‘E’ Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
This week we’re taking a look at what you can do by blending one of the world’s greatest red wine grape varieties with some of the world’s other greatest red wine varieties. I think the result is some great red wine.
Try a new wine this week!
River Rock Red
Syrah has long been established as one of the world’s greatest red wine grape varieties. It’s considered an “international” variety, because it’s now grown in just about every country that makes wine. Its dry red wine typically shows a deep dark color and bold, berry-like flavors. And as good as it is alone, some of the world’s most famous red wines are syrah blends.
Like most of the world’s best-loved wine grapes, syrah came from France. Along the northern Rhone River the syrah grape reigns, especially for the famous wines Cote-Rotie and Hermitage. Each will often contain a small amount of white wine grapes, but the syrah is so deep in color that it adds complexity without making the wine appreciably lighter.
While Rhones can be quite expensive — there are three single-vineyard Cote-Rotie’s that can retail for well over $150 a bottle — both Cote-Rotie and Hermitage have neighbors that are perhaps less great, but also less expensive. St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage are two. Southern Rhones combine syrah with other local varieties like mourvedre, grenache and others. These are called “Rhone Blends” whether they’re the French originals or grown somewhere else.
Australia really popularized the syrah grape, which they call shiraz, both on its own and blended with cabernet sauvignon. Rhone blends are also popular there.
One California red blend that I brought into the state a couple of years ago is called RED4, or “Red to the power of 4,” from a winery named Vina Robles near the Central Coast town of Paso Robles. Hot days and cold nights there yield grapes that are deep in color and rich in fruit. It’s a blend of syrah and petite sirah, with small percentages of touriga and tannat, a deeply colored but drinkable blend with a bit of complexity for less than $20.
A new arrival from southern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley is Rock Point Winery’s “River Rock Red,” a blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon. Its deep color and intense, berry-like fruit flavors reflect southern Oregon’s warmer climate, as compared with Willamette Valley in the north. River Rock Red retails for around $10-$12. Say that one fast three times!
Bruce Cochran has traveled to every major wine region on four continents. A 30-year veteran of the wine trade, he taught continuing education wine classes for 26 years at colleges throughout Arkansas.