French Rhone Wines

French Rhône Wines

The Rhône Valley is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of French. There is evidence of wine production taking place here as long ago as 600 BC. The wine region of the Rhone Valley starts just south of Vienne, the gateway to the northern Rhone, where the only permitted black grape variety is Syrah. The southern Rhone, where the Grenache grape variety takes centre stage, lies south of Montelimar and extends to Avignon. More often than not, the Grenache will be blended with other grapes, such as Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre.

Hand harvesting takes place in many of the terraced vineyards in the narrow northern Rhone Valley. Vines are often trained on ingenious supports, so that they an withstand the powerful Mistral wind which blows down the valley. Planted on mostly granite and sandstone soils, Syrah produces full-bodied wines, which have high tannin content when young and therefore age very well. Côte Rôtie, one of the great wines of French, can mix power and elegance and is often a blend of Syrah and the white grape Viognier.


Hermitage is not only the most recognised name associated with Syrah, but also an appellation making wines of great depth, concentration and structure which are capable of ageing over decades in bottle. Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph are generally lighter, while the very best vineyards from Cornas, with their attractive 'rustic' edge, make wines which at best rival those from Hermitage.

The white wines of the northern Rhone are predominantly made from Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. In Condrieu, Viognier is used to make distinctive peach and apricot-flavored wines, with high alcohol and ample body. Marsanne and Roussanne are often blended together to make the dramatic white wines of Hermitage and other neighboring appellations.

The world-famous wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are produced in the southern Rhône, where up to thirteen different grape varieties are permitted in the blend! The wines of Gigondas and Vacqueryas often represent great value and possess similar characteristics to the best Chateauneufs, while Tavel is home to the dry and full-bodied rosé.

Most generic Côtes du Rhône, along with Côtes du Rhône Villages, come from the Southern Rhône. The latter, which can include the name of the village, such as Visan, can be another source of well-priced wines.

"Château Grillet is a single estate appellation, making wines from Viognier."

"Pope John XXII died in 1334, only a year after his new palace (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) was complete."

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