Wines of the Southern Rhone
Wines of the
There is evidence viticulture began in the Rhone valley well before 600 BC, making it one of France’s oldest wine regions. As with many regions, winemaking saw technological advancement with the arrival of the Romans. The Papacy’s move to Avignon was another major boost for the region as demand for local wine grew.
The Rhone Valley is split into North and South. The Northern Rhone is planted mainly with Syrah and is know for premium age worthy wines. The wines of the south are usually based on Grenache and are far more affordable and enjoyable in their youth.
There are nine Crus in the southern Rhone; they are thought of as the best of the south. They include Rasteau, Lirac & Tavel (see map). When a particular village gains a reputation for producing superior Cotes du Rhone wine, the village will often to be allowed to append their name to the end of ‘Cotes du Rhone’. If they continue to prove themselves, they will become a Cru. The village of Cairanne is the Rhone’s newest Cru with 2016 as the first vintage (so new its not on our map!).
The southern Rhone is known for a unique soil type called ‘galets’. This translates to ‘pebbles,’ however they are much larger than your standard pebble. These large river rocks are important for their heat retention qualities. They absorb heat during the day and emit it at night, helping the grapes ripen consistently.
Cotes du Rhone and Rhone Cru wines represent tremendous value, however as demand increases, prices rise. There a several satellite regions, Including Costieres de Nimes which produce quality, yet well valued wine. Also look for wines from Luberon or Ventoux.
The Rhone valley is France’s 2nd largest producer of AOC wine, with 31 million cases produced annually
Chateauneuf du Pape was one of the first AOCs to get recognized in 1936.
There are 18 permissible grape varieties in Cotes du Rhone wine, however many are grown in minute quantity.
There are 3 types of Grenache grown in the Rhone: Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc & Grenache Gris. The latter two are pale skinned mutations of Grenache Noir.