The Rhone Valley is the second wine-growing region of France and is divided into two large zones: the Rhône-Nord, with a temperate climate and very steep slopes to welcome the warmth of the sun, and the Rhône-Sud, with a Mediterranean climate supported by the wind of the Mistral. While Northern granite slopes are paired with a continental climate, Southern rocky and sandy soils enjoy warmer winters.
Red wines are composed mainly of the following grape varieties: Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and are accompanied by other, rarer varieties (Muscardin, Vaccarèse). As for white wines, we usually find Marsanne, Viognier, Bourboulenc, Roussanne and Clairette.
Powerful wines, grands crus, vintages... the vineyards of the Rhone Valley have a thousand and one surprises in store for you. Between visits to the castles and walks, take the time to learn about the wines of the Rhône and their specificities.
The vineyards of the Rhone Valley, a divided area
The vineyards of the Rhone Valley are crossed by the river of the same name. Divided into 6 departments, it is bordered by the cities of Vienne in the north and Avignon in the south. The river passing through the region divides the wine-growing area into 2 distinct zones. The northern Rhône valley extends from Vienne to Livron-sur-Drôme. The southern Rhône valley, on the other hand, includes the towns and communes from Montélimar to Avignon.
In this region, the climate changes from one area to another. Lyon and the surrounding vineyards enjoy semi-continental weather conditions with hot summers and harsh winters. In and around Avignon, a dry period occurs at the end of winter and during the summer.
On the other hand, autumn and spring are quite rainy. In the Tournon-sur-Rhône area, the farms benefit from a temperate climate. Summers are cool, while winters are rather cold.
What are the different wines produced in the Rhone Valley?
In this part of France, the red wines of the Rhône are dominant. The region also produces whites, but very few rosés. You will also find natural sweet wines and sparkling drinks.
In the northern part of the wine-growing region, the most widely used grape variety is Grenache. It gives red wines a particular taste. Its roundness and full-bodied flavours give character to the Rhône wines. This grape variety is also combined with Syrah and Carignan.
Thanks to white Grenache, Bourboulenc or Marsanne, the farmers obtain generous whites, both fat and expressive. To obtain rosés, the same grape varieties as for red wines are used.
In the southern Rhone Valley, Syrah is the main ingredient for red wines. This produces full-bodied, fine and spicy wines. The Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier grape varieties produce flavoured white wines.
The dry and sparkling white wines of the region are made from Muscat à petits grains and Clairette.
To become familiar with the different appellations of the Rhone Valley vineyards, go to the Domaine du Colibri. This estate is located between the Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail. Discover different Rhone wines, including the AOC Ventoux.
You can also visit the Château de Nages. Located on the Rhodanian soil, it will offer you many typical regional products. For the occasion, buy some Rhône wines to deepen your knowledge on the subject.
Rhone wines can be served with all sorts of dishes.
Red wines from the northern part of the vineyard accompany roast beef, grilled duck breast or rabbit stew. The whites are served with frog legs, a gratin of crayfish tails or fried goujons.
The reds of the southern Rhône valley enhance Provençal-style tripe as well as ratatouille or roasted quails. The rosés (including the famous AOC Tavel) can be enjoyed with charcuterie or grilled meats. As for the white wines of the southern Rhône, they are enjoyed with different fishes: cod brandade, fish a la plancha, grilled red mullet...
The Vineyard of Saint Joseph gives birth to powerful wines with peppery aromas, that goes very well with cook meat. The finesse of these wines comes from the extreme verticality of the hillsides as well as their grape variety, the Syrah. Another stunning appellation: the wines of Châteauneuf du Pape, made of thirteen grape varieties! Red wines are generous, providing roundness and structure. On the other hand, the limestone and homogeneous terroir produces aromatic white wines full of freshness, that goes very well with fish or sweet savoury exotic dishes.
Some great wines often served 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 most famous in the Southern Rhône.
You will then know which recipes to choose when you wish to honour your Rhone wine purchases at Les Grappes.
Travelling through this beautiful region? Visit the wineries of the Rhone Valley.