In this vast region, wines of all types are born, dry wines in three colours, natural sweet wines and sparkling wines. However, the majority of wines produced there are red.
There are two main, highly differentiated sectors: the northern Rhône Valley and the southern Rhône Valley.
Northern Rhône Syrah offers a much savorier profile with notes of black olive, plum, and dried green herbs. A perfect example would be a St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage wine.
The Southern Rhône is famous for its blends of primarily Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. These wines exude ripe raspberry, plum and dried lavender with a smoky overtone. Calabert and Terre de Sy wines would be very representative examples.
In the Rhône Valley, there are 4 wine quality levels:
• Côtes du Rhône AOC
They count for 50% of the valley’s production. Mostly Red blends based on Syrah (Shiraz) or Grenache, their production rules are not as strict as for the other levels wines. However, they must be made from the 21 sanctioned grape varieties and must have over 11% of alcohol. Easy to drink, these wines are perfect for everyday and easy to pair with food.
• Côtes du Rhône AOC Villages
Above the Côtes du Rhône AOC in the pyramid, the village wines are slightly more complex with higher alcohol and lower yield. Unlike the previous category, those wines are great for aging.
• Côtes du Rhône (named) Villages AOC
There are only 21 villages that are allowed to declare their names on their labels as Villages AOC, and you might want to keep an eye on them because they are absolutely beautiful wines.
• The Crus
At the top of the pyramid, these are the jewels of the Rhône Valley Wine Region. There are 17 distinctive crus: 8 in the North and 9 in the South. Those wines truly express their individual terroir. They are responsible for almost 20% of the Rhône wine production. These names might ring a bell: Beaumes-de-Venise, Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Côte-Rôtie.
Did you know?
Viticulture as we know it arrived in Southern France with the Greeks in the 4th century BC. However, it was the Romans who really established the vineyards and reputation of the area using the Rhône as their highway through France (and planting a few vineyards along the way). Châteauneuf-du-Pape means “The Pope’s New Crib” — The Catholic Church was the next main influence when Pope Clement V moved his headquarters from Rome to Avignon in 1309.