This wine region is going through a revival in the last years, embracing its classic roots and savoir-faire but not afraid of showing its new versatile side. It would be like sir Paul McCartney making a song with Kanye West and Riri. Or, wait… that already happened.
The Côtes du Rhône wine region is one of the biggest AOC’s in France, going from Vienne all the way to Avignon. That’s a staggering 200 kilometers (124 miles) in which you will find cute little French villages, bustling metropoles and lots of castles. You can find vineyards all along the Rhône River on both sides of the river. What makes this region particularly interesting is the fact that you can split up the region in 2 main regions. Northern & Southern Rhône with both their own personality, climate, soil and grape varieties. A quick overview.
The Northern Rhône produce only 5% of the total Rhône wine production and is characterized by a continental climate. The real king in the North is Syrah, it’s the only red grape variety that is permitted in the red AOC wines. Syrah from Northern Rhône can be described as full bodied, but always elegant because of the cooler climate. So next time you order a bottle of Australian Shiraz in a restaurant, think about the French origin of this grape and give it a try. Another interesting fact about the Northern Rhône is that Syrah often will be blended with white grape varieties such as Viognier, Marsanne & Roussanne.
Welcome to the South of France, you can feel the changes in the air and in the vineyards. Life is more laid-back and so are the wines. The South has a more Mediterranean climate which definitely has some advantages for Grenache, who is the Emperor in the South and is often used in blends with two other famous French grape varieties Mourvèdre and Cinsault (geek tip for when you are attending a quiz with your mates: the 3 main grape varieties in the Côtes du Rhône wine region are Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre often referred to as GSM, so next time think about your cell phone and impress all your friends).
Southern Rhône wines are mostly blends, often 19 grape varieties or more are used in these blends with the most famous red wines coming from Châteauneuf-du-Pape (they use 10 red and nine grape varieties in their blends). The white wines that are made from viognier are getting more and more attention lately and are widely distributed.
Oh, and while you’re at it: don’t forget to taste the rosé wines from the Côtes du Rhône, they might be France’s best kept secret.
Come and discover this versatile wine region during the Rhône Wine Festival in October. Several masterclasses and workshop are organized throughout Belgium or discover Rhône wines at one of the afterworks or wine & dines: https://rhonewinefestival.be/nl
This article is written in collaboration with Vins du Rhône