French Wine Regions - The Rhone Valley
The Source of the Rhone River in Switzerland
French Wine Regions
What is Chateauneuf du Pape?
French Wine Regions – The Rhone Valley
The source of the Rhone River is the Rhone glacier High up in the Swiss Alps. As it winds its way through the Canton of Valais you can already see vineyards situated along the steep slopes of the river.
The Rhone River pauses for a brief rest at Lake Geneva, before continuing on to Lyon, France, where it joins up with the Saone River on its journey to the Mediterranean.
The Rhone wine region of France extends from Vienne, just south of Lyon, all the way to Avignon, which is not that far from the Mediterranean port city of Marsielle.
To understand the wines of Rhone Valley, I recommend that you start with the following ten important facts:
1. The Rhone Valley is the third largest wine region in France typically producing around 450 million bottles of wine a year.
This is about 9% of the total wine production in France and almost half as much wine as is produced in Bordeaux.
2. There are more than 6000 wine growing properties in the Rhone Valley, 1837 private wineries, 103 cooperatives and 51 negociants (wine producers and merchants)
3. The Rhone Valley can be divided geographically into two distinctly different regions with different wines made from different grape varieties:
- The Northern Rhone is cooler with harsh winters and warm summers. Syrah (Shiraz in Australia) is the main red wine grape and Viognier along with Marsanne and Roussanne are the principal white wine grapes. The best known wines from this region are Cote Rote, Hermitage, Coronas, Condrieu and Chateau Grillet.
(The Northern Rhone produces only 10% of the total Rhone Wines)
- The Southern Rhone has a more Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot summers. The most famous wine from this region is Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is made from a blend of up to 13 different grape varieties including Grenache Noir. This region is also the home of most of the wine, which is simply labeled as Cote-du-Rhone.
(The Southern Rhone produces 90 % of all of the Rhone Wines)
4. The Rhone has four categories of AOC classifications:
a.) Cote de Rhone –
Can be used in 171 communes throughout the entire wine region and is the lowest classification for Rhone wines.
b.) Cote du Rhone Villages –
Is allowed for only 95 communes with a higher minimum requirement for grape maturity.
c.) Cote du Rhone Villages together with the village name –
is allowed in only 19 communes.
d.) Cru –
There are 20 named appellations, which display only the name of the cru and not Cotes du Rhone.
In the Northern Rhone you have Cote Rotie, Condrieu, Chateau Grillet, Saint Joseph, Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage, etc.
In the Southern Rhone you have Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Lirac, Tavel and Beaumes de Venise, etc.
5. Chateauneuf du Pape roughly translates to "the new home of the Pope".
In 1308, Pope Clement V relocated the papacy to Avignon, France where it remained for 70 years. Pope Clement V and his successor. John XXII did a great deal to advance the viticulture in the region and the wines from that area soon became known as "Vin du Pape". More recently, Robert Parker began promoting these wines so that they are currently vastly overpriced.
6. The majority of the wine from the Rhone Valley is dry red wine but white wine and roses are also produced. There is even some sparkling wine and fortified wine production. At the end of this article, I have provided two tables, which indicate the types of wine, produced and the principal grape varieties used in each of the Rhone AOCs.
7. When I started studying French wines in the mid 1960s, they were not out of reach for an unmarried man with a good salary.
In particular, Rhone wines were good buys and priced similar to Beaujolais wines. Even Premium wines like Cote Rotie and Hermitage were less than ten dollars a bottle. Today, these same red wines are priced similar to the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.
8. Chateau bottling, which is common in Bordeaux, does not exist in the Rhone Region (because there really aren’t many chateaux located there.
9. French wines are labeled according to the specific locations where the grapes are grown rather than by grape variety.
Appellation d’ Origine Controlee (AOC) If a French wine label simply lists the grape variety, it is an inferior wine
10. French Rhone vintages do not necessarily follow those of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The Rhone wine region is further south and entirely different grape varieties are grown there. Always consult a vintage chart and
always taste a bottle before buying a case.
Wines of the Rhone Valley - Part 1 of 3
The Rhone Alps
The Ancient Walled City of Avignon
The Rhone wine Region from Vienne to Avignon
Map of the Rhone Valley Wine Regions
THE NORTHERN RHONE AOCS WITH COMMENTS AND PRINCIPAL GRAPE VARIETIES
THE SOUTHERN RHONE AOCS WITH COMMENTS AND PRINCIPAL GRAPE VARIETIES
Robert Parker Vintage Wine Chart
More Wine Hubs by rjsadowski
- Top Ten Things You Should Know About Wine
If you are interested in learning about wine, here is a list of the top ten things that you should know. Topics covered are wine production, consumption, what to look for and other interesting facts. The most important thing to remember is that there
- An Introduction to French Wines
France is the largest producer of wines in the world. French wine regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Beaujolais have become household words. French grape varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah and merlot are p
- French Wine Regions - Burgundy
The various regions of Burgundy are described as well as the grapes that are grown there. In addition, many of the greatest wines of Burgundy are listed along with my comments on those that I have tasted. Also included are fond recollections of a wee
- French Wine Regions - Beaujolais
The French wine region of Beaujolais has three major appelations (AOCs) - Beaujolais, Beaujolais Village and Crus du Beaujolais (containing ten individual Crus). This article describes all of them along with the grapes and the method which is used to
- French Wine Regions - Bordeaux
The greatest wines in the world come from the French Wine region of Bordeaux. Names like Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafitte Rothschild are legendary and command the highest wine prices. The main regions in Bordeaux are the Medoc, Gra
- French Wine Regions - Alsace
Alsace often changed hands between Germany and France for over a hundred years until the treaty of Versilles was signed in 1921. It is no wonder that the Alsacian wines still resemble the white wines of Germany with the grape variety displayed promin
- Which Wine Goes With What Food?
Novice wine drinkers are confused about which wine to drink with what food. This article explains in simple terms the time-honored pairings, but ultimately it is OK to drink any wine you like with any food. One useful guideline is that the wines of a
- French Food - Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine)
Coq au Van is a classic dish from the Burgundy region of France. It is traditionally made with a rooster (coq) and a bottle of Burgundy wine (au Vin). I make it with chicken legs and thighs and an inexpensive California pinot noir. This dish also inc
- Wine and Food - How to Hold a Wine Tasting?
One of the best ways to learn about wine is to hold a wine tasting with your friends. This Hub explains the best way to do this. Better yet, form a wine tasting club and meet regularly to learn and have fun. You can also explore different cheeses and
Chateauneuf du Pape
More by this Author
The Romans brought grape vines to Hungary and by the 5th century there were extensive vineyards planted. In 2010, Hungary was the 16th largest producer of wine accounting for nearly 1.5% of the world's...
Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world and has more acreage planted in grapevines than any other country. It has 68 "Destinations of Origin" ditributed over 17 regions but many people are...
Sichuan has more beef dishes than most other Chinese provences and their spicy beef stew is considered to be comfort food. Made with star anise, Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean sauce it is slowly simmered until you...