The Rhone Valley

The Rhone is home to the well known and highly consumed red blend GSM, Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre.  

 

Well known villages located in Northern Rhone Hermitage, St Joseph, Cote Rotie produce a blended wine of red and white grapes Syrah and Viognier,  

 

We can not talk about Southern Rhone without mentioning Chateauneuf-du-Pape the "house of the new pope" The village is named after the summer residence of the Popes. 13 grapes may be included into this blend, usually it is Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. 

 

The Northern and Southern Rhone differ greatly and that is why i am splitting the pages into 2. 

 

 

FUN FACT: Burgundy blocked Rhone from transporting there wine up to Paris through the Seinne River, perhaps that is why today Rhones reputation is still not where it can be! 

 

 

History

600BC 
Celtic tribes were living in The Rhone Valley when the Greeks came to Marseille and began viticulture, prior to this vines were growing wild. 

The Greeks used The Rhone River to transport goods, including wine back and forth from the Mediterranean into the heart of the Gaul(France) 

Is it believed the Greeks imported vines in order to produce the first Muscat a Petit Grains Blanc in Beaume de Venise, in Southern Rhone


121BC 
The Romans Arrive and plant vines all throughout the region, planting North in the upper Rhone Valley

Whilst planting the land the Romans had to transform many of the steep slopes in the Northern Rhone into walled terraces. 

They began on the right bank of the Rhone River, Côte Rotie and St Joseph and after they had to tame the land of the Hermitage hill


14th Century 
Papal palace (palace of the popes) moved from Rhone to Avignon 


1309-1376 
7 French Popes governed the Catholic Church 

The Second French pope John XXII built a summer residence in Southern Rhone

This residence was known as "the new castle of the pope" or "Chateauneuf du Pape" eventually becoming the name of the village


1737 
King Louis XV initiated and enforced the branding of their wine. All Côte du Rhone wine barrels  were labelled CDR to help fight against fraud. 

1870
Phylloxera hit the vineyards of the Rhone Valley, there was no other option other than pulling out the vines and replanting with American rootstocks. 

Prior to Phylloxera the dominant variety was Mourvèdre, 1/3 of vineyard platings. It's difficulty to graft turned off growers and variety that easily took to grafting were selected. 

Today only 3% of the vineyard area is planted with Mouvedre 
65% Grenache 
18% Syrah 


1924 
Chateauneuf-du-Pape zone of production was delineated and production standards were set in place. A vineyard owner and lawyer who resided in Chateauneuf-du-Pape named Pierre Le Roy de led the winegrowers of the village. 

1935 
The Baron Pierre Le Roy de assisted in the creation of the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée system(AOC) This system was created to allow consumers to be able to purchase wine that was had a guarantee of authenticity. 

Pierre Le Roy De also co founded the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INANO)


1936
1st AOCs were created for the following places
Arbois, Cassis and Chateauneuf-du-Pape 


1937
Cotes du Rhone relieved AOC status 

1967
Cotes du Rhone Villages AOC 

1999
Cotes du Rhone villages + name of the village

 

1990s

The famous Northern Rhone blend of Syrah and Viognier knicked off in Australia and Rhone style blends were being produced in California with great success. 

 

 

 

Location 

Located in South East France

Vines are planted between 44-45th parallel North

On the North border is Lyon and the wine region Beaujolais.

The vineyard starts 22 miles South of The city Lyon in Vienne 

The mountains of the Massif Central to the West 

The Rhone River Runs through the entire North to South - 192km

There is a 48km space between Northern and Southern sub-regions, no vines are planted here

The Rhone Valley area covers 6 French departments and has roughly 300 villages 

Red wine production dominates here at 86% 

Climate

The climate of Northern and Southern Rhone are very different.

2 climatic influences that they have in common the Rhone River and the Mistral wind.

The Rhone river influence
The closer the vines are to the water, the more it will have an effect. 

Both regions are effected although the vineyards of the Northern Rhone flank the steep and narrow river banks where as the vineyard of Southern Rhone are planted further away from the river on a flatter landscape.

The influence of the Rhone River on the vines 

Moderating effect on temperature
Diurnal range of temperature usually increases with the distance from the body of water.
The river equalises the diurnals and temperatures swings helping the development bud break. 
The river moderates the temperatures of the vineyard space (keeping a consistent temperature throughout the night) and reducing the risk of frost developing during spring and autumn. 

The influence of the The Mistral

The Mistral is a ver strong wind coming from the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. 

The Mistral wind occur spontaneously all year round. The mistral wind blows up to 96km per hour. 

