The wines of the Rhône are predominantly red and the weather is hot but it shares with the Loire, that other great winemaking valley, the capacity for creating remarkable wines along its long and varied course.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage are celebrated names in the world of fine wine...Read More
, but though both hail from this valley their styles are distinct. For the Rhône has two separate personalities that are neatly divided into the North and the South.
The Northern Rhône is the spiritual home of Syrah, known as Shiraz throughout the New World, and accounts for a mere five per cent of the valley's wine production. Quality certainly replaces quantity and the red wines are sumptuous, rich, tannic and perfect for ageing. They are sometimes blended with Viognier for added perfume, and this grape on its own can make excellent whites.
The Southern Rhône is far larger in area and more diverse in its styles. The Côtes-du-Rhône AOC is vast and important for volume and the wines are approachable and fruity. Grenache holds sway over Châteauneuf-du-Pape, though it can lawfully be blended with 12 other grapes, and produces alcoholic, enticing wines with the frequent potential for greatness. Crisp, fruity whites are also produced.
Syrah is the only red grape allowed in the Northern Rhône Valley with Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne as the whites.
The South is very different. Grenache is the pre-eminent red but Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvèdre have significant roles to play and while others are allowed, they are generally of less importance. Grenache Blanc is the leading white.
To put it simply, the North is Continental and the South is Mediterranean. To be more specific, the northern vineyards cling to steep slopes and actively seek out the sun whilst those in the south are totally exposed in wide and flat fields. Yet the Rhône Valley is a very large region and for more information the districts and appellations must be looked into.