• Wine world

The Rhone Valley : A French wine wealth

  • Wed, Aug 23, 2023 at 00:00
Vineyards of Château de Nalys at sunset.
The Rhone Valley is one of the most important wine regions in France, located along the Rhone River. This vineyard of more than 71,000 hectares allows the Rhone Valley to rank second, when it comes to the production of wines of controlled appellation of origin, just behind the Bordeaux region.

The history and terroir of the Rhone Valley

Viticulture in the Rhone Valley dates back to ancient times, when the Greeks began cultivating vines in the region. Indeed, the Rhone Valley was a privileged commercial passage and with the arrival of the Romans, the region experienced a strong development: creation of the city and the vineyard of Vienne which quickly became a reference. Since then, the region has become one of the most important wine regions in France. 

Vineyards of Château de Nalys at sunset.

The Rhone Valley is divided into two distinct parts: the northern valley, which extends from Vienne to Valence, and the southern valley, which extends from Montélimar to Avignon. This wine region stretches for more than 200 km and produces a wide variety of wines, ranging from rich and powerful reds to fresh and fruity whites. The Rhone Valley is also known for its native grape varieties, such as Syrah, Viognier and Grenache, which bring unique aromas and flavors to the region's wines. The vineyards of the Rhone Valley are characterized by a wide variety of soils, ranging from limestone soils to granite soils, through clay-limestone soils. The emblematic grape varieties of the Rhone Valley are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre for the red wines, and Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne for the white wines. Each terroir in the Rhone Valley has its own characteristics, resulting in unique and distinctive wines.

The appellations of the Rhone Valley

The Rhone Valley is home to numerous appellations that produce red, white and rosé wines. In the northern part of the valley, there are appellations such as Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage. Both of these appellations produce red wines from the Syrah grape variety, which produces very fragrant, complex and elegant wines. The wines of Côte-Rôtie are often described as more feminine, while those of Hermitage are more masculine and powerful. The white wines of Hermitage, made from Marsanne and Roussanne, are also highly regarded for their richness and complexity.

In the southern part of the valley, the best known appellations are probably Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is famous for its rich and powerful red wines made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, as well as for its aromatic white wines made from Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Clairette. The wines of Gigondas, meanwhile, are often described as more rustic and robust than those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, although they are also made from the same grape varieties.

Bunch of Grenache from Château de Nalys.

Between the northern and southern appellations are other Rhône Valley appellations such as Cornas, Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Péray. These appellations also produce red and white wines based on Syrah and Marsanne-Roussanne, but are often less known than their more famous neighbors. Overall, the Rhone Valley is a major wine region in France, with a great diversity of appellations and wine styles.

The great names of the Rhone Valley

The Rhone Valley is home to many renowned wine producers, and many of them have fascinating stories to tell. Among the most famous is Guigal, a renowned wine house that was founded in 1946. Guigal produces a wide range of wines, from the reds of Côte-Rôtie to the whites of Condrieu. M.Chapoutier is another well-known name in the Rhone Valley, which was founded in 1808. They produce wines in several regions of the Rhone Valley, including the iconic Hermitage. Chapoutier wines are often characterized by their power and aromatic intensity, and are prized for their longevity.

Finally, we can't talk about the big names in the Rhone Valley without mentioning Château de Beaucastel. Located in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this estate has been producing wines since the early 18th century. Beaucastel wines are often considered to be the benchmark wines in the region, with their complexity and longevity.

Wine making in the Rhone Valley

The viticulture of the Rhone Valley is marked by a great variety of grape varieties and soils, which contributes to the richness and diversity of the wines produced in the region. The wines of the Rhone Valley are mainly made from two main types of grape varieties: Syrah for the wines of the north of the valley and Grenache for the wines of the south of the valley. However, other grape varieties are also present, such as Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Clairette.

Storage of the barrels of the Domaine E.Guigal.

The winemaking methods used in the Rhone Valley are also specific to the region. For example, red wines from the northern part of the valley are often aged in oak barrels for several years, giving them complex aromas of black fruits, spices and leather. White wines from the southern part of the valley, on the other hand, are often aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve their freshness and fruitiness.

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