One of the most pleasurable and downright enjoyable wine events I’ve attended of late was sponsored by Rhone Valley Wines and aptly named “A Land of Wines and Festivals”. The organizers of this entertaining afternoon event transformed the avant-garde space at Ovation, located in the near west side of Chicago, into a festivus of all things dance, opera, jazz, theatre, and wine, each representing the jovial spirit and culture of the Rhone Valley. Guests with wine and perfectly prepared small bites in hand appreciated the music of opera singers, the talents of roaming thespians, the tunes of the resident DJ, dancers paying homage to traditions, old and new, and more. Playful and unpretentious? You bet…and that’s exactly what the wines of the Rhone Valley are, too.
I admit, I was blown away by the brilliant, stop-in-your-tracks creativity: the cool, foxy hipster eyeing the colors in the wine glass, the regal lion taking care of business while appreciating the rich aromas in a glass of wine, and a chic, frisky couple (hoppily-sorry about the pun…) enjoying each other as much as their favorite beverage.
The intention of the “Be Your Own Character” campaign is to demonstrate that everyone should relish the undemanding pleasure of just. drinking. wine. (especially those from the Rhone Valley)! As Virginie Charlier shared, “There are no rules, no convention. Be yourself because wine should be fun!” As for me? I’m in! Cue the corkscrew, a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, and my signature happy dance!
As we talked, I noted guests meeting and mingling, laughing and clinking glasses, and simply enjoying Rhone Valley wines and each other. The afternoon was lighthearted and easy – exactly what everyone at the Rhone Valley Wine Board intended. Besides enjoying each other’s company and the plethora of delightful wines, wine lovers had opportunities to learn about this significant wine region through seminars, discussions, and casual conversations.
Rhone Valley Wines – Did You Know?
I encourage you to visit the Rhone Valley Wines website for detailed information about this fascinating region’s history, climate and soil, e-learning activities, wine profiles, and more. Following are a few key points…
- The Rhone Valley is France’s second largest quality wine producing region – 21 grape varieties are produced.
- Major red varieties of the Rhone Valley are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan, and Cinsault.
- Major white varieties include Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne.
- 80% of the production of the Rhone Valley is red.
- 95% of the total production of the Rhone Valley is made in the Southern Rhone. These wines are primarily red and are based on Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (GSM), also known as Rhone blends.
- The Northern Rhone is the birthplace of Syrah. Its reds are based on the elegant and powerful Syrah grape.
- The Rhone Valley produces red, whites, roses, and fortified wines that, in my humble opinion, pair with every occasion and meal.
- Southern Rhone Reds can be paired with stews, roasts, salmon, spicy food, pork belly, and game foods.
- Northern Rhone reds are best paired with tomato based pasta dishes, grilled beef, roast chicken, vegetables, lamb, ribs, steak, and tuna.
- Rose wines from the Rhone Valley are perfectly suited for Asian foods, charcuterie, pates, cheeses, barbeque, and smoked salmon.
- White wines of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc are best served as aperitifs and with cheese, white fish, and sushi.
- The Romans landed in the Rhone Valley during the 1st century BC when the vineyards of Vienne were born.
- The total distance of the vineyards of the Rhone Valley that run along the River Rhone is 250 km (or about 156 miles).
Rhone Valley Wines to Explore
Are you ready to have some fun? Let’s open the wine! During “A Land of Wine and Festivals”, I tasted a number of affordable, delectable wines, a few of which are listed below. If these choices aren’t available in your local wine shop, ask for a wine similar in style and price. Enjoy each sip!
Cellier des Dauphins, Les Dauphins Reserve, 2014 – Consider this luscious white wine when you prepare your next fresh salad or grilled fish.
Vignerons Proprietes Associes, Haut de Buisson, 2015 – Bold and delicious, this white wine will complement a cheese platter and roasted chicken dish.
Vidal Fleury, 2014 – Fresh fruit aromas and flavors with plenty of spice on the finish are elements of this lovely pairing for grilled seafood and cheeses.
Chateau la Nerthe, Prieure de Montezargues, 2014 – I returned to the table again and again for more sips of this memorable rose that will pair with pate and smoked salmon.
Terrasses Chateau Pesquie 2014 – This choice was a lovely red wine to serve with your favorite beef stew.
Chateau de Montfaucon, Baron Louis, 2012 – With just enough oak on the palate, enjoy a glass or two with duck breast or Moroccan lamb tagine with honey and apricots.
Is your wine character the fox, lion, one of the hares, or elements of each? I have a feeling you already know…why don’t you have a glass of wine from the Rhone Valley just to make sure?
Cheers! ~ Cindy
NOTE: For more pictures of the Rhone Valley Wines “A Land of Wine and Festivals” event, please visit my Facebook page.