The Rhône Vally is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of France. There is evidence of wine production taking place here as long ago as 600 BC.
The wine region of the Rhône Vally starts just south of Vienne, the gateway to the northern Rhône, where the only permitted black grape variety in Syah. The southern Rhône, where the Grenache grape variety takes centre stage, lies south of Montelimar and extends to Avignon. More often than not, the Grenache will be blended with other grapes, such as Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvédre.
Hand harvesting takes place in many of the terraced vineyards in the narrow northern Rhône Vally. Vines are often trained on ingeniuos supports, so that they can withstand the powerful Mistral wind which blows down the valley. Planted on mostly granite and sandstone slils, Syrah produces full-bodied wines, ehich have high tannin content when young and therefore age very well. Côte Rôtie, one of the great wines of France, can mix power and elegance and os often a blend of Syrah and the white grape Viognier.
Hermitage is not only the most rexognised name associated with Syrah, but also an appellation making wines of great depth, concentration and structure which are capable of ageing over decades in bottle. Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph are generally lighter, while the very best vineyards from Cronas, with their attractive ‘rustic’ edge, make wines which at best rival those from Hermitage.
The white wines of the northern Rhône are predominantly made from Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. In Condrieu, Viognier is used to make distinctive peach and apricot-flavoured wines, with high alcohol and ample body. Marsanne and Roussanne are often blended together to make the dramatic white wine of Hermitage and other neighbouring appellations.
The world-famous wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are produced in the southern Rhône, where up to thirteen different grape vatieties are permited in the blend. The wines of Gigondas and Vacqueryas often represent great value and possess similar characteristics to the best Chateauneufs, while Tavel is home to the dry and full-bedied rosé. Most generic Côtes du Rhône, along with Côtes du Rhône Villages, come from the Southern Rhône. The latter, which can include the name of the village, such as Viscan, can be another source of well-priced wines.
|Chateau Grillet is a single estate appellation, making wines from Viognier. Pope John XXII died in 1334, only a year after his new palace was complete.|