The Rhône Valley

Continuing a line nearly due south of Burgundy lie the vineyards from the Rhône valley. This really is an region of contrast. Within the North, a few of the world's longest-lived wines are created: uncommon and aromatic whites; tannic and massively structured reds. Within the South, a veritable sea of hearty daily red is created, but so also are the well-known and top quality wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas, in addition to sweet wines of top quality.

Geography and climate

The Rhône river starts life method to the north in Switzerland. Because it tends to make it way down via the length of France it widens to turn out to be the central function from the Rhône valley, which spans roughly in between Lyons and Avignon.

The Rhône valley divides neatly into north/south regions in the town of Valence.

The Northern Rhône is really a land of steep, steep slopes carved into granite hillsides by the progress from the river more than a large number of years. Vines cling to close to vertical surfaces, or terraces carved in to the rock. It's predominantly a red wine region, but some uncommon and costly whites come from right here.

Towards the south, the steep slopes give method to a broad valley floor that is baking hot within the summer time. An huge quantity of mediocre red wine is created, but pockets of excellent high quality exist.


You will find two fantastic grapes from the Northern Rhône:

Syrah - the noble red wine grape (frequently known as Shiraz outdoors France) Viognier - for white wines and, interestingly, a little proportion of some reds. Marsanne and Roussanne are also grown for white wines.

Within the Southern Rhône a sizable number of grapes is permitted. These consist of:

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsaut for reds Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Roussanne and Marsanne for whites.

Wines from the Northern Rhône

Along with these in Germany's Mosel valley, the vineyards right here are amongst the steepest and most challenging to function within the globe. The Northern Rhône's finest wines are the Syrah reds: also a few of the world's greatest wines. The winemakers from the north are largely family-owned issues who've worked these daunting slopes for decades.


The well-known wine of Hermitage requires its name from the hill of Hermitage above the town of Tain. They are historically regarded because the “manliest” of French wines. Deep, dark and severe, these wines are strapping, tannic and vigorous in youth, creating complexity and finesse as they age more than 20 years or much more. White Hermitage can also be created, from Marsanne and Roussanne grapes.


Côte-Rôtie is an uncommon red wine that might include as much as 20% from the white Viognier grape in its blend. This really is seldom carried out nevertheless, much more frequently the wines are 100% Syrah. Côte-Rôtie shares a few of the character of Hermitage, but usually is much more approachable when young, is much more aromatic, and features a much more graceful appeal.

Other red wines

Appear out for Crozes-Hermitage, a much more effortlessly accessible wine produced from much less formidable slopes about Hermitage. It's a Syrah with a few of the high quality, but at a fraction from the cost. The co-operative of Tain l'Hermitage features a great reputation. St-Joseph and Cornas are other Syrahs with powerful character at a fraction from the cost of Hermitage. The vineyards sit on the opposite bank from the river.

White wines

The north can also be the house of uncommon and costly white wines produced from the Viognier grape, like Condrieu and Château-Grillet. These wines are clean and extremely aromatic however simultaneously effective and full-bodied. They're also extremely costly and may be extremely lengthy lived. Château-Grillet is extremely uncommon in that it's an Appellation Contrôlée that's below the ownership of only 1 producer.

Leading producers consist of: Guigal, Jaboulet, Chapoutier, Chave, Grippat.

Wines from the Southern Rhône

The Southern Rhône is mainly recognized for its red wines. These consist of well-known names like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, however the region is maybe very best recognized for the much less costly wines from the Côtes du Rhône.

The Côtes du Rhône

This Appellation Contrôlée really encompasses the Northern Rhône also, however the vast majority of wine is created from the flat, arid plains from the south. High quality is extremely variable. A vast quantity of light, easy-drinking wine is produced, occasionally utilizing the method of carbonic maceration discovered in Beaujolais.