The wine producing villages of Southern Rhone are flat, vast and do not have any obstructions to slow down the wind example, mountains or hills like the Northern part of the region. 

The wine growers of Southern Rhone plants their vines un-trellised and low to the ground to minimise the effect. 
In Northern Rhone the ideal plots are South-East facing slopes where they are least exposed to the mistral. 

Negatives of the Mistral 
Break shoots
Ripe off leaves and berries
Can possibly blow the entire vine out of the soil
Drys out the grapes

Positives 
Disables frost development 
Reduces humidity, lowering the chance of  vine diseases and fungus
Cooling effect, the grapes do not overheat or get sunburnt

 

Les Cotes du Rhone

Time for the confusion!

Cotes du Rhone wine, very familiar label in the French section of your supermarket. For many years I thought it could be produced anywhere within the Rhone valley... Ofcourse it is not that simple ! 

The villages that are in the Cotes du Rhone zone of production - produce regional wines 

The villages not included in the Cotes du Rhone zone of production - can NOT produce regional wine

 

 

Cotes du Rhone is a regional AOC covering the Les Cotes du Rhone region
Note: this does
not include all of the Rhone Valley

The regional appellation Cotes du Rhone accounts for 
65% of production in the Les Cotes du Rhone. 
50% of production in the Rhone Valley

within the Les Cotes du Rhone there are the following AOCs, all the wine coming from this region can be

declassified to the regional appellation Cotes du Rhone

 

Cotes du Rhone Village 5% of total production 
 

Cotes du Rhone + named village 10% 
 

16 Cru AOC 19%
 

2 vin doux natural AOCs 1%

300 wine producing villages in the Rhone Valley, 171 produce Côte du Rhone wines. 
92% Red
4% Rose
4% White 


Some of the vineyards in the Rhone Valley are
not included in the Les Cotes du Rhone and cannot be labelled as Cotes du Rhone.

 


Cotes du Vivarais 
Grignan Les Adhemar 
Ventoux
Luberon
Costieres de Niems
Clairette de Bellegrade 

 

Grignan Les Adhemar 

 

Cotes du Ventoux

Cotes du Luberon

Not included in the Les Cotes du Rhone, can not label wine as Cotes du Rhone

 

Cote du Rhone AOC

 

Cote du Rhone

Villages

AOC

Cote

du Rhone

(name)

Villages

AOC

18 Villages that are allowed to append their name to the label for Cote du Rhone (name) Villages AOC

 

Cairanne

Visan

Puymeras

Séguret

Saint-Gervais

Valréas

Vinsobres

Roaix

Sablet

Rochegude

Chusclan

Rousset-les-Vignes

Saint-Pantaléon-les-Vignes

Saint-Maurice-sur-Eygues

Bagnols-sur-Ceze

Laudun

Massif d’Uchaux

Plan de Dieu

16 Crus "Cru" AOCs 

Selected village expressing unqiue terrior, includes 8 Crus in the North and 8 in the South. Even though the wines come from Les Cotes du Rhone, the pharse "Cotes du Rhone" will not appear on the label 

NORTH

 

Cote-Rotie AOC (100%RED)

 

Condreiu AOC (100%WHTIE)

 

Chateau-Grillet AOC (100%WHITE)

 

Saint-Joseph AOC - predomaintly RED

 

Crozes-Hermitage AOC - predomaintly RED

 

Hermitage AOC - predomaintly RED

 

Cornas AOC (100%RED)

 

Saint-Peray AOC - Stil and Sparkling 

 

 

SOUTH

 

Vinsobres AOC (100%RED)

 

Rasteau AOC 

 

Gigondas AOC (99%RED)

 

Vacqueyras AOC (97%RED)

 

Beaumes-de-Venise AOC (RED +  white Vin Doux Naturels

 

Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC (94%RED)

 

Lirac AOC (80%RED + 15% ROSE)

 

Tavel AOC (100%Rose)

 

Appellations


Indication géographique Protégée (IGP) 
 

Wines labelled IGP are produced throughout the entire region.

The Rhone Valley Indication géographique protégée (IGP) previously Vins de Pays 
This category does not have to the follow the same rules as AOC wines, the wine 
growers and wine makers have to adhere to the guidelines set in place by the

INAO Institut National des Appellations
IGP areas with usually use the same grape varieties as there AOC vineyards near them. 
Not allowed in the Cotes du Rhone AOC 



Cotes du Rhone AOC

includes Northern and Southern Rhone

95% of production takes in Southern Rhone
There are 5 different AOCs categories within this zone of production.
3/4 of Rhone Valley production comes from within this Cotes du Rhone zone AOC


Cotes du Rhone AOC

Regional AOC, largest AOC by volume and acerage
Each of the following Appellations is smaller than Cotes du Rhone, follow stricter 
production standards. 


