Rhône Wine Region food & wine Pairing

We’re celebrating the Rhône wine region this week and you do not want to miss which wines we chose to pair with our French feast. 

We’re part of a fantastic little social wine club called Carpe Vinum — Seize the Wine.

In our down and dirty guide to the Rhône Valley wine region we break down the discussion for you.

Get in on the best recipe swap around.

What Is The Rhône Wine Region?

The Rhône wine region is a long and narrow valley. 

The two sub-regions of the Rhône valley are split by the Rhône River. these two sub-regions of the Rhône Valley are called Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône.

They produce exquisite red, white and rosé wines. There are some grape varieties span the entire length of the Rhône valley, however there are significant differences between the two zones in climate and geography. These differences will produce wines of completely different style and quantity.

rhone wine

The Northern Rhône Wine Sub-Region

The Northern Rhône’s climate is continental and hillside steep. The Northern Rhône region is responsible for less than 5% the total region’s production.

In the Northern Rhône, the only permitted red variety is Syrah, which is in the appellations of St.-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie.

Syrah will give you smooth black-fruit, is savory and peppery with telltale notes of olive, game and smoke.

White wines are made from Viognier in Condrieu and Château-Grillet, while elsewhere only Marsanne and Roussanne are used.

Viognier provides body and texture. 

The Southern Rhône Wine Sub-Region

The climate of Southern Rhône is more Mediterranean with aggressive, chilly Mistral wind.

The wines of the Southern Rhône are mostly blends, with the reds often based on Grenache and balanced by Syrah, Mourvèdre, and some of other varieties.

The best known AOCs of the Southern Rhône are the reliable, wallet-friendly Côtes du Rhône and the esteemed Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Others include Gigondas, Vacqueyras and the rosé-only appellation Tavel.

TIP: What Is AOC? Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. Appellation is the word for the legally defined geographical area that identifies the origin of a wine

Food Pairing #1 For Southern Rhône Wine

For this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend (Spring Meal Pairings for Rhône Wines), I decided to try my hand at a couple of recipes I saw pop up in my feed via The Inn at Little Washington:  Chicken with Morels and Wild Rice Pecan Pilaf.

If you’ve never eaten a meal at The Inn at Little Washington, you are missing out on one of life’s greatest food pleasures.  

Other than the high crime of mushroom substitution (no morels available), I followed the recipe pretty closely.

Although, I wasn’t in the mood to cut up a whole chicken, so I used bone-in chicken thighs.  

I don’t usually cook with bone-in chicken (I’m a creature of convenience where chicken is concerned, and bones are inconvenient).  

The chicken was excellent, but I’m not convinced it would be any less excellent sans bones (the magic is in the sauce).

The presentation might not be as cheffy, but I’m willing to suffer that consequence.

Chicken Without Morels, Wild Rice Pecan Pilaf & Roasted Asparagus Spears

southern rhone

And what Southern Rhône wine to pair with my pilaf without morels?  

In thinking about a wine for this dish, I realized I drink a lot of Rhône-style wines (mostly out of Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles in California) . . . but not a lot of actual Rhône wines.  

I wanted a Southern Rhône wine I was sure I hadn’t tasted before . . . Beaumes de Venise.

Shouthern Rhône Wine: Beaumes de Venise

Beaumes de Venise (the aqua-colored AOC on the Southern Rhône map below) is most well-known for its sweet white wine, Muscat Beaumes de Venise.  

But, there is a small Beaumes de Venise AOC specifically for red wines (and be sure to notice BdV’s A-list Southern Rhône neighbors — Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape— all highly regarded for their robust reds).

Grenache is king in the Southern Rhône. And under the Beaumes de Venise appellation rules, Grenache must account for at least 50% of the blend.

Syrah can make up 25-50% of the blend. Other Rhône varieties are permitted (including white grapes), provided they don’t account for more than 25% of the blend.

Domaine la Ligière Beaumes de Venise

Established in 2008 by Philippe Bernard and his wife Elisabeth Serra, Domaine La Ligière is a biodynamic vineyard, consisting of 50 hectares (I think that’s equal to half a square kilometer – math people, please check my conversion) of vines, planted to Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (GSM).  

A blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. Not as fruit driven as I expected for a Grenache dominant wine.  

After a few minutes in the glass, I was able to coax out some blackberry aromas.

Medium bodied, and slightly rustic (something that bothers me not at all).

A dense, smoky, leather note pulled my focus a bit, but not enough to make me put my glass down.  15% ABV.  Retail = $25ish.

Once upon a wine-time, pairing a red wine with chicken would have been a crime worse than petty mushroom substitution.

But happily, people have figured out that the old rule (pair red with red meat, and white with white meat) isn’t absolute.

There’s some wiggle room in there. Because that same smoky leather note that pulled my focus in the wine was a surprisingly happy partner for the wild rice, pecans, and my altogether wrong mushrooms.  

Rhône Wine Pairings From My Friends

Wine: Domaine de la Janasse Principaute d’Orange Viognier 2021

Critical Acclaim
JD90Jeb Dunnuck
The 2021 Viognier comes from vines just outside of Châteauneuf, and it tastes like a mini-Condrieu with its ripe peach, honeyed grapefruit, and floral aromas and flavors.

Medium-bodied and nicely textured, it’s well worth seeking out and, I suspect, will be a great value.

Pairing: Julia Child’s Casserole Roasted Chicken with Tarragon

Wine: M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone Belleruche Blanc 2021

Pairing: Thai Ginger Chicken, Massaman Curry

Wine: Terres d’Avignon Cuvee Kermit Lynch Cotes du Rhone 2020

Winemaker Notes
This label retains the title of their best value in red. They offer it in the spirit of the great “bistro wines” you would drink by the carafe in Europe with simple yet satisfying food, and be swept away by the joy of it all.

Blend: Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault

Pairing: Beef Medallions With Arugula Tomato Salad

Wine: Domaine du Pere Caboche Cotes du Rhone Reserve 2020

pairing: Braised Boar Shanks With Bitter Herb Salad 

Wine: Maison Brotte Chateauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Barville 2019

pairing: Kale Pesto Tilapia 

Wine: Chateau Trinquevedel Tavel Rose 2021

Pairing: Smoked Chicken and Potato Salad

Wine: Domaine Saint-Damien Gigondas Clovis Saurel 2020

Pairing: Grilled Rack of Lamb

Wine: Domaine de la Solitude Cotes du Rhone Rose 2021

Pairing: Escalivada (Spanish Roasted Vegetables) 

Rhône Wine FAQ

What kind of wine is Rhône?

The Rhône wine two-sub wine regions: Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône. They produce exquisite red, white and rosé wines. There are some grape varieties span the entire length of the Rhône valley, however there are significant differences between the two zones in climate and geography. These differences will produce wines of completely different style and quantity.

Is Rhone wine sweet or dry?

The AOCs producing sweet wine in Rhône Valley are Beaumes de Venise (producing the famous Muscat de Beaumes de Venise) and Rasteau (producing fortified wine that is Grenache-based).

Is Rhône a Bordeaux wine?

Bordeaux and Rhône are two styles that were developed in two separate wine-growing regions in France, The Bordeaux and Rhone Valley. Bordeaux is located in Western France while the Rhône Valley is located in the Southeast. They are not the same wine.

What is Rhone wine similar to?

Rhône varieties are grenache, syrah and mourvèdre (GSM). These styles produce quality that rivals and often surpasses the big three, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir.

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