Exploring the Intricacies of Rhône Valley Vineyards

Rhône Valley vineyards offer some of the most diverse and unique terroirs in the world, resulting in a wide range of wine styles ready to delight anyone's palate. From the bold, rich reds of the Northern and Southern Crus to refreshing, mineral-driven whites and rosés that are ready to drink in their youth, the Rhône Valley lures wine professionals and enthusiasts with its rich history and enticing landscapes.



The Rhône River is what links the entire region together. It runs about 505 miles from its headwaters to its delta and was a crucial trade route as it connects to other rivers including the Rhine, Loire, and Seine. In the Northern Rhône, we find a more continental climate with significant temperature shifts between summer and winter. Southern Rhône's climate can be described as Mediterranean, with warm, dry, sunny days. Regardless of their differences, the Rhône River connects it all.

The Rhône River doesn't just hold the region together but also significantly affects the viability of wine growing. Bodies of water moderate temperature shifts, promoting a more even bud break. Rivers also protect against harmful spring frosts by promoting air movement. In the North, the vines flank the river directly on steep, terraced slopes, helping them benefit from the additional sunlight reflecting off the water. The river has a less moderating effect in the Southern Rhône as the vineyards tend to flatten and spread out; however, the mighty Mistral wind blows forcefully from the North, providing a cooling influence to the South, offering protection against mildew and fungal disease.

Grape varieties grown in the Rhône Valley are split between North and South. In the North, you can find Syrah for red and Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne for white. In the South, there are over 25 different varieties planted between red and white! The region’s zones of production are split between Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Côtes du Rhône Villages-Named Village, Cru AOCs, and other AOCs which fall outside of the greater Côtes du Rhône subregion. It's important to note that although we often hear of the prestige of the Cru AOCs, only 17 make up the total which is a minimal amount of the production comparatively.


If you're looking to try some delicious wines from this renowned region, I have you covered! Below I'm sharing ten recommendations that are great examples of what the Rhône Valley has to offer.


Côtes du Rhône:


About half of the Rhône Valley is cultivated under the Côtes du Rhône (CDR) AOC, showing you just how important this category is. Most production comes from the South, as much of the vineyard land in the North falls under a specific Cru AOC. Most Côtes du Rhône reds are made up of at least 40% Grenache with other blending partners including Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault and more. If a Côtes du Rhône red comes 100% from the North, it must be 100% Syrah. Have to love French wine law! White CDR consists of grapes including Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette, and Bourboulenc.

Wine to try:

Château du Trignon Côtes du Rhône Blanc


This wine is a single varietal wine made from 100% Roussanne. Expect to find notes of chamomile, Meyer lemon, beeswax, honeysuckle, white peach, and apricot. It's full-bodied but has lively and piercing acidity. Pair it with soft cheeses, patés, lobster, and poultry.

Côtes du Rhône Villages:

Ninety-five villages can append their name to CDR; they're all located in the Southern Rhône. These wines are similar to CDR wines, except the wine law here is a bit more stringent regarding yields and minimum alcohol levels. You can expect these wines to be more terroir-driven with more concentration.


Wine to try:

Domaine de Mourchon Côtes du Rhône Villages Seguret Loubié Rosé


Perfect for an aperitif, this wine consisting of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah brings fresh strawberries, pink grapefruit, white blossoms, and a stony minerality. It's fresh, fruity, and perfect for a warm summer day.


Other AOCs -

Grignan-les-Adhémar:


Surrounding the city of Grignan, Grignan-lès-Adhémar's production focuses on red wine; however, white and rosé are also produced. As expected, Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, and Mourvèdre are significant players in red wine production. The altitude found here makes this AOC so unique (nearly 360 meters), which is relatively high for this area. This kind of altitude produces wines that are aromatic and well-structured.

Wine to try:

Domaine de Montine Séduction Grignan-les-Adhémar Rouge


Expect to find ripe blackberry fruits with layers of baking spice, garrigue, and earth. This wine begs to be paired with food and would be great for your smoky BBQ!

Luberon:

This AOC is one of the few in the Rhône that focuses on rosé production. Luberon is a unique AOC in the sense that it lies between Ventoux and the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence AOC in Provence. That said, it makes sense that 53% of production here is rosé. Luberon also brings the sun…quite literally! It's considered one of the sunniest regions in France.

Wine to try:


Château la Canorgue Luberon Rosé


Hand-harvested and farmed biodynamically, bright citrus meets juicy red berries with a side of dried herbs and crushed gravel. This wine will transport you to the sun-drenched limestone hillsides while you enjoy it on the back patio with fresh fruit and goat's cheese.


