The Rhone Valley is a one hundred and twenty-five mile stretch in southern France with vineyards stretching from Lyons to Avignon. The most widely known appellation in this valley is Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in the southern part of the Rhone. Other well known appellations include Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Tavel, and the scarce Chateau Grillet and Condrieu.
The types of vines permitted in the Rhone, as in all of France, are strictly regulated by law. In order to maintain quality, the A.O.C. (Appellation Controllée) system prescribes which grape varietals may be grown in each appellation (if the producer intends to label the wine with the name of that appellation), and limits the amount of production from the vineyards. Red varietals permitted within the Rhone are Grenache, Syrah, and Mourverdre. White varietals include the luscious and rare Viognier.
|Grenache is the dominant variety of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation. Originally from Spain, wines made from this red grape exude flavors and aromas of raspberry, red currant, strawberry, and black cherry. Grenache fragrances also may include cedar, black pepper, licorice, rose petals, truffles and spice. Grenache produces some of the best rosé wines as well as richly textured reds with warmth and mellowness.|
|Syrah is said to originate either from the ancient Persian city of Shiraz, or perhaps from the northern Rhone itself. Syrah, widely planted in the northern Rhone, produces the famous wines of Hermitage and Cote Rotie. The grape produces deep purple-colored wines with jam-like fruitiness, including black currents and raspberries. This intense fruit, along with black pepper and herbs, dominate the aromas of wines made from Syrah. Often, Grenache and Mourverdre are blended with Syrah to soften and round out its characteristics.|
|Mourvedre is of Spanish origin, but it thrives in the southern part of the Rhone Valley. Mourvedre vines produce a light crop, which results in a wine that is dark garnet in color and concentrated in flavor. Often plum, blackberry, chocolate, and even subtle hints of Eucalyptus and mint are present in the nose and palate.|
|Viognier, grown in the northern Rhone, is the only wine produced in the Condrieu appellation. This white variety possesses abundant perfume and fruitiness, with delicious aromas of peaches, apricots, and blossoms. Viognier can range from Chardonnay-like to nearly Riesling characteristics, depending on winemaking styles. In the Cote Rotie appellation, Viognier and Syrah are blended together to produce a rich red wine rounded and softened by the luscious fruit of the Viognier.|