Rhône wines are some of the most remarkable and distinguished wines in France.
The Rhône valley is divided into two distinct areas - the Northern Rhône starts just south of Vienne and stretches to Valence where it produces red wines from the single noble variety, Syrah. The Northern Rhône appellations of Hermitage, Côte Rôtie and Cornas are full-bodied and have fantastic ageing potential while lighter, forward-style Rhône reds such as Crozes Hermitage & Saint Joseph serve as cheaper alternatives. Three grapes, Viognier (notably at Condrieu and Château Grillet), Marsanne and Roussanne, are responsible for the white wines which, like the reds, are rich and full.
The Southern Rhône, which stretches from Valence into Provence above Avignon, is flatter, hotter and wetter than the north and the wines are blended with an array of grapes - in Châteauneuf du Pape itself, up to 13 grape varieties are permitted. Grenache dominates the red wine production whereas the whites, from the same grapes as wines in the Northern Rhône, plus Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc, are fairly rare accounting for only 5% of production. These Rhône wines, along with their rosé counterparts (in Lirac & Tavel) are best drunk young (within 3 years of the vintage).