Best Rhone Valley Wine guide

Your Sommelier's Best Rhône Wine Guide

The vineyards of the Rhône Valley stretch over 250 km along the river, from Vienne in the north to Avignon in the south. Established by the Romans on this prime trade location between the Mediterranean area and Northern Europe, the vineyard suffered from the fall of the Roman Empire before regaining its reputation as a result of the settlement of the Popes in Avignon during the 14th century. The Rhône Valley vineyards were then properly structured during the 17th century when local winemakers regulated the area to ensure its authenticity and preserve its character. This process then led to the creation of the Appellations d’Origine Controlée (AOC) in the first half of the 20th century.

The Rhône Valley is divided into two separate vineyard areas, each with its own climate and grape varieties. The North part, from Vienne to Valence, can be very hilly and includes famous appellations such as Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, St. Joseph, Cornas, Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage. It is home to some of the best Syrah based wines in the World, benefiting from warm summers due to the continental climate. The South part, with its Mediterranean climate, is more diversified and the quality is more variable. Well-known appellations are Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Vinsobres and Beaumes de Venise. Grenache is the most planted grape variety, Syrah and Mourvèdre being relatively widespread as well. Winemakers in the Rhône Valley generally blend different grapes varieties to give their wine the character they are looking for, resulting in very authentic wines, and all different one from each other.


Appellations

Northern Rhône

Château-Grillet, Condrieu, Cornas, Côte-Rotie, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, Saint-Peray

Southern Rhône

Beaumes de Venise, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Costières de Nîmes, Côtes du Luberon, Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Vivarais, Duché D’Uzès, Gigondas, Lirac, Rasteau, Tavel, Vacqueyras, Ventoux, Vinsobres, etc ...

 

Key Figures

Surface: 71,000 ha
Winemakers: 5,000
Production: 390m bottles

Grapes

Grenache

Main grape in the Southern Rhône valley, this Spanish variety is the main constituent of the greatest blended wines of the Southern Rhône Valley, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It needs a lot of heat to develop fully, giving full-bodied red wines with soft tannins and red fruit aromas (raspberry, blackberry...)

Syrah

This precious grape variety is typical of the great wines of the Northern Rhône Valley. Syrah is deep red coloured and has strong black fruit, some black pepper and floral aromas. It can give very subtle wines in Northern Rhône. Syrah wines are generally medium to full-bodied and can be relatively tannic.

Mourvèdre

This variety is widely used in the over-sunny hillsides of southern Rhône (Châteauneuf du Pape, Beaumes de Venise...) and it gives a powerful wine, tannic but yet of great finesse. It gives a lot of character to Grenache based wines.

Other red grapes

Carignan, Cinsault, Terret Noir, Merselan, Muscardin, etc ...

Viognier

Mainly used in Condrieu and Château-Grillet, it is a rare variety that gives very subtle white wines with aromas of yellow and tropical fruits, fresh flowers, spices, and even dried fruits. It is also one of the greatest grape varieties of California and Australia and is recommended for pairing with oysters, asparagus and sushi.

Marsanne & Roussanne

These two white grapes are perfect blending partners to make refreshing white wines in the Northern Rhône Valley.

Other white grapes

Clairette, Bourboulenc, Vermentino (or Rolle), Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, etc ...


Find more information on the region and its wines with the official websites of the region: Rhône; or on Wikipedia


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