I’ve loved white Rhône blends since well before I learned that’s what these wines were actually called. For those of you in that camp now, white Rhône blends (or “Rhône-style” blends if from somewhere other than the actual Rhône Valley) are primarily blends of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Sometimes lesser known grapes like Clairette or Grenache Blanc are added – particularly in the Southern Rhône.

White Rhône wines range from zesty with flavors of bright citrus to full bodied with floral and honey notes. The higher the percentages of Viognier and Marsanne in the blend, the more likely the wine falls into the latter category.

I first discovered Viognier around 2005 and remember being thrilled to find an alternative to my usual Chardonnay. (I can’t be the only one who started out pronouncing it Vie-og-knee-er, can I?) 😉 And while this remains a favorite varietal of mine, I’ve recently become more intrigued by its blending partner – Marsanne.

I’ve sipped on a couple of white Rhône-style blends lately, and got to thinking how perfect these wines are for this time of year. While I love my zippy summer porch pounders, I’m wanting something with a little more weight and texture right now. And these hit the spot:

Rôtie Cellars 2016 ‘Southern White’, Walla Walla Valley. 12.5% abv. Blend of 50% Viognier, 35% Roussanne and 15% Marsanne. Tons of fruits going on here – ripe peach and apricot on the nose, baked lemon square and peach nectar on the palate. Crisp acidity, maybe from the cooler Walla Walla climate or the nice percentage of Roussanne in the blend.

Cornerstone Cellars 2016, El Dorado Marsanne/Roussanne, David Girard Vineyard, California. 14.1% abv. Blend of 47% Marsanne, 47% Roussanne and 6% Viognier. Beautiful floral, peach and honeydew melon aromas. Rich and weighty mouthfeel. Slight bitter note on the finish. Not a shy wine.  This would definitely be a go-to winter white for me.

Unfortunately, it’s rather challenging to find single varietal Marsanne wines – the grape is usually a supporting player to the more well-known Viognier. Nonetheless, it does make for a delicious blending partner, or solo artist, if you can find it (Rôtie Cellars often puts out a good one)! Here’s more about Marsanne.

Vacqueyras AOC

I’ve been taking the Rhône Valley “Master Level” program through the Wine Scholar Guild for the past few months, so lately I’ve been completely immersed in all things Rhône related.  Which is not a bad place to be!

Although I’m confident in my knowledge of the Northern Rhône, the South hasn’t come quite as easily.

Maybe it’s because there are about 27 permitted grape varieties in the South compared to only four in the North. Or because the Southern Rhône represents a whopping 95% of the area’s total production. But it’s likely due to the fact that one of my best wine days ever occurred last Fall when my hubby & I did a private all day tour of Côte Rôtie and Condrieu. Places I’ve visited in person tend to stick better in my brain.

Whatever the reason, I decided to pick a Southern Rhône Cru at random (congrats Vacqueyras!) and do a more detailed outline on that region. At least then I’m guaranteed to nail exam questions on this area. 😉 Here’s the Vacqueyras outline.

[Note: There was some conflicting information among sources while I was putting together this outline. Since I’m taking the exam through the WSG, I went with their materials – even if they differed from GuildSomm. As a general rule though, I prefer and trust GuildSomm as a resource pretty much above everything else.]

Discrepancy between WSG and GS:

Rosé required blend

Per WSG: Grenache – minimum 60%, Mourvédre & Cinsault – minimum 15%

Per GS: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (but no single variety may account for more than 80%), maximum 10% other varietals allowed for rouge wines