Onesta Wines Rhone Varietals:
Grenache Blanc is the white-berried equivalent of Grenache Noir, and, like its red variant, is drought-resistant, vigorous, and easy to graft. The varietal originated in Spain and still plays a role in the wines of Rioja and Navarre. From Spain, it spread to France where it has thrived in the vineyards of the Rhône valley and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It is the fourth most commonly planted white grape varietal in France, comprising over 37,000 acres in Roussillon alone. Its high-sugar, high-acid, straw-colored bunches produce wines that are high in alcohol, with green apple flavors and aromas. Although it can stand confidently on its own, its crispness and long finish make it a tremendous blending component.
Viognier may be the world’s least widely planted premium grape – but currently one of the most prized. In the vineyard, yields and acid levels tend to be low, and susceptibility to disease and rot high. In the winery, it is temperamental. But once in the bottle or the glass, a well-made Viognier comes with a deep, yellow color and an exquisite, exotic bouquet – apricots, pears, tropical fruits. In the Northern Rhone, viognier is the basis of the wines of Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet. In the U.S., it has a short but accelerating history. In 1996, for example, there were 645 acres of viognier vines in California; by 2004, planted acres had grown to over 2000.
A high-yielding, early-ripening, hot-weather red grape, generally used in blends. Cinsault tends to be low in tannin, and is often added to blends to add a spicy component. Not often found as a varietal bottling. Cinsault is the “king” of grape varieties in Provence Rosé winemaking. Its large juicy berries produce elegant mouthwatering dry Rosés, for the sophisticated palate. Among the grape’s claim to fame is being half the genetic cross (along with pinot noir) behind the South African Pinotage grape. Cinsault came to California in the 1860s, but total planting in 2004 was only144 acres, producing a mere 672 tons.
Petite Syrah is a cross between the two grapes, Syrah and Peloursin, developed in France in 1880 by Dr. Francois Durif. Though not known to be grown anywhere in France today, it is grown in California and Australia. “Petite”hardly describes its character. The grape produces a wine dark in color (blue-red hues) with great extraction and big tannins that will reward those with the patience to cellar. Even younger wines, however, will benefit from decanting.