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France | Northern Rhône

The Northern Rhône has a continental climate with harsh winters but warm summers. Its climate is influenced by the mistral wind, which brings colder air from the Massif Central. Consequently, the Northern Rhône is somewhat cooler than the Southern Rhône, which means that the mix of planted grape varieties and wine styles are slightly different.

The wines of the Northern Rhône are dominated by the ink-black Syrah grape and it is the only red grape variety permitted in red AOC wines from the northern Rhône. For wines bearing the Cornas AOC designation, Syrah must be used exclusively, whereas other red wines from the northern Rhône sub-region may be blended with white wine grapes, these generally are either Viognier, or Marsanne and Roussanne, depending on the appellation. However, while this is allowed by the AOC rules, blending with white grapes is only widely practiced in the production of Côte-Rôtie.

The Viognier grape by itself is used for white wines from Condrieu and Château-Grillet. Marsanne and Roussanne are in turn used for the whites from Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Saint Joseph, and Saint Péray. From north to south the appellations in the northern Rhône are:

  • Côte-Rôtie AOC: red wines made from the Syrah grape and up to 20% of Viognier. 
  • Condrieu AOC: white wines made from the Viognier grape only. 
  • Château-Grillet AOC: white wines made from the Viognier grape only. 
  • Saint-Joseph AOC: red wines made from Syrah and up to 10% Marsanne and Roussanne; white wines made from only Marsanne and Roussanne grapes. 
  • Crozes-Hermitage AOC: red wines made from the Syrah grape and up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne; white wines made from only Marsanne and Roussanne grapes.
  • Hermitage AOC: red wines made from Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne; white wines made from only Marsanne and Roussanne. 
  • Cornas AOC: red wines made from the Syrah grape only. 
  • Saint-Péray AOC: sparkling and still white wines made from only Marsanne and Roussanne. 

Northern Rhône reds are often identified by their signature aromas of green olive and smoky bacon.

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