Cotes du Rhone Villages AOC 
Cotes du Rhone
(name) Villages AOC 
16 Cru AOCs
(see above)
2 Vin Doux Naturels AOCs 


AOC that are not included in the Cotes du Rhone Production zone


25% of total production in the Rhone Valley 
Wines are made in a simliar style to CDR with the same grape varieties
 

Northern Rhone 
The Diois AOC  (not in the Cotes du Rhone)

 

2 Sparkling AOC 
Clairette de Die AOC 
Cremant de Die AOC

 

2 still wine AOC 
Coteaux de Die AOC 
Chatillon en Diois AOC 


Southern Rhone (not in the Cotes du Rhone)
Cotes du Vivarais AOC 
Grignan Les Adhemar AOC
Ventoux AOC
Luberon AOC 
Costieres de Nimes AOC
Clairette de Bellegarde AOC

 

Cotes du Rhone AOC in more detail
 

Cotes du Rhone Appellation 


95% of this AOC comes from Southern Rhone
Zone covers 171 wine producing villages 
min alcohol is 11% 
Produce red, rose and white wines 


The follow blending formulers refers to the vines plantings and not the blend of the wine
 
RED
Cotes du Rhone AOC 

 

A Cotes du Rhone sourced from Northern Rhone is 100% Syrah


Grenache  - atleast 40% of the mix 
Blending grapes include:
Syrah & Morvedre - up to 60% 
Up to 30% of the following grapes either together or separately
Carignan
Cinsault
Counoise
Muscardin
Vaccaresse 
Piquepoul Noir 
Terret
Grenache Gris
Clairette Rose 
Maximum of 5% white varieties can be used 


ROSE Cotes du Rhone AOC 


Grenache - at least 40% 
Syrah & Mouvedre - up to 60% 
Up to 30% of the following grapes either together or separately
Carignan
Cinsault
Counoise
Muscardin
Vaccaresse 
Piquepoul Noir 
Terret
Grenache Gris
Clairette Rose
Maximum of 20% White varieties can be used 


WHITE Cotes du Rhone AOC


80% of the wine must be made up from the following grapes 


Grenache Blanc
Clairette
Marsanne
Roussanne
Bourboulenc
Viognier 
The following grapes have a maximum allowance of 20%
Ugni Blanc 
Piquepoul Blanc

 

 Cotes du Rhone Village AOC

95% of production is Red wine 
95 Villages are included in this AOC  


All village are located in Southern Rhone flanking the Rhone river on both sides
Village is a step up from the CDR AOC therefore there are more rules set in place, 
Cote du Rhone Village wine should have more concentrated flavour and aromas and be able to age for longer

Min alcohol is 12% for Red, rose and white 
Cote du Rhone AOC can be 100% Syrah, in Northern Rhone
or 100% Grenache when made in Southern Rhone
Cotes du Rhone Villages can NOT
MUST be a blended product. 
Must have atleast 2 grapes, often has more
 
RED
Cotes du Rhone Village AOC


Must contain alteast 50% Grenache
Minimum of 20%  Syrah and/or Mouvedre 
up to 20% of any other authorised red grape varieties

 

ROSE Cotes du Rhone Village AOC


Must contain alteast 50% Grenache
Minimum of 20%  Syrah and/or Mouvedre 
up to 20% of any other authorised white grape varieties

 

WHITE Cotes du Rhone Village AOC

 

The following grapes must make up 80% of the blend 

 

Grenache Blanc 

Rousanne

Marsanne

Clairete

Bourboulenc Blanc 

Viognier 

 

The remaining 20% can be made up of any other authorised white varieties

 

Cotes du Rhone (name) Vilages AOC 

 

18 villages that are allowed to append their name to the label 

Minimum 12% alcohol  for white and rose

Minimum 12.5% for red 

 

The blending formula are the same as the Cotes du Rhone Villages 

 

Named villages are

 

  • Cairanne

  • Visan

  • Puymeras

  • Séguret

  • Saint-Gervais

  • Valréas

  • Vinsobres

  • Roaix

  • Sablet

  • Rochegude

  • Chusclan

  • Rousset-les-Vignes

  • Saint-Pantaléon-les-Vignes

  • Saint-Maurice-sur-Eygues

  • Bagnols-sur-Ceze

  • Laudun

  • Massif d’Uchaux

  • Plan de Dieu

 

Cru AOCs

 

16 zones of production known as "Crus" 8 in the North and 8 in the South

 

They are all located within the Cotes du Rhone zone of production though the phrase "Cotes du Rhone" will not be on the label. 

