Twenty years ago, John Alban started Hospice du Rhône as an event to promote viognier wines. Over the past two decades it has come to be a global Rhône gala. So, it seemed rather fitting, on this 20th anniversary of HdR, to take a look at just how this variety, almost universally proclaimed as not age worthy, changes over time.
For three days every May, winemakers and wine enthusiasts gather in Paso Robles, California, for the largest international celebration of Rhône wines in the world. Now in its nineteenth year, the Hospice du Rhône's seminars, exhibits, and large- scale wine tastings attract throngs of eager attendees.
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the 13th annual Rhône Rangers Grand Tasting in San Francisco, featuring over 500 wines from more than 100 wineries. Rhône Rangers has grown from the original 13 producers to include 200 wineries from California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Michigan, and Virginia. In order to join, a winery must produce at least one Rhône-style wine, comprising a minimum of 75% of one or more of the 22 Rhône grape varieties approved in the Cotes-du-Rhône. Probably the best known of these are syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, and the white threesome of viognier, roussanne, and marsanne.