Shoshanna used to work for Michelin starred restaurants in England and wine and food pairing is an essential part of her life. She often had clients that requested information about the wine list and as time went by she decided that in order to better inform customers, she should take the extra step and further educate herself in wine and the regions these come from.
It started out as a very innocent learning experience that turned into a passion. Shoshanna continued with this passion during three years as a part time wine advisor with Oddbins in Wimbledon and it was during this time that I became very seriously involved with wine to the point of taking her WSET (The Wine and Spirits Education Trust).
Interview with Shoshanna
What are your key highlights of the Rhône Valley wine region?
There are so many things that make the Rhône Valley a wonderful place to visit. The diversity of the region from North to South is a discovery in itself, and the wines reflect their terroir in all of the different areas. There are no two appellations that are the same even if many of them are made from the same grape varieties. Geographically, the landscape varies and if you enjoy outdoor activities then there are mountains to climb, the mythic N7 road to drive on and roman historical sites that date back more than 2000 years. It is a beautiful region and filled with charm and history. It is one of my favourite regions in France and every time that I visit I discover something new!
When are the best times to visit the Rhône Valley?
Winters can be very harsh especially in Northern Rhône, which is affected by the cold air that comes down from Burgundy. The cold continental climate is excellent for the vines but I would suggest visiting between April and October. Be warned however that in August, September and October are not always the easiest times to visit a favourite winemaker as many go on holiday before the harvest and many small estates close their tasting rooms during the harvest period. It is best to contact the estates before your visit to avoid disappointment.
How do the Northern and Southern Rhône sub-regions differ from one another?
The Rhône valley is probably one of the richest wine producing area geographically in the world due to its almost infinite variety of different soils. The poor granite, clay and mica soils of the North encourage wines of excellent quality as the roots of the vines have to pierce through the tiny cracks in the stones to get much needed nutrition.
The climate in Southern Rhône is Mediterranean and is influenced by the famous Mistral wind (there is a saying that if one listens to the Mistral for too long it will drive them mad!). The soil often has silt from the Rhône river and this makes the soil a bit richer. The famous pudding stones of Chateauneuf-du-Pape are not only beautiful but serve to keep the vines warm during the chilly nights. The same is the case for the ancient Roman stone terraces on the steep slopes of Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie.
Whilst Northern Rhône is known for its top notch wines such as Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie, St-Joseph and Condrieu, Southern Rhône is known for its very famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape and other wines such as Gigondas, Beaumes-de-Venise, generally wines of less quality in greater quantities.
Lyon is known to be France’s gastronomic capital. What are some famous dishes?
Lyon is known for its famous “Bouchons”, tiny unpretentious bistros that were established in the 19th century and were for the most part run by women, often private cooks of rich families that lost their jobs. The majority of the clientele were employees of the silk factories who needed cheap food that would fill them up and keep them strong for their extremely long working hours. As a result traditional dishes are mainly constructed of meat and offal, such as:
- Tripe – Cows stomach that is slowly cooked and often accompanied by vegetables.
- Boudin Noir – Black pudding (a sausage made of blood)
- Quenelles – A flour, egg and cream dumpling
- Andouille – a grilled chitterling sausage
There are many modern chefs in the city today and there are a variety of different classical French cuisine dishes to choose from however if you really want to experience true Lyonnais cuisine then try any of the above dishes, there is certainly one that will suit your fancy.
What’s your favourite wine from the Rhône Valley?
That is a difficult question there are so many. However here are a few:
Château Grillet – with less than five hectares of vines the Viognier that they produce is extremely pricey but pure heaven, visits to the estate are out of the question unfortunately because as soon as the wine is made it is all sold.
Michel Chapoutier – All of his wines are exceptional, and his “les bernardins” white and red from Châteauneuf-du-Pape are not to be missed.
The Syrahs and Viogniers are particular favourites of mine and Tavel must not be missed, it is one of the finest rosé wines that is produced.