When it comes to Rhone reds, syrah (sometimes called shiraz) grabs most of the attention. But there are 11 recognized red grape varieties from France’s Rhone region. Some play only a minor role in France and are virtually unknown here. Others are used mostly for blending. But some, like grenache, can play a starring role both here and abroad.Syrah is probably so well-known in California because it’s so ubiquitous. At more than 18,000 acres, it’s by far the most widely planted Rhone red, and it’s planted both in the high-quality coastal appellations and in the Central Valley. (The second most-planted red Rhone grape, grenache, accounts for less than half that acreage; some other varieties aren’t even listed separately in the annual California grape acreage reports.) A seminar at the recent Central Coast Wine Classic in Shell Beach aimed a spotlight on some of the lesser-known Rhone reds, as well as the increasingly common red Rhone blends. That tasting also prompted me to go back over my tasting notes from the last several months to find additional grenaches, mourvèdres and blends to recommend.
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