Q: What European river originates from a glacier, flows North-South through Switzerland and France, and empties into the Mediterranean Sea?
The word "Rhône" comes from Latin Rhodanus, which in turn comes, via the Greeks, from the Celtic word Rodo ("that which runs"). Thanks to the runnin, carvin Rhône we have the French valley of the same name. The Rhône Valley inspired artists and winemakers.
Thanks to Rhône vintners, we have a whole gaggle of intriguing wine appellations. The Northern Rhone is dominated by Syrah for reds and Viognier for white wine. However, blending a little Viognier into a red isn't uncommon (see: Cote-Rotie). The Southern portion of the valley sees a more diverse set of red grapes (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignane, Cinsault) and white grapes (Clairette, Picpoul, Bourboulenc, Rousanne, Marsanne).
How about a round of taste-one-Rhone-appellation-per-week?
This week's appellation is Vacqueyras. Vacqueyras is a village in the southern Rhone. It began life in 1937 as a Cotes du Rhone. Then in 1990 it could add its little old name to the bottle, thus becoming a Cotes du Rhone Villages. Finally in 1995 it was awarded the equivalent of a Rhone Cru. Vacqueyras sets itself apart from other Rhonies with its telltale fullness and smoothness.
Try Perrin's 'Les Christins' 2004 Vacqueyras or, go for a cedarsawdust + cherry liqueur combo with Domaine La Garrigue 2004 Vacqueyras (~$20).