The second largest wine-producing region in France, the vineyards of the Rhone extend almost 200 kms from Vienne, close to Lyon, to Avignon in the south. But there is a firm divide between Northern and Southern Rhone, each having its own distinctive climate, terroir and grapes. Rich in history, the famous cities of the region, Lyon, Vienne, Valence, Orange, Avignon and Nîmes, are home to Roman sites and the Palaces of the Popes.
The Northern Rhone, which extends from Vienne to Valance, is considered to be the third most important French region for red wines after Bordeaux and Burgundy, and yet it accounts for just 10% of the production of the whole region. Noteworthy appellations are Hermitage, Cote Rotie, Cornas, St Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Condrieu and St Peray, which all produce high quality reds and whites (some appellations both, some white or red only). The highest quality appellations in the Southern Rhone are Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Lirac, Rasteau, as well as the luscious sweet wines of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. However the bulk of production is generic Cotes-du-Rhone or, a step up, Cotes-du-Rhone Villages.
In the Northern Rhone syrah is the only grape allowed for red wines. Whites are made either from Viognier, or Marsanne/Roussanne. The Southern Rhone has a whole myriad of different varieties – the main black gapes are Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and the more obscure Counoise and Muscardin. Whites are made from Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Bourbolenc, Roussanne and Marsanne.
The North has a temperate continental climate with regular rainfall. The South has a Mediterranean climate characterised by dry summers with long, sunny days, and mild winters. The strong Mistral wind often affects the climate. The North has clay, rocky and granitic soils, whereas in the South it’s a mixture of clay, limestone and sandy soils. And Chateauneuf-du-Pape has the famous ‘galets’ or pudding stones.
Past Tours To Rhone
Sometimes, life is all about luxury. Our premium trip to one of France’s top three red wine regions was certainly that. We indulged ourselves in exquisite boutique hotels, dined elegantly in Michelin-starred restaurants and sipped fine wines from Syrah and Viognier. As our group delighted in views of the majestic Rhone river & the iconic Hill of Hermitage while travelling in a VIP coach. The pièce de résistance was a private guided tour by electric train in the Gallo-Roman town of Vienne. Now that’s living in the lap of (a little) luxury.