The Rhone region has two specific sections with their own character. The northernmost part has vineyards close to the river Rhone, whereas the southern part has its vineyards dozens of miles away from the river banks. As is the case in the Bourgogne, this region also has a winemaking tradition stemming from Roman times.
The northern Rhône is mainly known for its Côte-Rôtie, Cornas, and Hermitage wines. Some of the greatest wines in the world are made here. The southern part is known mainly for Côte du Rhone and Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines.
There is a great variety of grapes in the Rhône, of which the Shiraz, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèrde, Muscat, Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne are best known.
In the Rhone, many grape varieties are used. The most famous blue grapes are Syrah, Grenache and Mourverdre. The most common white grapes are Viognier, Marsanne, Roussane and Muscat.
Syrah or Shiraz
The syrah grape is called shiraz in Australia. This grape grows mainly in warm and sunny regions. The syrah grape gives very powerful, concentrated and fruity wines and is effortless to combine with most dishes. This grape also derives some of its popularity.
The wines are fruity. Depending on the ripeness of the wine, red fruit (raspberry) or black fruit (blackberry) emerges. Characteristic is also a lot of spiciness (e.g. pepper and cloves) and dark (chocolate, smoke), animal (leather) and chemical (rubber) elements. The syrah grape can produce very different and complex wines.
The grapes are used in many ways. In the Rhône this grape produces very famous and expensive wines (Côte Roti). The syrah grape is also used in Chateauneuf du Pape, mixed with many other grape varieties. In the southern hemisphere, the wine is sometimes mixed with cabernet sauvignon, which can produce very impressive and complex wines.
Grenache or Garnacha
The grenache grape is cultivated in France especially in the south. In Spain, this grape is called garnacha; there it is the most planted grape. This grape variety needs a lot of heat and sun. It naturally has a lot of sugars, which can cause the grenache wines to contain a lot of alcohol. The grenache grape is often used in combination with other grape varieties and is a popular grape variety for making rosé.
The wines are characterized by red fruit, black fruit and spiciness (pepper, cinnamon).
This grape is mainly used in the northern Rhône region; however, the spread of this grape variety is rapid. The viognier is not an easy-to-grow grape. The yield per hectare is low and the grapes are susceptible to rotting. The grape is not suitable for long maturation. The viognier grape is also used in blends of red wines, to give the red wine extra flexibility.
The wines are full and round, there is a lot of concentration. The wine can also develop a lot of alcohol and have very own aromas of white fruit (pear), tropical fruit and dried fruit (apricot) in older wines.