Rhône Wine

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Rhône Wine

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 and Saint-Joseph can serve as more affordable 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.

In between the Northern and Southern Rhône two characterful appellations offer great value – the Ardèche and Brézème. The former has a huge range of soils, aspects and altitudes which rise from the Ardèche river to the heights of Mont-Mézenc. This wide range of landscapes permits a huge variety of grapes to be grown and ensures its wines remain relatively affordable. In contrast, Brézème sits in the Drôme valley and at one point in the 19th century, its wines were said to rival Hermitage to the north. Dominated by vertiginous slopes, its wines echo Côte-Rotie and Hermitage in style using Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.

The Southern Rhône, which stretches from Valence into Provence (near Avignon) and south to the Camargue estuary and Costières de Nîmes, 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 and is usually combined with Syrah and Mourvèdre (sometimes enlivened by Cinsault and up to 10% Carignan). Whereas the whites, from the same grapes as wines in the Northern Rhône, plus Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Piquepoul and Bourboulenc (amongst others), are steadily increasing in production. These Southern Rhône whites, along with their rosé counterparts (in Lirac and Tavel) are best drunk young (within 3 to 5 years of the vintage) though examples from Châteauneuf’ can last decades.

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Yapp Brothers Guide to Rhône wine

Outwit wine buffs with your in-depth knowledge of the Rhône.

Everything you need to know about the wines of the Rhône valley from the Northern Rhône via the Ardèche, Côtes du Rhône and the Southern Rhône.

From its source in the Swiss Alps, the mighty Rhône hurtles south through the steep-sided terraces south of Lyon, through to the flatter, hotter landscape around Avignon and thence to the Camargue estuary. There is a clear transition in both the wines (single-variety, low-yields in the North; blending and bigger volumes in the South) and the food (cooking with butter in the North, olive oil down South) as one travels from a continental climate to Provence. Wine production dates back to Roman times, but is now dominated by red (75%), with increasing quantities of rosé (16%) and white (9%). The UK vies with Belgium as its largest export market – we love it!

How big is the Rhône valley?
67,000 hectares – it is France's 2nd largest AOC wine area and includes (mainly in the Southern Rhône), the appellation of Côtes du Rhône.

What are the different wine appellations in the Rhône?
Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Château Grillet, Cornas, Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Côtes-du-Rhône, Costières de Nîmes.

What grape varieties are used to make Rhône wines?
Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Syrah, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan.

Which are the best Rhône producers?
Notable domaines include Guigal, Vernay, Chave, Chapoutier, Clape, Perrin, Reynaud.

What food pairings go well with wines from the Rhône & Côtes du Rhône?
Quenelle de brochet (pike dumplings), Saint Marcellin (cheese), truffles, nougat (in Montélimar), salade Lyonnaise, Valhrona chocolate (Tain).

Which are the best restaurants in the Rhône valley?
We like Pyramide (Vienne), Pic (Valence), Le Mangevins (Tain L'Hermitage), Le Chaudron (Tournon), Le Beaugravière (Mondragon), Le Beau Rivage (Condrieu), La Mère Germaine (Châteauneuf').

Famous people from the Rhône valley:
The Pope (ok; when in exile), aviator Antoine St-Exupèry, chef Paul Bocuse, electro pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre, 'rugby man' Sebastien Chabal (Valence).

What are the best things to do in the Rhône valley?
Visit the Roman amphitheatre in Orange; dance 'sur le pont d'Avignon' during the music festival; kayak down the Ardèche; cycle up Mont Ventoux; visit the 'bouchons' of Lyon then explore the labyrinth of 'traboules' (ancient network of alleyways built by silk workers); visit the phenomenal shoe museum in Romans-sur-Isère.

Our favourite Rhône wine - Bien classique:
Crozes Hermitage Rouge: 'Alain Graillot'.

Our favourite Rhône wine - Autre chose:
Saint Péray 'Nature': J-L Thiers.