The best Rhone wines

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.

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All wines in Rhone

The history of Rhone wines

As is the case in the Bourgogne, this region also has a winemaking tradition stemming from Roman times. Roman cultivation efforts, including the renowned papal vineyard under Pope Clement V in Avignon as well as Greek and Roman influences enriched winemaking over 2,000 years ago, shaping terraced vineyards and ensuring viticulture's continuity post the Roman Empire's decline.

Pope Clement V's vineyard expansions in 1309 led to the birth of Côtes du Rhône wines, enduring even after the papacy's return to Rome in 1378. Despite challenges like the 19th-century phylloxera outbreak, the region persisted, culminating in the formal recognition of Côtes du Rhône as an (AOC) in 1937, solidifying its esteemed status. The subsequent establishment of Côtes du Rhône Villages (AOC) in 1967 further highlighted the region's winemaking heritage.

The terroir of wines from Rhone

The Rhône region is divided into two distinct subregions, each with its own distinctive vinicultural practices. In the North, characterized by hilly terrain and vineyards situated on sloped terraces, altitudes offer protection against the Mistral winds. Grapes are typically hand-harvested, contributing to the rarity and desirability of Northern wines. This area experiences a continental climate.

Conversely, the South boasts a Mediterranean climate and flatter terrain, leaving vineyards more exposed to the cold winds of the Mistral. Here, grapes are predominantly harvested by machines. While some wines, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, exhibit excellent aging potential, the majority are best enjoyed in their youth.

Rhone grape varieties

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.


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.


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.

Classifications of Rhone wines

There are more than 30 different AOC appellations in the Rhône region, of which the following three are among the best-known wine regions:

  • The Côtes du Rhône (AOC): represents villages recognized for exceptional wine quality. To bear the label of this AOC, rose and red wines require minimal 40% blend with Grenache. Which is doubled regarding white wines, but can range between specific grape varieties, which are Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Bourboulenc.
  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape (AOC): allows up to 19 grape varieties. Nearby regions permit even more varieties. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the wine of which the Rhone Valley is especially known for but is also celebrated as the premier red wine of the Southern Rhône.
  • Gigondas (AOC): mainly features Grenache Noir, along with a small number of other allowed varietals.

What are the best wines from the Rhone?

The best wines from the Rhone come from two areas: the Northern Rhone (hermitage) and the Southern Rhone (Chateauneuf du Pape). The question of what is the best wine is of course a personal and depends on the taste. But also whether it is a white or red wine, The best producers or the producers best known for their quality wines include Chapoutier, Jaboulet Aine, Guigal, Henri Bonneau, Clos de Caillou and Rayas..

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