Rhone Valley wine: history of the Rhone vineyards
Rhone Valley Wine
The Rhône Valley is one of the oldest French vineyards and above all the second wine region in terms of the quantity of wine produced with a controlled designation of origin (AOC) , after Bordeaux.
The wines of the Rhône Valley have imposed themselves on the world over time thanks to several factors that have made the reputation of its wines, namely the quality of the products, the know-how of the terroir and a favorable natural environment .
The geographical location of the Rhone Valley
The Rhône Valley is a vast wine-growing area which spreads over a planted area of 79,045 hectares and includes 6,000 farms , 2,000 of which are independent cellars.
On either side of the river, the vineyards of the Rhône Valley extend over more than 200 km between Vienne in the north and Avignon in the south, out of a total of 1317 municipalities.
The Rhône, Loire, Ardèche and Gard departments are on the right bank of the Rhône, while the Drôme and Vaucluse departments are on its left bank. These departments are part of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regions.
The Rhone Valley vineyard is divided into two sub-regions.
The northern region (from Vienne to Valence) where plants are planted only on hillsides, on the left and right banks of the Rhône and which abounds in wines with limited production capacities but great wines of good quality
- Cremant de die, Côte-Rôtie,
- Crozes Hermitage,
- Saint Joseph,
The southern Rhône valley (from the Coteaux du Vivarais to Avignon) displays a more varied face with hills, plains and plateaus. It is full of many simple and heterogeneous wines:
- Clairette de Bellegarde
- Chateauneuf Pope
- Duchy of Uzes,
- Rasteau dry.
Regional and local wine appellations
If the appellation Côtes-du-Rhône instituted in 1937 included the crus of the departments of the Rhône, the Loire, the Ardèche, the Drôme, the Vaucluse and the Gard; a 1966 decree created the Côtes-du-Rhône villages appellation for wines from the departments of Ardèche, Drôme, Vaucluse and Gard.
A hierarchy of Rhone wines places at the base the wines labeled Côtes du Rhône, mainly located in the south, then the Côtes du Rhône villages, and, at the top, the communal AOCs such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Cȏte-Rotie, Condrieu.. .
The valleys of the tributaries of the Rhône are attached to the Rhône vineyard, including that of the Drôme which forms the Diois (Clairette de Die, Crémant de Die, Côteaux-de-Die and Châtillon-en-Diois), then that of the Calavon (Ventoux ), the right bank of the Lower Durance (Luberon) and finally part of the Gard (Costières-de-Nîmes and Clairette de Bellegarde).
The main grape varieties and wines produced
In the Rhone Valley, there are several varieties of vines to obtain the different types of wines known.
- To obtain red wines, winegrowers use Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre or Carignan .
- The dry white wines are made from Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Piquebou . Condrieu is made from only Viognier, while the majority of other white wines result from the blending of several grape varieties.
- Rosé wines are made from the same grape varieties as red wines.
- Sparkling wines come from grape varieties such as Clairette and Muscat à petit grains.
- Natural wines are also produced there, such as Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise and Rasteau . Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, known for its quality, is made from small-grain white Muscat grapes.
Range of wines to taste
The Saint Joseph
The Saint Joseph vineyard covers three communes in the Loire department , but 23 in the Ardèche. It is planted on terraced hillsides that have been shaped since antiquity. Previously, Saint Joseph was called the “wine of Mauves”.
The Saint Joseph reds are very fine and powerful. We can loosen aromas of spices, peppers and notes of violet. Depending on their provenance, red wines can be soft or powerful and solid. The white Saint Josephs, on the other hand, are rather racy. The aging potential of this wine is between 3 and 10 years on average.
A Saint Joseph white wine goes well with the following dishes: pike soufflé, langoustine ravioli, Roman-style squid fritters, seafood pasta, salmon tagliatelle...
The red wines from the Saint-Joseph vineyard can be accompanied by the following dishes: tabbouleh with tomatoes and herbs, Landes salad, rack of pork Soissonnaise, jambalaya, rabbit with olives, Bolognese lasagna, etc.
