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The Rhone Valley

The Rhone Valley is a key wine-producing region in the southeast of France. It follows the north-south course of the Rhone River for approximately 240 km from Lyon to the Rhone Delta, near the Mediterranean coast. There is a wide variety of soil types and mesoclimates. The Rhone Valley divides distinctly into north/south regions at the town of Valence. The northern Rhone is a land

of very steep slopes carved into granite hillsides by the river over millions of years. Vines cling to near vertical surfaces or grow on terraces carved into the rock. The region has a continental climate with harsh winters and warm summers. Syrah and the white grapes Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne are grown here. The southern Rhone has a more Mediterranean climate, with milder winters and hot summers. Drought can be a problem. The varying terroirs and the rugged landscape produce microclimates which give rise to a diversity of wines. These include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsaut for reds and Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Roussanne and Marsanne for whites.

— Susan McIver

retention of delicate aromatics. When the fermentationwas about 80

percent complete, he transferred the wine to amixture of French oak and acacia barrelswhere itwas allowed to warmup and complete fermentation. LindsayO’Rourke presented Ruby

Blues’ Commune 2012 Viognier and Syrah 2009. Grapes for bothwineswere sourced

fromvineyards on theNaramata Bench. The Viognierwas rackedminimal

times and treated as reductively as possible to preserve the fresh fruit flavours. For the Syrah,malolactic

fermentation occurred in tank before being transferred to barrel for aging. The barrelswere 35 percent new, 65 percent second fill, 90 percent French and 10 percent American. Thewine aged for 13months in the barrels. “TheOkanagan Syrahs arewell-made

and of high quality,” Vuchot said in response to VanNin’s question of “Howdowines here stack up?” When speaking aboutMoon Cruiser’s


Syrah 2010, Chris Tolley cautioned grape growers to be prepared for lots of vines dying for no particular reason. Owner of Painted Rock Estate

Winery in Penticton, John Skinner reported that he had not had any problemwith his Syrah vines. A condition known as Syrah decline

has been observed in French vineyards since the early 1990s. The two general symptoms are

swelling and cracking at the graft union and early leaf reddening. Sometimes the terms ‘decline’ and

‘disorder’ are used interchangeably. Some California researchers consider

‘decline’ and ‘disorder’ to be separate problems. At a panel discussion held

subsequent to the tastingworkshops, Vuchot is reported to have said that Syrah clones 99 and 100 are subject to Syrah decline. These two clones have exhibited 50

percentmortalitywithin 10 years. Several available clones such as

747,470 and 524 have a lowincidence British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2013

of decline. The pathology occursmainly at the

rootstock junction, but alsowith own- rooted vines of the affected clones. Considering the affected clones have

a genetic predisposition toward decline, it appears that the decline seen in B.C. may be the result of selecting thewrong clones. “There is a ton of information

available about Syrah decline but this was the first time that I personally heard the clones to be named and the cause identified,” industry consultant Gary Strachan said.

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