The Rhône Valley wine region extends south of Lyon to Avignon and beyond in France’s south-east. It’s big and various, but its wines are still distinctively recognisable. Wine has been made along the length of the Rhône River for centuries. Archaeological finds, together with historical study, verify that the Rhône vineyards are some of the very oldest in the world. The impact of the Romans on the early years of Rhône viticulture was essential, and the southern Rhône, in particular, is characterised by huge, medieval chateaux, a proof to the region’s Papal rule of the 14th century.
The climates are completely different between the North and the South. The North has a dry continental climate that is a bit warmer than Burgundy to its north. Here the steep hills on both sides of the south-flowing Rhône River shade the vineyards from the wind. The Southern Rhône is hot, dry and extremely windy. The Mistral winds coming down from the Massif Centrale mountain range are very stiff and hot winds that impact the vineyards greatly.
The region has two main sub-regions, Northern and Southern Rhône. The first one is home to some of the most prestigious appellations in France, known as Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Condrieu and Cornas. These legendary vineyards are all based on the Syrah grape variety and the best examples can age for decades. The Southern Rhône is home of the Grenache grape which is the main ingredient in the most common blend with Syrah and Mourvèdre. The most celebrated appellations are Gigondas, Vacqueyras and the historical Châteauneuf du Pape, where 13 grape varieties, red and white are allowed for the production of the wine. In addition to red and white wine, the Southern Rhône Valley is making one of the best rosés and fortified wines in France from Muscat and Grenache grapes.