In Lumpkin County, everyone knows what a Ranger is.  One of the hard men (no women yet) of the US Army, doing their mountain training at Camp Merrill.  There are other Rangers, from Texas and the Lone one with his sidekick, Tonto.

For the interested wine drinkers there is another sort, the Rhone Ranger.  The Rhône valley in Southern France is the ancestral home of many notable grapes, now grown around the world.  Leading the list of these global travelers is Syrah.  That is also known as Shiraz (especially in Australia where “Shiraz” was a spelling mistake for the real name).  The list of grapes which travelled the world includes more than 20 varieties.  Others prominent on the list are red wine grapes Grenache and Mourvedre, and whites including Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc.

As the grapes travelled, they produced wines combining characteristics of both their new home and of the grape variety itself.  Syrah, for example, became a huge fruit-filled mouthful as Australians produced monster Shiraz wines.  The styles of many of the wines became less and less like those of their homeland.

In the 1980s, Californian winemakers (notably at Qupé and Bonny Doon) started agitating to go back to the original Rhône valley style of wines.  In 1997, an association of Rhone Rangers was set up (somewhere along the line the circumflex accent over the o of Rhône got lost) to promote these wines in competition to the Californian staples of Cab Sav, Merlot and Chardonnay.

It was not just in US that this back to basics movement became fashionable.  I recently attended a tasting of Rhône-style wine at my old haunt in London, Charlemagne Wine Club.  We tasted wines from France, USA (including Qupé), Portugal, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.  My own favorites were Syrah/Shiraz from Australia, France and South Africa (Qupé came 4th).

You don’t find many of these Rhône wines grown here in Georgia – the climate isn’t really idea., Cavender Creek Winery does have some very quaffable Viognier in their cellar, though.

Robin Hall

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