône Gems from Chapoutier in Chateauneuf, du Pape, Crozes-Hermitage, and Luberon”
- Nicole Ruiz Hudson at Somm’s Table tells her story of “Cooking to the Wine: Les Vins de Vienne Gigondas with Gratinéed Shepherd’s Pie”
- Camilla Mann from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares a post on “Sober Clams + a French Syrah”
- Jane Niemeyer at Always Ravenous shares “Bison Burger Paired with Northern Rhône Syrah”
- Martin Redmond Enofylz at shares “A Taste of The House of Chapoutier”
- Rupal Desai Shankar at Syrah Queen writes about “Chapoutier: King of the Rhône”
- Lauren Walsh at The Swirling Dervish writes about “France’s Rhône Valley: Mountains, Sea, Wind, and Wine”
- Michelle Williams at Rockin Red Blog writes about “Maison M. Chapoutier: Expressing Terroir Through Biodynamics”
- Wendy Klik at A Day in the Life on the Farm talks about when “Ireland and France Collide”
- Liz at What’s in that Bottle invites us to “Get to know the Rhone Valley with Michel Chapoutier”
- Payal Vora at Keep the Peas shares “The Rhone: A Taste Of Terroir With The #Winophiles”