Rhône Girl - Who is Rhône Girl?
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Who is Rhône Girl?

C’est moi. Steph Eyles – explorer, writer and tasting host – living in her Rhône world.

The Origins of Rhône Girl

Chapter 1: Once upon a time

Once upon a time, there was an Australian girl who lived with her five brothers and sisters in a Maisonette (a small house made of bricks) in Sydney.

The little girl’s parents owned a shop, which sold row upon row of coloured bottles. Some were covered in a layer of fine dust. Some were shiny and new. All were filled with a delectable-looking drink that the little girl was too young to taste. This was a source of great frustration because every day, grown-ups would come into the shop and talk with their hands about the drink’s colour and age and body and fruity notes. The little girl could only watch and listen. She had a habit of peeking and eavesdropping…

And so, over the years, her little ears soaked up a lot about wine. She grew to love talking about it too – and tasting it, of course.

Chapter 2: On the Road

After 20-odd summers, the little girl (who was all grown up now) hit the road in search of more wine and more wine-folk. She was captivated, you see, not only by the taste of well-balanced wine, but also by the stories of where the wine came from and what went into the making it so.

She spent 10 years crisscrossing the wide brown land of her birth, exploring boutique producers and enticing many of them back to Sydney where they would host tastings in la cave – her family’s french-style cellar . She was lucky enough to have the likes of Michael Dhillon from Bindi Wines come to host, as well as Justin McNamee of Samuel’s Gorge, and Ed Carr from the House of Arras. These highly respected winemakers were the first of many she would meet along the way.

The greatest lesson she learned during these years was how important it was to be in touch with the source of the wine you enjoy – to understand the complexities that lay beneath. Once this lesson became clear to her, she knew what she had to do next. She needed to set off on a quest to discover all she could about the source of her favourite varietal, Shiraz, in the old wine country of France.

Chapter 3: Rhône Girl is Born

Not too many moons later, the girl – who was now every inch a strong and independent woman – found herself setting down her backpack in the quaint little town of Tain l’Hermitage in France’s Northern Rhône Valley.

She soon made friends because Rhône Girl (as we now know her) knew how to put in a hard day’s work and how to push on, even when job prospects were slim and she spoke very little French.

Rhône Girl worked the harvest at Cave de Tain and then landed a job with Stephané Ogier, hosting tastings in Lyon, and racking and cleaning barrels in his winery. It was here that Rhône Girl realised how many stories and how much wisdom lived among the vines. Each chill winter day, she would turn the lessons over in her mind as she worked. At night, she would write. And dream. When summer arrived once more, she worked on the famous hill of Hermitage. In between the laughs and amateur language lessons, provided by her fellow workers, Rhône Girl took care of the vineyards, preparing for Paul Jaboulet Aîné’s 2019 harvest.

Chapter 4: The Return

After many adventures abroad, Rhône Girl returned back home to Australia, determined to create a lifestyle that would parallel the one she had experienced in France.

She sought an opportunity to learn on the land and was soon given the chance in Beechworth, Victoria. Working in and out of the rows at Fighting Gully Road and Smith’s Vineyard, the oldest vineyard in Beechworth, Rhône Girl continued to learn and grow. She took her lessons from the seasons, from her mentor Judy Sarris, Chief Editor of Gourmet Traveller WINE, and from the men and women in wine around her.

During this time, Rhône Girl became a finalist in the Gourmet Traveller WINE new wine writer award and published one or two vignettes in the magazine. But Rhône Girl was not done with the Rhône, and the Rhône was not done with Rhône Girl…

Chapter 5: Back in her Rhône World

In 2020, Rhône Girl returned to France to work the 2021 vineyard season, host the first of many , and begin writing a book. The work is bringing her closer to understanding the full complexities of the Rhône for Syrah, the tastings are allowing her to share her passion for the region and beyond with like-minded people, and the book is helping her reflect on life in one of the world’s oldest wine producing towns.

Allez, on y va!

(Come on, let’s go!)