Wine of the World

Wine Basics By Region - Rhone Valley Print

Overview

The Rhone Valley is divided into two very different worlds, the Northern and Southern Rhone. 
 
The Northern Rhone contains some of the steepest vineyards on the face of the planet, (rivaling those of Germany) and the main red grape is Syrah, often blended with a small percentage of white grapes (Cornas is the only region of the Northern Rhone whose red wine must be 100% Syrah by law). Due to a  phenomenon referred to a ‘’co-pigmentation’ the addition of these white grapes can actually result in deeper color extraction than would occur without them. Some spectacular whites are also produced, chief among them Condrieu and Château Grillet, from the Viognier grapes. 
 
The Southern Rhone, by contrast, is a delta of rolling hills. Grenache is the primary red grape, but is joined by up to twelve others, most commonly Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault.
 
The most prolific wine is the ubiquitous Côtes-du-Rhône, providing reds and whites for everyday drinking, while one waits for the Northern Rhône Hermitage or Southern Rhône Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe to mature. A step up from Cotes-du-Rhone is Cotes-du-Rhone Villages. The permitted yield is lower and the wines must come from a smaller area.

Additional Information

Pronunciation of Southern Rhone wines can be tricky. Though the French typically do not pronounce the “s” at the end of a word with a Latin base, it is pronounced in case of Gigondas and Vacqueras, which have a Greek base.