Regions and Appellations France Rhone

Rhone Wine

The Rhone Valley is a key wine-producing region in the southeast of France. It follows the north–south course of the Rhone river for almost 150 miles (240km) from Lyon to the Rhone Delta (the Bouches-du-Rhône), near the Mediterranean coast.

The length of the valley means that Rhone wines are the product of a wide variety of soil types and mesoclimates. The region's wine-producing areas cover such a distance that there is a widely accepted division between its northern and southern parts. Rather neatly, they are separated by a gap of 25 miles (40 km) between the towns of Valance and Montelimar, in which almost no vines are grown.

The Hermitage chapel, overlooking the Rhone

This division is reflected not only in geography and preferred grape varieties, but also in the quality and quantity of wines produced. The smaller, more quality-driven northern section focuses almost entirely on Syrah for red wines and Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne for whites, while the larger and more prolific south employs a much longer list of varieties. The most notable of these are the red varieties Grenache and Mourvedre, which are combined with Syrah to produce the 'GSM' blend so characteristic of the southern Rhone. While the granite-blessed slopes of the north are paired with a continental climate, the rocky, sandy soils of the flatter south enjoy the warmer winters of a Mediterranean climate.

Prestige is also a key differentiator between the northern and southern areas of the Rhone. The north boasts old and highly respected names, such as Hermitage and Cote Rotie, but it accounts for only 5 percent of the valley's total wine production. The remaining 95 percent is made in the south under less-prestigious, less-specific names. The south is not entirely lacking in prestige, however, as it is here that the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation is located.

One important, unifying constant between the two areas is the regional Cotes du Rhone appellation, which can be claimed by red, rosé and white wines from all over the valley. This title covers 171 communes over the 125 miles (200km) between Vienne in the north and Avignon in the south – the towns that mark the beginning and end of the main valley. These wines are still subject to the rules and regulations of the appellation laws, but do not match up to the quality required from more location-specific titles such as Saint-Joseph or Gigondas

The appellation Cotes du Rhone Villages is restricted to specific villages whose terroir produces wine of a slightly higher quality. By chance, they are clustered in the southern section of the Rhone valley, around the town of Orange. An elected sub-set of about 20 (this list changes over time) are permitted to add their village names to the title Cotes du Rhone Villages, producing some interesting, long-winded names such as Cotes du Rhone Villages Saint-Maurice-sur-Eygues.

One small but important area not covered by the obvious north/south divide is the Die district to the east of the Rhone. Located 30 miles (50km) east of Valence and Montelimar, the ancient town of Die sits at the foot of the French Alps. It produces sparkling wines under the appellations Clairette de Die and Cremant de Die, as well as some still whites under the Coteaux de Die title.

Die is not alone in being the source of an idiosyncratic white Rhone wine. Condrieu wines from the north are rich, mostly dry whites with honeyed, floral aromas, while the sweet white wines of Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise complete the Rhone's wide repertoire of styles.

Supplementary information about Rhone Valley wines can be obtained from the region's trade body, Inter Rhone.

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Most Popular Rhone Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Grape
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 29th 93 $93
Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle, Rhone, France Syrah 87th 94 $207
Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve, Rhone, France Grenache (Garnacha) 90th 94 $1,002
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, Rhone, France Syrah 106th 95 $378
Paul Avril Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 120th 94 $102
Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Reservee, Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 188th 92 $78
Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau, Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 215th 92 $82
E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline, Rhone, France Syrah - Viognier 282nd 95 $391
Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie, Rhone, France Syrah 299th 94 $188
Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Grand Cuvee Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 305th 96 $412
E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, Rhone, France Syrah 309th 96 $402
E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 320th 88 $15
Domaine Auguste Clape Cornas, Rhone, France Syrah 354th 94 $187
E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque, Rhone, France Syrah - Viognier 366th 95 $390
M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon, Rhone, France Syrah 414th 95 $334
E. Guigal Chateau d'Ampuis Cote Rotie, Rhone, France Syrah 509th 93 $122
Domaine de la Janasse Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 513th 94 $91
E. Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde de Guigal, Rhone, France Syrah 526th 91 $70
Domaine de la Vieille Julienne Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Trois Sources, Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 565th 92 $65
Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve des Celestins, Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 582nd 93 $422
Pierre Gonon Saint-Joseph, Rhone, France Syrah 594th 93 $128
Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard, Rhone, France Syrah 603rd 94 $384
Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 604th 91 $49
Paul Jaboulet Aine Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone, France Syrah 631st 90 $38
Chateau de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Rhone, France Southern Rhone Red Blend 635th 90 $27
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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