Wines of the Rhône Valley

The Rhône Valley is a major wine producing region located in the southeastern portion of France, south of Burgundy and north of Provence, along the N-S running Rhone River.

I chose this region to talk about today because 1) it is the birthplace of some of my very favorite wine varietals, and 2) all the wines featured in this month's club shipment are made from Rhône wines! This is true!

So, by all means, let's learn about the Rhône!

When it comes to wine, the Rhône is divided into two very distinct regions separated by a 40 mile stretch where no vines are laid. the North and South regions are very different in terms of grapes, climate and reputation. 

the rhone valley

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If you have heard of Côtes du Rhône AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) you may be wondering if that refers to any wine from the Rhône Valley. In fact it refers to about 50% of the wines from the region. Côtes du Rhône AOC is a large geographic indicator that describes the entry level wines produced in the region that meet the AOC standards (for abv level, grape varietal, etc). The other 50% are associated with more specific geographic origins such as Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie, or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. 

Northern Rhone

  • Grapes: Known for producing high quality wine from the Syrah grape. Some appellations allow up to 20% blending with whites such as  Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne
  • Climate: Continental climate in the north, due to the more inland location
  • Production: Only about 5% of the Rhone wine comes from the north
  • Wines of the north made with the Syrah grape are associated with big, bold, spicy flavors and a tannic structure that allows for tremendous aging potential. 

Southern Rhone

  • Grapes: The southern Rhone is known for blends with low-tannin Grenache grape being the most widely used. 
    • "GSM" is a blend of Grenach, Syrah, Mourvedre 
    • Cinsault & Carignan are two widely used reds
    • There are a bunch of whites associated with the Rhone such as Viognier, Marsanne, Picpoul Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne and several others. 
    • Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a region known for hearty Grenache-based red blends.
  • Climate: Mediterranean climate in the south, due to being closer to the Mediterranean Sea
  • Production: 95% of the Rhone wine comes from the south
  • Southern Rhone, with its warmer climate, is known for producing high alcohol (14-15% abv) wines with big concentrated fruity flavors influenced heavily by the Grenache grape. No wonder I love these wines!

 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Allowed Grapes

Drilling a bit more into this famed Southern Rhone region, people in wine circles do love discussing the allowed varietals. Check out this list to be in the know!

Reds allowed: Cinsault, Counoise, Grenache noir, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Piquepoul noir, Syrah, Terret noir, and Vaccarèse (Brun Argenté).

Whites allowed: Bourboulenc, Clairette blanche, Clairette rose, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Picardan, Piquepoul blanc, Piquepoul gris, and Roussanne.

One of the premier producers of the region, Château de Beaucastel, in partnership with US "Rhone Ranger" Tablas Creek, is credited with helping to introduce and evangelize the use of Rhone varietals in the US market. Thank you, Beaucastel!

galets roulés

Translating to "rolled pebbles" this term refers to the round stones found in vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and other nearby vineyards.

galets roulés of Châteauneuf-du-Pape

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They were deposited 3 million years ago by the Rhône River. If you're wondering why the vintners don't rid their vineyards of these rocks, it's because they serve a very important purpose! During the day, they absorb heat from the sun and at night that heat is radiated out, keeping the vines warm even in colder conditions. They've been compared to "open air ovens"! 

I hope you had fun and learned a bunch about the Rhône today! Post any questions that you have below! 





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