It is produced in the Vaucluse , in the communes of Vacqueyras and Sarrians , on a terroir that extends over approximately 1,400 hectares of vines .
Complex, ample and delicate, the red Vacqueyras develop aromas of violets and red fruits when young. The white wine is fine and brilliant, and the rosé is supple and round with pronounced aromas of wild strawberries and flowers. The dominant grape variety in the production of red wine is Grenache noir (about 50%). But we also find Mourvèdre and Syrah (around 20 %).
To accompany a red Vacqueyras, you can opt for a grilled duck tournedos or Grison meat as a starter. Among the best pairings between main dishes and red Vacqueyras are Ardèche potatoes and Avignon stew, not to mention gardiane. A bottle of red Vacqueyras is ideal to accompany Pont-l'évêque cheese, Saint-Marcellin or lean Chambarand.
And for a white Vacqueyras, grilled salmon or veal kidneys with cream will do just fine.
The Côte du Rhône
In the northern Côte du Rhône, Syrah, strongly present, essentially gives wines with red fruits and notes of black fruits.
The grape varieties like Grenache and Carignan offer the best of themselves in the northern southern part. These give supple wines. On the other hand, Syrah and Cinsault provide a fruity tone and offer wines with great finesse.
The Côtes-du-Rhône has several appellations and each of them offers wines with a particular taste. This is the case, for example, of the Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and the Côte du Rhône village.
It touches the vineyards of the northern Rhône valley, on the left bank of the Rhône.
The wines of this AOC are distinguished by their ardor and their gourmet, robust and captivating side. The grape variety most used for the production of red wines of this AOC is Syrah . The young Syrah wines of the Crozes appellation of this appellation are very balanced and smell of the charm of the grape variety.
This AOC does not produce as many white wines and the latter represents only nearly 8% of production. For a dish of grilled or pan-fried fish, you can open a bottle of dry white wine from Crozes-Hermitage.
The Costieres of Nîmes
Produced in the southernmost wine-growing area of the Rhône Valley vineyard, Costières-de-Nîmes is a French wine with a controlled designation of origin which has a Mediterranean temperament and a unique taste linked to the terroir of the same name.
In general, most Costières de Nîmes wines are red (55%), but the region also produces rosés (35%) and whites (10%). The blends authorized by the specifications of the AOC Costières de Nîmes give the wines a resolutely fruity character, with a tannic structure and good freshness.
In the case of red wines and rosé wines , Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre must together represent at least 60% of the blend, the rest being composed of Carignan and Cinsault.
The terroir of the Costières de Nîmes is essentially made up of pebbles on clay-limestone soil, thereby marking their belonging to the Rhône Valley . These pebbles, which descend to a depth of 5 to 15 meters, are enveloped in sand that varies in color from bright yellow to deep red. The vines send their roots very deep into the layers of clay below, which gives them a moderate, but regular supply of water, even in periods of intense heat in mid-summer. The excellent drainage properties of gravel mean that water drains quickly even in heavy downpours.
From vineyard of the Rhone Valley in France, Ventoux is a wine with a controlled designation of origin.
The wines of the Ventoux appellation are made from the main grape varieties, namely Grenache noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Carignan .
The red wines of Ventoux mostly give off aromas of red fruits, and are very pleasant on the palate, thanks to their good substance and good length in the mouth. The flavors produced can sometimes be reminiscent of vanilla or licorice, even if the texture of the wine remains excellent.
Ventoux rosé wines are made from grape varieties such as Grenache , Syrah , Mourvèdre , Cinsault or Carignan . These can be enjoyed throughout the meal.
White wines are made from grape varieties such as Grenache blanc , Bourboulenc , Clairette and Roussanne . The proportion of secondary grape varieties used in the production of white Ventoux wines must not exceed 10% of the grape variety.
Dishes to taste with red Ventoux wine: stuffed courgettes, rabbit, chicken with tomato sauce.
Dishes to enjoy with white Ventoux: fish in tomato sauce, bouillabaisse, tuna lasagna, capon stuffed with morels.
Dishes to enjoy with a Ventoux rosé wine: Chinese cuisine, charcuterie, exotic chicken.