Appear out for Côtes du Rhône-Villages, which comes from the very best 17 villages from the region. Rather like the Beaujolais Villages, the very best are occasionally labelled using the village name, Côtes du Rhône appearing only in tiny print: Cairanne, Sablet, St-Gervais, Seguret, and so on. These ought to be superior wines, spicy, powerful and appropriate candidates for five to ten years cellaring. They've reduce yields and greater alcohol than the fundamental appellation.

Whites within the south tend also to become blends. Contemporary methods imply they're generally fresh and pleasant.


The name Châteauneuf-du-Pape indicates “The Pope's new castle”, a reference to when nearby Avignon became the house from the papal court within the 14th century. No fewer than 13 grape varieties are permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, that is effortlessly the top wine from the Southern Rhône. In theory this indicates the wine-maker has numerous choices at his or her disposal every vintage based on how person grape varieties have performed. In practice, most Châteauneuf-du-Pape is produced up from the three highest high quality grapes: Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. This can be a wine that is invariably high-alcohol, heady and wealthy. The very best Châteauneuf is generally estate bottled.

Such wines are effortlessly distinguished by the papal coat of arms embossed on the neck from the bottle, although this shouldn't be regarded as a gaurantee of high quality.

Some, but by no indicates all, from the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are distinctive in that the earth is strewn having a deep layer of big, rounded stones recognized as “galets”. The galets are stated to retain the heat from the sun which assists within the ripening procedure. This might be accurate, but numerous fine properties have soils with out a galet in sight, however they create ripe and wholesome wines.

Other wines

The wines of Gigondas and Vacqueyras are constructed inside a comparable style to Châteauneuf-du-Pape and may provide top quality, frequently substantially less expensive than their well-known neighbour. You will find some extremely great wines becoming produced in outlying appellations inside the Rhône valley. I've been impressed by the red wines of Costières de Nîmes in addition to some examples from Coteaux du Tricastin and also the Côtes du Lubéron.

A great deal of high quality fortified sweet wine is produced also, probably the most well-known instance becoming the Muscats of Beaumes-de-Venise. They are “Vins Doux Naturels”, that's they're fortified wines, produced by adding spirit component way via fermentation. This produces a wine that's high in alcohol and sugar, and is dominated by grapey flavours. I've had mixed experiences with these as soon as once more: the very best producers creating delicate, finely balanced wines, other people becoming sweet and luscious but additionally rather raw and alcoholic.

The New World


The Syrah grape is really a large good results story in particular New globe regions, notably Australia, exactly where it's recognized because the Shiraz and is maybe their top red wine grape. Australian Shiraz features a family members resemblance towards the fantastic Syrahs from the Northern Rhône, however it is generally produced inside a much more vividly fruity, earlier-drinking style. Frequently they are “blockbuster” reds, with bags of fruit, spice, chocolate and peppery flavours. The Australians nonetheless marketplace Shiraz as “Hermitage” in Australia, but that term is forbidden in EEC nations. Top Shiraz locations consist of the Barossa, Clare and Hunter valleys, and leading producers consist of Penfolds, Tim Adams, Henschke, St Hallett, Yarra Yering, Jim Barry and Peter Lehmann. California and South Africa are also creating some excellent wines from the Syrah, the style is frequently someplace in between the Rhône and Australia.

Southern Rhône blends are also well-liked in Australia and California. Mainly Mourvèdre and Grenache based, there is even a initial class wine known as Nine Popes (a punny translation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape) produced by Charles Melton.


Australia and California are also creating some outstanding Marsannes, Roussannes and blends. The Marsanne in Australia reaches fantastic ripeness and produces a wine that's peachy, full-bodied and scrumptious, but high in alcohol. Great producers consist of Michelton, Thomas Mitchell and Tahbilk at about the £5/$8US mark. California is creating some extremely great Viognier wines also, the very best discovering little locations with micro-climates not in contrast to the Northern Rhône. These wines are also rather high in alcohol (essential to attain optimum ripeness) but can provide a truly uncommon white wine encounter. Fetzer Vineyards, from the cooler Mendocino region, tends to make a fine instance. (The South of France can also be planting lots of Viognier presently - appear out for a few of the Vin de Pays bottlings).