Monday, November 30, 2009

Rhone History

It’s sometimes easy to forget, what with the typical focus on the details of the bottle in front of you, but wine ties us to our earliest days of civilization. Every time you open a Grand Cru Burgundy, for example, you’re actually benefiting from a thousand years or more of human endeavor in the Cote d’Or, of the meticulous plotting of the land by generations of monks and then, later on, hundreds of years after that fact, of the labors of vineyard managers, winemakers, scientists, and others.

An article that ran in this morning’s New York Times, about a recent archaeological discovery in the Rhone river, reminded me yet again how ancient the wine world really is. And while the article does not actually deal with wine at all--the discovery was of a bust of Caesar, made in the murky depths--the fact that it was found in the Rhone River is a reminder of just how ancient a land that home of Syrah, Grenache, and other great grape varieties really is.

This seems especially relevant around the holiday season, as the focus turns both to richer, heartier wines as well as to ones that don’t put too deep a dent in the budget. The wines of the Rhone fit this bill as well as any in the world right now; in fact, Wine Spectator recently ran a list of their top Rhone values for under $25, and it’s full of great wines that far outperform their low price tags, proving yet again that this slice of land in Southeastern France has been providing spectacular drinking pleasure for a very long time indeed, and that this is as good a time as any to explore all that it has to offer.


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