 

Production

80% Red 

10% Rose

10% White 

 

Northern Crus 

Syrah and a very small portion of the white grape Viognier is a classic Northern Rhone blend for red wine 

 

Marsanne and Rousanne is a typical Northern Rhone white blend 

 

Cote-Rotie AOC 

 

100% Red 

20% of the white grape Viognier is allowed in the blend  

Syrah and Viognier are co-planted, harvested and fermented together 

Right bank of the Rhone River 

Flavour profile cardamom, leather, white pepper, raspberry fruit

 

Condrieu AOC 

 

100% White - Viognier only 

95% of wine produced here is dry

Right bank of the Rhone river 

Flavour profile apricot, honeysuckle, peach, medium - full bodied 

 

Chateau-Grillet AOC 

 

100% White - Viognier 

Vines are planted on very steep terraces

Very small AOC 

Flavour profile apricot, honeysuckle, peach, medium - full bodied 

 

Saint-Joseph AOC 

 

Predomaintly red wine production 

Up to 10% of Marsanne and/or Rousanne can be added to Syrah 

Right bank of the Rhone river

Flavour profile for red wine blackcurrant, raspberry, violets

Flavour profile of white wine honey, delicate floral notes 

 

Crozes-Hermitage AOC 

 

Largest of the Northern Crus 

Predomaintly red wine production 

Up to 15% of Marsanne and.or Rousanne may be added to Syrah 

Left bank of the Rhone river

Flavour profile for red coffee, chocolate, blackcurrants

Flavour profile of white honey, wild flowers and nuts

 

Hermitage AOC

 

Predomaintly red wine production

Up to 15% of Marsanne and/or Rousanne may be added to Syrah

Left bank of the Rhone river 

Flavour profile for red chocolate, pepper, coffee, smoke, cherry, violet - great to age

Flavour profile for the white honey, flowers, apricot

 

Cornas AOC 

 

100% Red 

Vines are planted on very steep terraces

Right bank of the Rhone river 

Flavour profile gamey, smoke, coffee and blackfruit

 

Saint-Peray AOC 

 

Still and White Sparkling wine is produced here 

Slighter cooler then the other Crus due to the location of the vineyards

Producing Sparkling white since 1825 

Marsanne and Rousanne 

Right bank of the Rhone river 

Flavour profile citrus and floral 

 

Southern Crus 

 

The wine is always a blend, the most common varieties in the blend are Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre. 

 

10 other authorised varieties may also be used in the blend  

 

Common white blend is made up of the following grape varieties Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Marsanne and Roussane.

 

6 other authrosied varieties may also be used in the blend 

 

 

Vinsobres AOC 

 

100% Red 

Mediterranean climate, apline influences - 360m elevation 

High dirunals preserve the natural acidity 

Must be atleast 50% Grenache 

Must be 25% Syrah and/or Mourvedre

 

Rasteau AOC 

 

Red, White and Rose Vins Doux Naturals are all produced here

Reds are most commonly GSM blends

 

Gigondas AOC 

 

99% Red 

1% Rose 

The climate here is very hot and sunny with high dirunals 

Reds are most commonly GSM blends 

Rose - Grenache 

 

Vacqueyras AOC 

 

97% Red

2% White 

1 % Rose 

 

Reds are most commonly GSM blends 

Rose are most commonly Grenache with Mourvedre and Cinsault

White are blended with Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier

 

Beaumes-de-Venise AOC 

 

Reds + white Vins Doux Naturels 

Only in 2005 did this Cru recieve AOC status for their dry red wine 

Reds are most commonly Grenache and Syrah dominant

 

Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC 

 

94% Red

6% White 

 

Southern Rhones most famous Cru, if it was a celebrity it would be a house hold name

 

Largest Cru in both Northern and Southern Rhone 

2800 sunshine hours per year making it the driest growing area in the Cotes du Rhone region

The strong winds of the Mistral are felt here in full force 

13 grapes are authorised to go into the red blend 

Grenache

Cinsault

Syrah

Mourvedre

Counoise

Picardan

Picpoul

Clairette

Bourboulenc

Roussanne 

 

Flavour profile full bodied, ripe fruit,moderate acidity and fleshy

 

Lirac AOC 

 

80% Red

15%Rose 

5%white 

 

The climate is hot and dry in the vineyard of Lirac, vines are planted on poor, nutrient deficant soils a combination of these factors resulting in a very low yield of high quality grapes. 

