An exclusive interview about Rhone Valley Wines
During the recent Vinexpo Asia 2023 on May 23-25 2023 held at the Marina Bay Sands Singapore, Rosette Media had the opportunity to interview Inter Rhône about its participation at the event. At Vin Expo, Inter Rhône showcased the diversity of the Rhône Valley, which is the second-largest appellation vineyard in France, with 31 appellations. With this curated showcase, Inter Rhône was able to present the very best of the Rhône Valley through the sharing of the region's history, diversity, and sustainability with wine lovers and industry professionals.
We spoke with two prominent figures in the Rhône Valley wine industry, Florence Quiot and Julie Coutton and we asked them very in-depth questions about the wines from Rhone Valley; Florence Quiot is the Head of Vignobles Quiot, a winemaker, and vineyard owner with over 13 generations of family history in winemaking in the Southern Rhône and her vineyards are sustainably certified with a strong focus on export markets, whilst Julie Coutton is the Export PR Manager for Inter Rhône, specializing in Asian markets and the UK and she has a background in wine writing, holds a DipWSET, and is a Master of Wine student.
What is so unique and special about Rhone Valley wine and what do the subtle differences spell for consumers between GSM blends vs Single-variety wines?
The Rhône Valley Vineyards have over 2,000 years of wine-growing and wine-making history. It is a region with a mosaic of terroirs, a rich diversity of soils and varieties, making a diversity of wines.
As far as red wines are concerned, the GSM blend stands for Grenache – Syrah – Mourvèdre. This blend was born in the Rhône Valley. It is synonymous with balance and complexity, with different varieties blending together to create a very harmonious wine, but also allowing winemakers to create different styles, leading to a lot of diversity.
On the other hand, single variety wines express the varietal character of the grape: harmony is found in the purity of expression, in the complexity coming from the grape, its terroir and the winemaking.
Other factors can also play a part: blending is not limited to varieties but can mean blending between different vineyards, different terroirs, different winemaking styles and so on..
Which years were the good Rhone Valley vintages and what were the factors contributing to the good harvest? What's so unique about these years? Explain the rainfall, harvest and environmental challenges and issues facing these years and how it has resulted in their favourable outcomes?
The factors contributing to a good harvest: Weather, weather, and weather.
The typical climate consists of a rainy autumn, a dry winter, a moderately rainy spring with gushes of mistral, a hot summer with a few scattered thunderstorms. With 200 kilometers from north to south, there can be a lot of climatic variations, accounting for differences between appellations and wines.
It is, then, the skill of winemakers, with their ability to adapt, that comes into play: the know-how is passed on from generation to generation, so that quality is found even in the most challenging vintage conditions.
In particular, harvesting decisions are based on more than the sugar ripeness of the grapes: vinegrowers and winemakers look closely to the phenolic maturity, to the quality of tannins, in order to reach a harmony on the palate, with great balance, and a soft tannic texture.
How is the terroir unique in this region and how diverse are the winemaking philosophies in Rhone Valley? What are these philosophies and what do they symbolise for the discerning wine consumer?
The uniqueness of the terroir comes from our two most distinctive natural assets: the Rhône river, and the mistral wind.
In terms of philosophy, respect of the terroir and of the environment is a strong focus, with a wide diversity of initiatives both at the individual and the collective level. This philosophy is more than theoretical and translates into actual and factual trends: HVE (High Environmental Value) certified vineyards represent 28% of our total vineyard area, and 20% of the vineyards are certified organic. Across the Rhône Valley Vineyards, this means that 48% of the area is under an environmental label.
In terms of the wines, what is typical of our region is a very balanced profile, with a lovely fruity character, and generosity and smoothness on the palate.
Which are the strong and unique blends in Rhone Valley and which varietals and single variety or single vineyards stand out? and why…name 3 vineyards that showcase this diversity and why?...
Due to the diversity of our varieties, with 34 different grape varieties to work with, there is no uniformity, no unique specific blend. It makes for a wide array of styles, not just for red wines but in all three colours.
The northern Rhône Valley is the home of Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. The southern Rhône Valley is the home of Grenache and Mourvèdre, and for whites the blends are based on Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Clairette…
Other lesser-known styles are our sparking wines, such as Clairette de Die ; and sweet wines such as Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (both based on the Muscat grape variety).
There are even grape spirits produced in the Rhône Valley, with 2 appellations for “Eau de vie de vin des Côtes du Rhône” and “Marc des Côtes du Rhône" !
How do Rhone Valley wines fare in South East Asia and also in Singapore cuisine and which wines allow for the best food pairing experiences and why?...
The wide diversity of wines from the Rhône Valley Vineyards (white, red, rosé, sparkling, sweet) means that there is a wine for each culinary experience. Whether it is a sweet and savoury dish, something spicy, something glazed, steamed or cooked in a wok… there is always a perfect match to be found, one just has to find it!