From north to south, discover the wines of the Rhône Valley
On both sides of the Rhône River lies one of the largest vineyards in France, second only to Bordeaux in terms of production volume. The Rhone Valley has nearly 80,000 hectares of vines in 6 departments, producing wines of three colours, natural sweet wines and sparkling wines. This vast region offers a wide variety of crus and appellations. The most prestigious are, on the red side, Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and on the white side, Condrieu and Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The vineyards of the Rhône Valley stretch along the river between Vienne in the north and Avignon in the south. It extends over the departments of the Rhône, the Loire, the Ardèche and the Gard on the right bank, and over the Drôme and the Vaucluse on the left bank. More than 1,300 communes are included in this vast area and produce around 3,000,000 hectolitres of wine per year. Red wine dominates, but the Rhône Valley also produces rosé wine, some white wines, sparkling wine and sweet wine.
France's oldest wine-growing region is particularly extensive and heterogeneous, and is also distinguished by a great diversity of grape varieties. Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan mainly produce red and rosé wines. Viognier, marsanne, roussanne, white grenache, clairette and bourboulenc, among others, produce white wines.
The Rhone Valley has many wine appellations, divided along the river into two main groups: the Northern Rhone Valley and the Southern Rhone Valley.
Among the regional appellations, we find the traditional Côtes-du-Rhône, available in red, white and rosé. They are mainly produced in the south of the vineyard. With 171 communes, these wines are relatively heterogeneous. The Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages are more demanding and are produced in about a hundred villages in the Gard, Vaucluse and Drôme.
Each department has several local appellations:
- In the Rhône: Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu
- In the Loire: Condrieu, Château-Grillet, Saint-Joseph
- In Ardèche: Saint-Joseph, Saint-péray
- In the Drôme: Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Vinsobres
- In the Vaucluse: Gigondas, Beaumes-de-Venise, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, Cairanne
- In the Gard: Tavel, Lirac
The natural sweet wines come in two appellations, produced in the Vaucluse: Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise and Rasteau.
Finally, the following are classified as AOC:
- In the Drôme: Clairette de Die, Châtillon-en-Diois, Grignan-les-Adhémar (Drôme)
- In the Vaucluse: Ventoux, Côtes du Luberon
- In Ardèche and Gard: Côtes-du-Vivarais
- In the Gard: Clairette de Bellegarde, Costières de Nîmes
From the south of Lyon to Avignon, the Rhône valley offers a wide variety of climates, soils, grape varieties, landscapes and know-how. It is therefore a whole mosaic of appellations and crus that are produced on these lands with very different properties. To better understand it, we divide the valley into two large groups: the Northern Rhône Valley (North) and the Southern Rhône Valley (South).
Northern Rhône Valley
In the north, between Vienne and Valence, the vines are planted on steep hillsides on either side of the river. Here, Syrah is the dominant grape for the red wines. They are often qualitative and are characterised by their depth and finesse. Balanced and aromatic, the white wines are mainly made from marsanne, roussanne and viognier grapes.
12 appellations are produced on 4,700 hectares. The most sought-after crus are: Côte-Rôtie, Château Grillet, Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Cornas and Saint-Péray.
Southern Rhône Valley
The southern part of the Rhône Valley covers more than 70,000 hectares, spread along the river and its convergence zone and its tributaries. From Montélimar to Avignon, the Mediterranean climate is the source of complex terroirs, which imposes blended wines. The three king grape varieties are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. For the whites, clairette and bourboulenc dominate. Cinsault, carignan, rolle, white grenache... also make up the colourful palette of southern Rhodanian grape varieties.
This vineyard produces 17 appellations, including: Vacqueyras, Ventoux, Tavel (AOC in rosé), Cairanne, Lirac, Duché d'Uzès, Gigondas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape...