~ Rhone Valley, France ~

What makes Rhone so SPECIAL?

The great Rhone Valley grapes of Syrah (or Shiraz), Viognier, Mourvedre, Roussanne and the rest have captured the attention of both the old and new world. From the steep terraces of the Rhone they have spread to the vineyards of Australia, New Zealand, California and South Africa. While years ago the quality of Hermitage, Côte Rotie, Condrieu and Chateauneuf-du-Pape was talked about in whispered terms by enthusiasts, most of us had experienced the smooth quaffable southern Rhone reds.

Today wine lovers the world over want to visit and experience these wines in their home - the RHONE.

Côtes du Rhône - North & South

The Rhône should be viewed as consisting of two fairly distinct viticultural and geographic regions. Different climates, different soils, different terrains, differnt grape varieties - all giving a different terroir and certainly distinctive wines.

Northern sub-region of Côtes du Rhône

North of Côtes du Rhône from Vienne to Valence are the Côte Rôtie, Condrieu - Château Grillet, Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, and Cornas. Here the vines are cultivated on very steep slopes making the harvest extremely arduous with grapes hand-picked. The northern Rhône is characterized by a continental climate with harsh winters but warm summers. Its climate is influenced by the mistral wind, which brings colder air from the Massif Central. Northern Rhône is therefore less warm than southern Rhône. The soil in the north tends to be granite with a mixture of shingle with clay and layered stones on the hillsides.

Southern sub-region of Côtes du Rhône

The southern Rhône sub-region has a more Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot summers. Drought can be a problem in the area, but limited irrigation is permitted. The differing terroirs, together with the rugged landscape which partly protects the valleys from the Mistral, produce microclimates which give rise to a wide diversity of wines. 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 when, due to the cloudless skies, there is often a significant drop in temperature..

FACTS ON GRAPE GROWING & WINE-MAKING in RHONE VALLEY

Name:AOC Côtes du Rhône

Location: From Vienne in the north and extends on both banks of the Rhone river to Avignon in the south, and from the foothills of the Massif Central in the west to the fore-slopes of the Vaucluse and Luberon mountains east of the town of Orange

Vineyards:5,292 concerns including 5,202 growers, 875 private producers, 70 co-operative wineries, and 20 merchant/producers and blenders

Places: 171 communes in the six French departments

Size of the vineyards: 83,839 hectares

Production volume:450 million bottles (14% of French wine production with 77% red wine)

Soil: In the north granite with broken rock with shingle & clay. In the south limestone with gravels & sand

Weather:Continental in the north of the Rhône region (cold winter warm summer) Mediterranean in the south (mild winter hot summer)

RHONE WINE TYPES - Appellation wines

The Rhone Valley appellations in aphabetical order:

-Beaumes-de-Venise, Côte-Rôtie, Cairanne, Château-Grillet, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Condrieu, Cornas, Costières de Nîmes, Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Côtes du Tricastin, Crozes-Hermitage, Gigondas, Hermitage, Laudun, Lirac, Lubéron, Massif d`Uchaux, Rasteau, Roaix, Rousset-les-Vignes, Sablet, Saint-Joseph, Saint-Maurice, Saint-Peray, Séguret, Signargues, Tavel, Vacqueyras, Ventoux, Vinsobres, Visan.