This classic wine area stretches from the city of Lyon down the Rhône valley to just south of Avignon. Divided into two key parts ; the Northern Rhône which focuses on the Syrah red grape variety and Roussanne, Marsanne and Viogner for white wines. The main red areas are Côte Rotie, Hermitage, St Joseph, Crôzes Hermitage, and Cornas which produce intense full flavoured reds with great depth. In white wines, Chateau Grillet and Condrieu show Viogner at its best, with other areas using the Rousanne and Marsanne grapes. In total the Northern Rhone represents only about 5% of the total production, though many of these are exceptional wines with great brands such as Paul Jaboulet Ainé, Etienne Guigal and Chapoutier leading the field. Indeed, Jaboulet’s Hermitage La Chapelle 1961 remains one of the highest priced wines to sell at auction.
The Southern Rhône wines use a vast range of grapes and Chateauneuf du Pape is a great example with up to 13 different grape varieties potentially being utilised. There is a good range across whites, reds, rosé such as Tavel, and sparkling such as Clairette de Die, as well as intense sweet whites from Rasteau, and Beaumes de Venise. Rhône wines tend to have deep full flavours starting with the Côtes du Rhone and Côtes du Rhône Villages appellations (AOC’s) that take up a high proportion of the 4 million hectolitres produced each year. From there the smaller AOCs start with Gigondas, Ventoux, Lirac, Vacqueyras, Tricastin to name a few all producing great wines that are well worth seeking out.
Top brands include Domaine de la Solitude, Château de Beaucastel and Vieux Telegraphe to name a few, though there are over 6,000 properties, 1,840 private wineries and 103 Cooperatives in this area - a wine region that produces not only fine wines but has so much to explore, particularly in those lesser known corners.