The biddies continue the passport tour in the Rhone region of France where delicious red blends (and more!) abound. Home to Chateauneuf de Pape and plenty of other delicious red blends, this is a favorite region of Calla and Kara. Tune in to learn about the mistral winds, grape varietals, history and more!

Kara drinking: Domaine Le Couroulu 2019 (Vacqueyras) and Domaine Santa Duc Aux Lieux Dits Gigondas 2019


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Society of Wine Educators, “Certified Specialist of Wine Study Guide”

Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack, “Wine Folly: The Master Guide”

Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, Jose Vouillamoz, “Wine Grapes”

Experi, Rhone Valley – A Culture Shaped by Wine

Wine Tourism, Vacqueyras

Wine Searcher, Gigondas, Domaine Santa Duc Aux Lieux Dits Gigondas 2019

Please note some of these notes may be directly copied and pasted from above sources.

Study notes for Reds from Rhone, France:


  • Region is really made up of two distinct districts: The Northern Rhone Valley and the Southern Rhone Valley both located along the banks of the Rhone River
  • Clearly red wine country
  • One of the oldest wine growing regions in France
  • Home to both a collection of indigenous grapes and varieties such as Syrah and Grenache
  • Produce almost 40 million cases of wine annually making it the second largest producer of AOC-level wine to Bordeaux


  • Wine production introduced by the Greeks in 4th Century BC surrounding Marseille
  • Rhodians from the Greek Island of Rhodes named the area after themselves
  • Ancient Romans refined the plants, wine production and storing
  • Development of viticulture came to a halt after the fall of the Roman empire
  • In the 14th century the papacy moves from Rome to Avignon. The Avignonesi popes planted local vineyards around Avignon and Chateauneuf-du-Pape


  • A cold fierce wind that blows from the Northern seas and is an important part of the culture of southern France and Provence
  • Mistral winds blow at an average speed of 60 MPH (Hurricanes start at 70) and does so about 150 days of the year mostly from winter to early spring
  • They can be very destructive and damaging even uprooting vines
  • WInds are always followed by clear bright skies and provide abundant sunshine for the vines blowing away fungus loving moisture from the grape clusters and bringing in cooler temps during the summer
  • SEGWAY: Le Mistral is a brand of wine originally made by Joseph Phelps from the iconic Insignia cult wine
    • Joseph Phelps loved Rhone varietals and created the first varietally labeled Syrah in California 


  • NORTH:
    • SYRAH – dominate red
    • VIOGNIER – has set a benchmark for Viognier around the world 
  • SOUTH: 22 varietals all together & wines are usually based on a blend of at least three or four varietals
    • GRENACHE: ⅔ of red grapes here
      • Dominate White is White Grenache
    • SYRAH
    • PICPOUL (also Piquepool) from the Vaucluse in southern France that comes in all three berry colors as well – earliest mention in 1384
    • CLAIRETTE – from the Herault in southern France and possibly one of the oldest varietals from the area (as early as 1490) translates to “light white”
    • PICARDAN – originally from Provence and confused with Clairette a lot
    • TERRET NOIR – another grape that also has a gris and blanc mutation to it; one of the oldest varieties of the Languedoc
    • OTHER REDS: Carignan, Mouvedre, Cinsaut
    • OTHER WHITES: Ugni Blanc, Muscat


  • Red is the standard fare for the Rhone Valley, north and south
  • Syrahs of the north are typically deeply colored, tannic, powerful, and long-lived
  • Wines of the South are based on Grenache and are lighter in pigment and tannin
  • Rose accounts for about 10% of production and is typically made with Grenache
  • White wines account for about 5% of the region’s output


