The Rhône valley is one of the oldest winemaking regions in France and was literally built from scratch by man. From the age of Antiquity, the Romans who had made Gaul their territory rapidly came to understand the commercial interest in raising the river and exploring further lands, even foreign ones. It was on these travels that they spread their knowledge of winegrowing from here to there, working the steep slopes of the right and left banks of the Rhône, conceiving of and shaping precipitous terraces.
Since then, vines occupy a dominant place among what is grown in the region, with an influence that spreads to the four corners of the world. The second biggest in terms of surface area after Bordeaux, the region boasts more than 76000 hectares of vines. The impressive variety of soil has led to the growth of a diverse range of grape varieties and wine production. Thus, wine lovers will find red wines that are powerful, generous and almost always good for ageing; delicious and fruity rosés; some ample and aromatic whites; quite rare natural wines (from the Rasteau and Muscat Beaumes de Venise appellations), sparkling wines such as Saint-Péray and the famous Clarette de Die, as well as a rare gem: straw wine. This sweet wine is produced in the Hermitage appellation and is known by the name of ‘Hermitage vin de paille’.
The vineyards of the Rhône Valley stretch from Lyon, France’s gastronomic capital, all the way to Avignon, the ancient papal city. This viticultural region is generally split into two, since the landscape, climate and grape varieties differ from north to south. So these areas are referred to as the Northern Rhône and the Southern Rhône respectively. Let’s take a closer look at both in order to understand their differing styles and the wines produced there.