The famous Syrah grape

The term ‘Rhône Rangers‘ is a quite loose term used to designate the affiliation of California Wine producers led by Bob Lindquist from the Qupé Winery and Randall Grahm from the Bonny Doon winery. In the 1980s, both of them, decided to produce wines in the style of red wines (mainly from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grape varieties) and white wines (from the Viognier grape variety) made in the Rhône Valley, France. Furthermore, ‘Rhône Valley’ red wines have the peculiarity of being made from ‘field blend’ grapes, which means that red wines are made from a mix of red and white grape varieties that are planted together in the vineyards.

The ‘Rhône Rangers’ started a dynamic that resulted in a dramatic increase in plantings of both Syrah and Viognier grape varieties. However, while Northern Rhone wines are often monovarietal, Southern Rhône wines are almost always blends (including the famous GSM Blend) therefore ‘Rhone Rangers‘ wineries produce both varietal wines and blends depending on their stylistic preferences.

This movement was regarded by many (particularly by aficianados of ‘ABC’ wines) as providing new alternatives to the usual Californian wines traditionally made from Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. However, some purists considered the ‘Rhône Rangers’ to be traitors of the Californian wine style and of the Californian ‘Terroir’ (click here to learn more about the notion of ‘Terroir’).

The Wine Spectator maganzine cover with the first reference to the ‘Rhone Rangers’

The name ‘Rhône Rangers‘ was first coined by the Wine Spectator magazine as a reference with the movie ‘The Lone Ranger’.

Today’s ‘Rhone Rangers Organization’ is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines which directly results from these Californian pionneers. Its mission is to educate the public on Rhone varietal wine grapes grown in America and to promote the production and consumption of these wines. According to this organization, for a wine to qualify as a “Rhone Rangers” wine, the winery must be a member of the organization and 75% of the wine’s content must include one or more of the twenty-two traditional Rhone grape varieties as approved by the French government for the wines of the Cotes du Rhone (including Petite Sirah and Durif grape varieties).

Finally, the ‘Rhône Rangers’ movement has had a noticeable impact on the Shiraz wines made in Australia. Firstly, because these wines are made from the Syrah grape variety autoctonous from the Rhône Valley. Secondly, because it helped their international recognition and commercial success abroad.

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