If you like Big Reds and
Crisp Whites, then wines from France’s Rhone Valley are for you! And the food?
Oh! The food. Lyon, the northern anchor of the Rhone Valley has often been
called the gastronomic
capital of France. The city of Lyon boasts the largest collection of
renaissance buildings in France and was once the center of the silk making

If you’ve ever
visited this fascinating city, you may agree with me that it is a destination
worth exploring. I love Paris, but for my money Lyon is the city that draws me
back again and again.
A market in Lyon
 The whole of the Rhone is
from Lyon to Avignon, a distance of 200 kilometers, with only 20 kilometers
without vines. The first 100 kilometers makes up the Northern Rhone and the
remaining 80 kilometers, (after the area with no vines), is called the Southern
Rhone. Lots of varietals (grape varieties) are grown in the Rhone, but if you
know that the two red varieties, Syrah and Grenache are the most widely grown, you’ll
know more than most Americans! And here’s another hint: Syrah is almost always
predominant in Northern Rhone, in the South its Grenache.
Guigal Vineyards in Cote Rotie
Have you heard of the word
“terroir”? (The French are always talking about “terroir”). If you haven’t
heard this word before, the easiest way to understand its meaning is as a
“taste of the place”. The soil, climate, weather, and location where the grapes
are grown all have a part to play in the way the wine tastes.
Terroir is king in the
Rhone! I’ve heard Guy Sarton du Jonchay, General Manager of the much acclaimed
winery Barton Guestier say that, “The winemaker is not the winemaker – in old
world God is the terroir.” From Roman amphitheater-like vineyards in the
northern part to the rolling hills and valleys of the south, the “terroir”
makes the wine taste delicious – and very different.
Bottles at Chateau Beaucastel
Just because its France,
doesn’t mean the wine has to be expensive! Of course, a big Chateauneuf du Pape
will set you back at least fifty dollars, but its easy to find a Southern Rhone
wine full of Grenache with juicy-cherry-candy flavors for less than twenty. A
Cotes du Rhone that’s full-bodied with medium acidity from a prolific, (and
very good) winery like Perrin can easily pair with dishes with pork, cheese,
and even barbeque.
Whites from this area tend
to be one of three grapes, Viognier in the Northern Rhone and Marsanne and
Roussanne in the South. One of my favorite food pairings ever, has been a
Southern Rhone with a spicy – not hot Chicken Curry. I’ve also enjoyed Viognier
with a Thai coconut shrimp soup. Instead of automatically reaching for a
Riesling or Gewurtzminer the next time you are enjoying Asian food, try one of
the whites from the Rhone – I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the
If your goal is to drink
French wine fluently, the Rhone Valley is a good place to start. Lots of
diversity in wine and grapes, with food that is both wonderful on its on, and
as a perfect pair with wines from the area.
Here’s a couple of
Rhone inspired recipes, perfect to pair with a Cotes du Rhone, any time of the year!
Baked Ratatouille with Goat Cheese
1 Large or 2 Small Eggplants, Sliced in ½” Rounds
3 Large Zucchini, Sliced in ½” Rounds
2 TB Olive Oil
1 TB Italian Seasoning
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
1 Recipe Perfectly Easy Tomato Sauce*
15 OZ Goat Cheese, Sliced in Rounds ½” Thick
Julienned Fresh Basil for Garnish
Step One Toss the sliced eggplant and zucchini together with
the olive oil, Italian seasoning and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Spread
them out on a sheet pan and roast in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes or until
golden brown, turning them
once. Turn the oven down to 350F.
Step Two Layer the eggplant and the zucchini in a 9” x 12”
lasagna pan. Top with the tomato sauce, cover with aluminum foil and place back
in the oven. Cook at 350F for 1 hour. 
Remove from the oven, take off the foil and place the goat cheese in two
rows. Place the pan back in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese
is melting. Set aside for 15 minutes. When it has slightly cooled, spread the
basil over the cheese and serve.
Easy Tomato Sauce
2 TB
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Minced
Yellow Onion
1 Tsp
¼ Tsp
Black Pepper
½ Tsp Sea
4 Grated
Garlic Cloves
2 (28 oz)
Cans of Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
Cook the onion,
turmeric, pepper and salt in the oil – in a large saucepan over medium heat
until the onion is soft,  about 7
minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute more. Add the tomatoes and
the bouquet garni to the pan. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until
Bouquet Garni is “Kitchen
Talk” for a bundle of herbs, tied together with kitchen string – no chopping
required! Just grab about 6 stems of herbs, (your choice), and tie them
together to amp up the flavor any dish!
Beef and Greens Stew with Smoky Mashed Potatoes
3 – 4 LBs Beef Chuck, cut in
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground
Black Pepper
3 TB Olive Oil, divided
4 Oz Pancetta, chopped
1 Large Red Onion, chopped
6 Garlic Cloves, Grated
2 Carrots, chopped
2 TB Whole Wheat Flour
2 Cups Dry Red Wine, divided
3 Cups Light Chicken Stock
1 Can (15 ½ oz) Cannellini
Beans, Drained and Well Rinsed
2 Cans (15 ½ oz) Fire
Roasted Tomatoes
1 LB Sliced Mushrooms
6 Cups Chopped Kale, Mustard
Greens or Collard Greens
Step One
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Season the meat with the salt and pepper. Heat 2 TB of olive oil in a heavy
ovenproof casserole. Add the beef and brown on all sides, working in batches as
necessary. Transfer the beef to a bowl and set aside.
Step Two
Add the remaining 1 TB olive
oil and the pancetta to the casserole and brown . Add the onion, garlic and
carrots and cook and stir until the vegetables begin to brown. Add the flour
and stir for a minute or two. Gradually add the wine, incorporating well, and
then add the stock. Bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom
of the pot.
Step Three
Return the meat and any
juices to the casserole. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to
taste. Cover and bake for about 90 minutes.
Step Four
Add the mushrooms and the
last cup of wine and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Add the beans and cook
for another 10 minutes.
Step Five
While the mushrooms are
cooking, blanch the greens until just tender, (about 2 – 3 minutes). Drain
well, squeezing if necessary to remove the water.
Step Six
Taste the stew for salt and
pepper. Stir the greens into the stew and let rest for about 5 minutes, or
until the greens are warm. Serve with Smoky Mashed Potatoes.
Smoky Mashed Potatoes
2 LBS Yukon Gold Potatoes,
cut into 1” chunks
1 Ancho Chile
1 Bay Leaf
Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked
Black Pepper
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive
Oil, plus more to taste
1 Yellow Onion, Chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, Grated
1 TB Spanish Smoked Paprika
Step One
Place the potatoes, pepper
and bay leaf in a stockpot and add cold salted water to cover by 1 inch. Bring
to a boil and cook until tender about 20 minutes. Drain and discard the pepper
and the bay leaf.
Step Two
While the potatoes are
cooking, add the ¼ cup of the olive oil to a sauté pan. Add the onion and cook
until soft. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute. Stir in the paprika and
remove from the range.
Step Three
Mash the potatoes and the
oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper and add additional olive oil as
This blog post first appeared on the Urban Explorers of Atlanta Website – celebrating Rhone as the Culinary Destination for February 2016. 

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