Costières de Nîmes:


Located on the right bank of the Rhône River in the South, Costières de Nîmes experiences some of the hottest temperatures in France! Luckily the Mistral wind and a nearby mountain range bring much-needed cooling influences to the vineyards. Costières de Nîmes is also home to the famous Arènes de Nîmes which is a Roman amphitheater built right after the Colosseum. The production here is primarily red, although the whites and rosés are delicious too!

Wine to try:


Château Beaubois “Cuvée Expression” Blanc


Roussanne, Grenache, Viognier, and Rolle (Vermentino) make up the blend in this white wine packed with honeysuckle, hawthorn, Meyer lemon, iodine, peach, and apricot. The body is full and feels luxurious on the palate, while the saltiness adds additional texture. This is the perfect wine for shellfish, crudités, and of course, a cheese plate.

Cru AOCs -

Lirac:


Lirac is a Cru AOC in the Southern Rhône on the right bank. Lirac is known for being warm, dry, and sunny but also benefits significantly from the Mistral. The poor soils contribute to the wonderful concentration of the wines produced here. Although most of the production is Grenache-based reds, the whites and rosés are not to be missed.

Wine to try:


Château Mont-Redon Lirac Blanc


A seductive blend of Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier, this wine brings all the complexities you'd want from a white wine produced here. A weighted palate is balanced by white peach, fennel, acacia, and honey. This wine is bright with lovely freshness and is the perfect ready-to-drink wine to enjoy with fish, poultry, and of course, great friends.

Tavel:


Tavel is a unique AOC in the Southern Rhône as the production is 100% rosé! Wines must be made via the saignée method or "bleeding method." In this method, red grapes are crushed, and the juice spends extended time with its skins pulling color and flavor. The juice is then "bled" off the skins to be fermented into rosé, and the remaining skins are pressed to create a deep, full-bodied, red wine. These rosés are darker in color with a fuller body and noticeable texture. Don't let the dark pink fool you…these wines are 100% dry!


Wine to try:


Château de Manissy Cuvée des Lys Tavel

Tavel and pork BBQ, anyone? This wine has the structure to hold up to smokey BBQ while offering fresh, juicy red cherries, strawberry shortcake, pink grapefruit, white blossoms, and crushed river rocks. This wine will quench your thirst while still providing those Tavel intricacies we all love from this AOC.

Cairanne:


Welcome to the Rhône Valley's newest cru! Cairanne is located on the left bank just south of Rasteau in the Southern Rhône. Clay and silt comprise most of the soil composition, greatly influencing the wines produced here. Red wines are 94% of the production and are usually found to be big and bold in color and flavor…again, thanks to that clay!

Wine to try:


Cellier de Dauphins Cairanne

Juicy and spice and everything nice! Think blackberries, cassis, leather, violet, and dried herbs laced with spiced plums and surprising acidity—a delicious wine with great value that could be enjoyed now or over the next few years.


Rasteau:


Keeping with the left bank in the Southern Rhône, Rasteau has most of its vineyard sites facing south. This is interesting because this forms a sort of amphitheater blocking the Mistral wind. Sunshine beams down on Rasteau producing only red wine for dry wine production and red, white, and rosé wine for the sweet Vin Doux Naturels production.


Wine to try:


Gabriel Meffre “Saint-Didier” Rasteau

Gabriel Meffre is a family-owned vineyard founded in 1936. This cuvée is named after St. Didier, who helped Rasteau to escape the plague in the 17th century. Ripe strawberry, violet, black pepper, cigar box, and black plums can all be found within this compelling wine, perfect for gamey meats, aged cheeses, and even a juicy hamburger!


Gigondas:


Just north of Vacqueyras, on the left bank of the Rhône, lies Gigondas. Gigondas is hot and sunny, with 99% of the production being dry red wine. Cooling influences come from cool air descending down the Dentelles de Montmirail at night. Limestone soils give way to wines with pronounced aromatics and a firm structure, allowing these wines to age gracefully in the cellar.


Wine to try:

Cellier des Princes Gigondas “La Chasse des Princes”


The absence of oak in the winemaking process for this wine allows the fruit to show its purest expression of the Gigondas terroir. This wine expresses deep red berry forest fruits, black plum, licorice, thyme, rosemary, and lavender. It has a "sauvage" characteristic making this the perfect companion for a wild boar ragù or rack of lamb.



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