The Rhône Valley is one of the most historic and bountiful wine regions in France. Boasting wine making history dating back over 2600 years, it is the origin of two of the most important varietals in the industry, Syrah and Grenache. The valley runs along the Rhône River from Lyon all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, providing an extraordinary climate and soil for vines to grow. With the arrival of the Popes in Avignon in the 14th century there was a surge in regional winemaking and a reputation that followed. The various AOC wines of the Rhône Valley region are produced by over 6,000 wine growing properties including 1,837 private wineries and 103 cooperatives.
The continental climate and the steep, granitic and schistose slopes of the Northern Rhône shape the Syrah-dominant reds of the prestigious Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie appellations. Syrah is believed to have originated in or close to the Northern Rhône region and produces big, bold and spicy wines. And while red production rules here, the white wines of the region deserve mention too, most notably the Condrieu appellation which offers beautiful wines based on the floral and exotic Viognier grape.
The Southern Rhône has a more Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot summers. A feature of the cultivation of the region is the use of large pebbles around the bases of the vines to absorb the heat of the sun during the day to keep the vines warm at night. Grenache plays the star role in the Southern Rhône red blends, with Syrah and Mourvèdre playing supporting roles, and the most prestigious appellation is undoubtedly Châteauneuf-du-Pape, though Gigondas and Vacqueyras also hold their own.