France | The Rhône

The valley of the Rhône river, as it winds from Lyon to the Mediterranean, offers much in the way of striking scenery; from the vertiginous slopes of Côte Rôtie, to the Provençale palette of the Côtes du Rhône, set against the spectacular backdrop of the Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux.

This diverse region that presents such a feast for the eyes has become one of the world’s most exciting fine wine-producing areas. A new generation of passionate young grower-winemakers has begun producing wines under their own labels once contracts with the négociants had expired. Their enthusiasm and attention to detail have boosted the quality and distinctiveness of the wines, which are amazingly well priced for the quality they offer.

Within the region there are two distinct areas that make quite different styles of wine. To the north, the Northern Rhône (referred to in French as Rhône septentrienal), produces deeply-coloured reds made purely from Syrah including such famous names as: Hermitage, Cornas or St-Joseph. The rich white wines are based upon Marsanne and Rousanne, and (in Condrieu only) intensely-perfumed white wines made from Viognier.

South of Montélimar in the Southern Rhône (in French Rhône méridional) it is the red grape Grenache that dominates the paler but velvety red wines, with Syrah, Mourvèdre and others forming a supporting cast. Most notable wines produced in the region include: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Côtes du Rhône, Lirac and Tavel. Here the white wines also tend to be blends based on Grenache Blanc.