The Rhone Valley is a large wine-growing region that is continually gaining in popularity. With more than 71,000 hectares of vines, it is the second largest appellation in France after Bordeaux. It breaks down into two major areas. The Rhône-septentrional (North), with a temperate climate and very sloping hillsides to welcome the warmth of the sun. And the Southern Rhône (South), with a Mediterranean climate supported by the breath of the Mistral. While the granite slopes of the north are paired with a continental climate. The rocky and sandy soils of the south take advantage of the warmer winters.
This division between Northern and Southern Rhône is reflected not only in the geography, climate and grape varieties found. But also in the quality and quantity of wines produced. The northern part of the Rhône focuses almost entirely on Syrah for red wines. As well as Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne for the whites. The southern part of the Rhône, on the other hand, uses a much longer list of varieties. Among the most remarkable are the red varieties Grenache and Mourvèdre, combined with Syrah. In order to produce the GSM mix, so characteristic of the Rhone-Meridional.
Some great wines often associated with a dessert are also made in the Rhone Valley. The Condrieu is the largest in the North and the Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise is the best known in the Southern Rhône.
Viticulture arrived in the south of France with the Greeks in the 4th century BC. But it was the Romans who really established the vineyards. As well as the reputation of the region by using the Rhône as a crossroads linking all the wine routes of France.
It is in this region and at that time that Syrah was born. Full-bodied, tasty and elegant, it has been able to reach its peak of expression thanks to the granite soils of the Northern Rhône. As well as the warmth of the sun on the southern slopes. Rich in antioxidants, this grape variety is at the origin of the dark colour of the red wines of the Rhone. And it's bursting with dark fruit flavours including sweet blueberry and salty black olive.
While Syrah reigns supreme in the north. Grenache remains the king of the south and is the foundation of the region's popular blends. You will also find Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Counoise, Carignan, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc and other minor grape varieties.
The Côtes du Rhône appellation was introduced in November 1937. Its objective was to offer a must-have title to good quality Rhône wines. And from the less well-known and less prestigious wine-growing areas of the valley.
The Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grape varieties form the heart of most red Côtes du Rhône wines. The Syrah contributes in particular to the structure and spicy notes of these red wines, while the Mourvèdre brings its dark, chocolaty and intensely coloured notes. On the white side, you will find Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier. Rosés, to be drunk young, are very much influenced by Cinsault.
Introduced in 1966, it now applies to 16 villages. Côtes du Rhône Villages wines are widely recognized as offering good balance and quality.
White wines are generally made in a fresh and dry style and have a floral and spicy profile. The red wines of the appellation are moderately rich in style. With dark fruit flavours and the spicy contribution of Syrah, always omnipresent. The wines of the AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages are wines with a very noticeable quality and also have a better ageing potential. They are elegant on the palate and recognized for their character as well as darker tannins.
Formerly called "Vin de Mauves", it was very much appreciated by the kings of France in the 14th century. Renamed "le Saint-Joseph" in the 18th century, it is the largest appellation in the region in terms of geographical coverage. It now covers more than 26 communes and stretches from Chavanay in the north to Châteaubourg in the south - a distance of about 50 km.
The red is recognizable by its perfume of dark berries and liquorice notes. And the white is fresh with subtle notes of fruit and flowers. Ideal for your everyday meals, these wines are eminently drinkable and can be enjoyed while young.
Famous throughout the world, the wines of l'Hermitage come from the small vineyards overlooking the eponymous village. The appellation covers only 135 hectares and 3 communes of the Drôme department. This prestigious appellation produces robust wines with rich aromas of leather, coffee and red berries. And made exclusively from Syrah. These wines can be aged for up to 30 years.
The reds are colourful and give off a great aromatic richness (ripe fruit, spices, undergrowth). And the white wines, rarer to find, are full of aromas of honeysuckle, tropical fruits and earthy minerals.
Hermitage also produces straw wines. These wines are expensive due to their labour-intensive production. But are also rich, full of flavour and long life!
The most famous AOC of the Rhone Valley is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The vineyards include 14 varieties of grape varieties, located at four levels of altitude rising from the Rhone River.
The soils are varied and consist mainly of ancient riverbeds of various ages; the archetypal vineyard of Châteauneuf is dotted with large pebbles whose soft, rounded shape contrasts directly with the twisted and rough vine trunks.
This exceptional terroir has thus given birth to red wines that are among the most complex and powerful. Recognizable by their intense garnet colour, they reveal an aromatic palette of ripe fruit, blackcurrants, blackberries, spices and roasting. The whites, with their golden colour, have aromas of honeysuckle and stone fruits. They represent only 6% of production. But are worth tasting and will remind you of the warm climate of the south!