The river of Rhône runs from Switzerland down through France. When we talk about the wine region Rhône valley it is usually the French part we are talking about. The Rhône valley wine district starts by the town Vienne in the north, down to Avignon in the south. It is usually divided into two parts, the north and the south. The conditions for wine making is very different in the two parts. The climate and the soil are totally different in the northern part of the Rhône valley if you compare it with the southern part.
The Rhône valley is, whe it comes to quantity, the second most important wine region in France, second only to the Bourdeux region. This is a perfect area to do a wine tour and visit wineries to see how the wine is produced and for wine tasting. Every real wine entusiast should travel this wine route at least once in their life! Here you can learn about wine, while traveling in a beautiful landscape with fantastic picturesque villages and old castles. You can stop in any of those villages and have a meal prepared from locally produced ingredients, and try specialties from the region.
Northern Rhône valley
In northern Rhône many of the vineyards are in the hills, some of them rather steep. There is a big risk of soil erosion on the steep hillsides, so to keep the soil in place most of the vineyards are terraced. It is a beautiful sight with all the terraces on the hills, and it makes this area really special. The climate in the northern Rhône is continental, with hot summers, cool winters, and rain all year. In those conditions the Syrah grape is prospering, and many wine lovers say that it is here in northern Rhône that this grape reaches its highest quality. Viogner, Roussanne och Marsanne are other grapes that are commonly used here.
Northern Rhône is bigger on quality than on quantity, and produces only about 4-5% of the Rhône valley wine. But some of that wine is of an outstanding quality.
Southern Rhône valley
This area is more flat, and the climate has more of a Mediterranean influence. That means less rain, warm and long summers and mild winters. And a lot of wind.
In southern Rhône the Grenache grape is the one that reigns. Together with Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise, Carignan, Grenache Blanc and many others. There are 21 grape varieties allowed in Côtes du Rhône, and southern Rhône is famous for mixing many different grapes in their wines. 14 different grape varieties is the maximum allowed in one wine, and you can actually find wines with that many!
The appellations of the Rhône valley
- Côtes du Rhône AOC is the appellation on the generic level. Any wine producer in the Rhône valley can use the Côtes du Rhône appellation. as long as they make their wine of allowed grapes and that it has an alcohol content of at least 11%. No matter if it is red, white or rosé wine. This AOC is producing about 2/3 of the regions wine.
- Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC is the next step up on the ladder. 95 communes belongs to this AOC and the wine they produce must contain at least 50% Grenache grape, with 20 % either Syrah or Mourvèdre, or both, and a maximum of 20% other authorized varieties. Minimum alcohol strength is 12%
- Côtes du Rhône-Villages (named villages) AOC. At the next level the best of the Côtes du Rhône Village appellation are allowed to use their village name on the label.
- Crus. The highest level are the 17 distinctive Crus that together produces about 20% of the Rhône valley wine production, and here you can find some truly amazing wines.
The Rhône valley produces wines of all three colors, but around 95% of the production is red wines.
The Rhône valley is the ideal place to take a wine tour. Whether you plan to go on a wine trip organised by one of the travel agencies that are specialized in wine travel, or if you prefer to do it by yourself. There are lots of beautiful wineries that are happy to welcome you. Some of them are historic monuments in themselves and well worth a visit even if it wasn’t for the wine. Many of them arrange activities for visitors, and we will present some of those, to make it easier for you to plan your wine route.
The Souzan-Delagrave family own and run this winery since 2004. Apart from growing and producing great wines that reflect the land expression, they are also specializing in wine tourism. They make their wines with traditional methods for growing the vines, for harvest and for wine making. That way they preserve the nature and hope that the land will continue to produce great wines for many years to come. They love to share their passion for the land and for the wine with their visitors. They offer wine tastings that will take place either in the wine cellars, or if the weather allows, in their beautiful garden.
The wine tasting costs 7€ per person and you need to contact them in advance for reservations. For wine tourists that want to immerse themselves even deeper into the winery atmosphere they also have a Bed & Breakfast
This vineyard belongs to Chateauneuf du Pape. This is the district known to have the absolute best wines in the southern Rhône. They will happily welcome you for a visit of their winery. To walk around the wine cellars and vaults of this 17th century castle is truly an experience. All while they tell you about how they make their wine with the highest consideration of the the environment. They will also give you a wine tasting, where you will get a taste of wine from different grapes. The varities that they will let you taste are from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc, and Picpoul.
You need to contact them in advance for your winery visit, and the price is 10€.
The previous owners were breeding silk worms on this estate for a long time. But when Fernand Gontier bought it he changed it for wine production. Since 2011 it is a certified organic winery and they are very proud of their wines and of their winery. It is the perfect wine tourism destination if you are a wine enthusiast. The owners enjoy having wine loving visitors, and they have opened an Inn at the estate. At the Inn they serve delicious food and of course wines. They also have a cottage where you can stay when you are on your wine tour. When you stay with them you have access to a shared pool, a terrace and a private garden.
They also offer wine activities, you are welcome to come on a guided tour of the vineyards and the wine cellars. They also have wine tastings in their beautiful old cellars. The wine tasting costs 8€ per person, and you have to contact them in advance for reservation.