  • NORTHERN RHONE – very compact but has been divided into 98 appelations
    • Cote Rotie, Hermitage, and Cornas are small commune sized AOCs that are highly regarded for their excellent long-aging wines
    • St. Joseph and Crozes Hermitage are larger AOCs that have more variability
    • Of those, only Cornas is 100% Syrah & the other red appellations allow a small proportion of white grapes (Cote Rotie – Viognier; Other – Marsanne, Roussane)
    • Condrieu & Chateau Grillet produce highly regarded 100% Viognier
    • Saint Peray produces still and sparkling wines from Marsanne & Rousanne
  • SOUTHERN RHONE – geographically larger and 95% of Rhone wines comes from here
    • Regional Cotes du Rhone appellation covers most of the area, even Northern but most wines are too fancy up there to carry this appellation on the label, and accounts for more than ½ of the Rhone Valley’s output
      • Approved for white, red, rose from a range of varieties and most wines are produced at cooperatives
      • More than 90 villages are allowed to use this appellation but 21 are permitted to append Cotes du Rhone Villages and is a bit stricter in production standards when it comes to yield, vine density, minimum alcohol levels and other such factors
    • Chateauneuf-du-Pape (means the Pope’s New Crib) AOC: known for it’s hearty red blend of 13 (or 18 depending on how they are counted!?) grapes as well as some white wine
      • 18 because Grenache noir, gris, blanc; picpoul noir, gris, blanc, and clairette rose plus clairette allowed?
    • Other popular AOCs include Gigondas, Lirac, Rasteau, Cairanne, Vacqueyras for hearty red blends
    • Tavel – rose exclusively (was one of my exam questions!! No one cares)
    • Sweet wines are produced in Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (vin doux naturel made from Muscat with a alcohol level of 15% and a minimum of 10% residual sugar); Rasteau – vin doux naturel from Grenache include noir, blanc, and gris versions (generally red but can also be tawny, white, and rose)
    • Clairette de Die AOC – sparkling wine produced in traditional method plus a historically significant sweet sparkling white wine made using the Methode Ancestrale Dioise
      • Cremant de Die AOC produces dry, traditional method sparkling wines that include Clairette, Muscat, and Aligote grapes
    • There are others but that’s enough


  • The “younger sibling of Chateauneuf du Pape”
  • Vineyards are located 330-1310 feet above sea level with pebbly alluvial soils that are rich in sandy clay, also have marl and limestone
  • Terrain is extremely comparable to Gigondas
  • Most common red grapes: grenache noir, syrah and mourvedre
  • Kara’s wine – Domaine Le Couroulu 2019
    • 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Mouvedre
    • Big, spicy, robust, somewhat jammy
    • (favorite example of th region of Robert Parker)
    • $20-$25


  • Do make a Gigondas white, but red style is more popular
  • Red is up to 80% Grenache with at least 15% comprised of Syrah and Mouvedre. Any Gigondas wine may have a maximum of 10% of any variety sanctioned by the standard red Cotes du Rhone appellation laws with the exception of Carignan
  • Has specific quality measures and a mandated 12.5% minimum ABV
  • Kara’s wine – Domaine Santa Duc Aux Lieux Dits Gigondas 2019
    • Fruit driven, with fine herbaceous notes in its youth, it generally undergoes a slow evolution towards more spicy notes after several years’ cellaring. 2023+
      • Could keep for 15 years or more
    • Blend:75% Grenache, 13% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 2% Cinsault
    • From 8 different plots in Gigondas, biodynamically farmed
    • Rising as a pillar of quality out of Gigondas’ soils is Domaine Santa Duc – an estate with a history that stretches back to 1874. Through six generations, the domaine’s caretakers have demonstrated a respect for the land. Santa Duc ascended to prominence starting in 1985 as a pioneer of organic viticulture in the region under the care of its indomitable vigneron, Yves Gras. In the 2017 vintage, Gras’ son Benjamin assumed the helm at Domaine Santa Duc, making his mark immediately by introducing biodynamic farming techniques and constructing a new winemaking facility on the property.
      • The estate wines are Ecocert-certified organic and Demeter-certified biodynamic. Working exclusively with indigenous yeast, the wines are partially destemmed depending on vintage and parcel and aged for 18 months in 36-hectoliter oak Stockinger foudres and 8-hectoliter terracotta amphorae.