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Rhône Wine

Rhône Wine

Rhône wines are some of the most remarkable and distinguished wines in France.
The Rhône valley is divided into two distinct areas - the Northern Rhône starts just south of Vienne and stretches to Valence where it produces red wines from the single noble variety, Syrah. The Northern Rhône appellations of Hermitage, Côte Rôtie and Cornas are full-bodied and have fantastic ageing potential while lighter, forward-style Rhône reds such as Crozes Hermitage & Saint Joseph serve as cheaper alternatives. Three grapes, Viognier (notably at Condrieu and Château Grillet), Marsanne and Roussanne, are responsible for the white wines which, like the reds, are rich and full.
The Southern Rhône, which stretches from Valence into Provence above Avignon, is flatter, hotter and wetter than the north and the wines are blended with an array of grapes - in Châteauneuf du Pape itself, up to 13 grape varieties are permitted. Grenache dominates the red wine production whereas the whites, from the same grapes as wines in the Northern Rhône, plus Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc, are fairly rare accounting for only 5% of production. These Rhône wines, along with their rosé counterparts (in Lirac & Tavel) are best drunk young (within 3 years of the vintage).

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Quick and Easy Guide to Rhône wine

Outwit wine buffs with your synoptic knowledge of the Rhône

Overview:
From its source in the Swiss Alps, the mighty Rhône hurtles south through the steep-sided terraces south of Lyon, through to the flatter, hotter landscape around Avignon. There is a clear transition in both the wines (single variety, low yields in the North; blending and bigger volumes in the South) and the food (cooking with butter in the North, olive oil down South) as one travels from a continental climate to Provence. Wine production dates back to Roman times, but is now dominated by red (80%), with 14% rose and only 6% white. The UK is its largest export market – we love it!

Area Under Vine:
71,000 hectares, France’s 2nd largest AOC wine area.

Key AOCs:
Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, Château Grillet, Cornas, Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Côtes-du-Rhône.

Principal grapes:
Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Syrah, Grenache Noir.

Notable domaines:
Guigal, Vernay, Chave, Chapoutier, Clape, Perrin, Reynaud.

Local delicacies:
Quenelle de brochet (pike dumplings), Saint Marcellin (cheese), truffles, nougart (in Montélimar), salade Lyonnaise, Valhrona chocolate (Tain).

Restaurants we like:
Pyramide (Vienne), Pic (Valence), Le Mangevins (Tain Hermitage), Le Chaudron (Tournon), & Le Beaugravière (Mondragon), Le Beau Rivage (Condrieu), La Mère Germaine (Châteauneuf’).

Famous people from the region:
The Pope (ok; when in exile), aviator Antoine St-Exupèry, chef Paul Bocuse, electro pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre, ‘rugby man’ Sebastien Chabal (Valence).

Things to do:
Visit the Roman amphitheatre in Orange; dance ‘sur le pont d’Avignon’ during the music festival; kayak down the Ardèche; cycle up Mont Ventoux; visit the 'bouchons' of Lyon then explore the labyrinth of 'traboules' (ancient network of alleyways built by silk workers); visit the phenomenal shoe museum in Romans-sur-Isère.

Bien classique:
Crozes Hermitage rouge: ‘Alain Graillot’.

Autre chose:
Saint Péray ‘Nature’: J L Thiers.