FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Paso Robles) - This summer, several of California’s leading producers of Rhône-style wines met in Paso Robles to discuss the challenges of marketing Rhone blends, and to propose a system of classification for retail stores, restaurants, and BATF label approval.
Wine producers in the Rhône Valley in France routinely blend varietals (principally Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre for reds, and Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne for whites) to achieve greater complexity and balance in their wines, but similar efforts have encountered resistance in the United States, where classification by varietal is the system overwhelmingly used in both retail and restaurant accounts. Despite widespread agreement among producers that blending Rhône varietals can produce superior wines, blends have encountered resistance from the market, and a lack of understanding from the buying public.
The goals for the meeting were threefold: first, to clarify the issues surrounding the marketing of Rhône blends; second, to identify a name for Rhône blends (such as Meritage for Bordeaux blends) that would elevate the perception of quality and allow producers to move away from “Red Table Wine” or “White Table Wine”; and third, to determine the requirements a wine should satisfy to qualify as “Rhône Style”.
Key conclusions included the proposal of the name “Rhône Varietal Blend” for submission to the BATF for approval as a brand. This identification would be combined with an appellation to eliminate confusion as to the New World origin of these wines, i.e. “Rhône Varietal Blend: Paso Robles” or “Rhône Varietal Blend: Carneros”. Wines containing at least 75% from the 20 approved varietals of the “Côtes du Rhône” and consisting of 2 or more different varietals would be eligible for the name.
Participants also agreed to jointly encourage retail stores and restaurants to include a “New World Rhone” category, which could incorporate both single-varietal wines (such as Syrah and Viognier) and blends, and to lobby industry publications to move Rhône wine into a category of its own, rather than in “other reds” or “other whites”.
Attendees included representatives from such leading California wineries as Qupe, Sierra Vista, L’Aventure, Tablas Creek, Edmunds St. John, Equus, and Saxum. The meeting was organized by Bob Haas (Tablas Creek), Steve Edmunds (Edmunds St. John), and Bob Lindquist (Qupe).
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Jason Haas, Tablas Creek Vineyard
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