 

Whites are made from Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenahce Blanc 

Red and rose wine are made from the same grape varieties, Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvedre. 

 

Flavour profile for the red blackfruit and spice

Flavour profile for the rose strawberrry and raspberry, made in the Saignee (direct press) method. 

Flavour profile for the white peach, apple, fennel and lime 

 

Tavel AOC 

 

100% Rose 

Grenache 

Production method - Saignee 

Roses produced here are concentrated with structre 

Flavour profile stone fruit and spice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vin Doux Naturals 

 

Sweet fortified wines, with a minimum of 15% alcohol and 11% residual sugar 

 

Muscat de Beaumes de Venise AOC 

 

produced in Beaumes de Venise

grape - Muscat a Petit Grains 

Flavour profile lychee, rose, orange 

 

Rasteau AOC 

 

produced in Rasteau

grapes - Grenache Noir, Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc

up to 10% of other CDR varieties 

Flavour profile for red VDN dried berry fruits

 

White and Rose VDN are also produced here in smaller quantities 

 

Other AOCs of Rhone (not included in the Cotes du Rhone production zone)

 

 

Cotes du Vivarais AOC

 

47% Red

47% Rose 

6% White 

 

Right bank of the Rhone river

Cooler and recieves more rain then the rest of Southern Rhone

Red and Rose wine produced here are made from Grenache and Syrah 

The white wine is produced from Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne 

 

Flavour profile for the reds spices, jammy black fruits

Flavour profile for the roses red fruits, aromatic 

Flavour profile for the whites rose petal, minerality at the core 

 

Grignan-les-Adhemar 

 

72% Red 

22% Rose 

6% White 

 

Left bank of the Rhone river 

High altitude vineyards, 360meters 

 

Red and rose wine produced here are made from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvedre. Any of the white varieties listed below can be added to the blend along with Ugni Blanc and Picpoul

 

White wine is producedfrom Clairette, Grenahce Blanc, Bourboulenc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier

 

Flavour profile soild acidity and well structured 

 

Ventoux AOC 

 

64% Red

32% Rose 

4% White 

 

Largest producing AOC outside of the Cotes du Rhone, production is dominated by co-ops

AOC is named after Mount Ventoux, the moutains highest peak is 1950 meters 

The mountain is responsible for the high dirunals this area experiences.

 

Red and Rose wine is produced from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan

White wine is produced from Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc

 

Luberon AOC 

 

48% Rose 

24% Red 

24% White 

 

Climate is Mediterranean with a strong continental influence

One of the sunniest regions in France, cool night and cool winters 

Harsh winds of the Mistral effect this area

 

Red and Rose wine is produced with Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault

 

Rose wine add white varieties to the blend at a maximum of 20%

White wine is produced from Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc and even Marsanne, Roussanne and Ugni Blanc might be added in as well. 

 

Flavour profie for the red wine black fruits, pepper, truffle, forest floor and leather

Flavour profie for the rose wine red berries, red currants 

Flavour profie for the white wine lifted aromatics apricot and peach

 

Costieres de Niems AOC

 

50% Red 

43% Rose 

7% White 

 

Right bank of the Rhone river 

Experiences drought in June through to August, due to high temperatures 

 

Red wines are dominated by Grenache with the blending partners Syrah and Mourvedre. 

 

Flavour profile for red wine violet, blsck olive, spice, licorice, thyme and blackberry fruit

Flavour profie for the rose fresh raspberry and strawberry fruit

 

Clairette de Bellegarde AOC 

 

100% White 

very small area only 17 acres 

Dominate grape variety is Clairette 

Almost impossible to find the wine outside of the region as produciton is soo small 

Flavour profile blossom aromas

 

 

Winemaking

White wine - most are produced to be consumed young 2-4 years 

 

fermented in neutral casks, stainless steel tanks or concrete

 

Cru whites age matured in oak, the white of Hermitage are most commonly oaked 

 

Oak maturation will help the wine to age better and longer

 

Red winemaking and blending 

 

Some winemakers co-fermant Syrah and Grenache to produce a more complex wine 

 

Red wines are matured in concrete, stainless steel tanks or large wooden barrels. 

 

Some producers are from Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Chateanuef-du-Pape and Gigondas are starting to age their wines in small new oak barrels. 

 

 

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