This is the third largest producing region situated entirely in the southern of France. Generally divided into Northern Rhone (from the city of Lyon to Valance) and Southern Rhone (a big spread just north of Avignon) the wines hers are strong in colour and in character reflecting a warmer climate than those of northern France. This is mostly a red wine region but white wines, rosés, sweet wines and sparkling wines are also produced. While the warm climate is quite uniform throughout the region the soil is extremely varied from north to south in the valley. There is also a proliferation of approved grape varieties (6 in the north and 13 in the south) to mark out the different between the wines.
Although there are 6 approved grapes in northern Rhone most wines or the best wines are single-graped. This is in fact Syrah country where the best Syrah based red wines are some of the best in the world and they are capable to mature for more than 10 years. The best producing areas are under the appellations of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage. Production is small and labour intensive (Côte-Rôtie is on steep granite hill side). Therefore the wines are coveted and have price tags to match. One step below is the reds of Cornas, Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph. These are softer Syrah wines with less capability to age and thus less expensive. Strangely enough in this red wine region there are whites that can fetch the same price as the best reds. Stuck next-door to Côte- Rôtie on the steep hill side is a tiny patch around a village called Condrieu which produces an exquisite, silky, aromatic, dry white wine which goes by the same name. The grape is the rare Viognier which is gaining popularity in the world. The other white wines of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St. Joseph and especially of that of St. Peray are made from the Marsanne grape mixed with Rousanne, the mainstay of white wine grapes throughout the Rhone Valley.
While most wines in the Northern Rhone are single-graped in the Southern Rhone they are almost all blended, sometimes up to 4 or 6 grapes. Most production are red but rosé and white wines are represented. Top of the appellation is Chateaunerf-du-Pape (New Castle of the Pope referring to the period in the 14th Century when a series of Popes resided in Avignon other than in Rome) which was in fact cultivated by the Church. The red wines are majority based on the grape Grenache blended normally with Syrah, Carignon and Mouvedre. The best wine can be as good as the best in the Northern Rhone and last for a long time. However the bulk of production in this sub-region is for drinking within 5 years of bottling. The next appellations are those of Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Lirac. Then we have the 16 villages of Côtes-du-Rhone and the generic AOC Côtes-du Rhone. Interestingly in here there is an appellation called Tavel which produces only rosé wine and is considered one of the best rosé in France.
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