The Rhône Valley is thought to be the oldest wine region in France. It is believed that the Phocaeans first planted vines here that the Romans later used to make wine. In the 4th century a number of vineyards already existed in appellations such as Hermitage and the Côte-Rôtie. In the 12th century, the Knights Templar planted the first vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.Wines from Rhône
To the north of Valence lies the northern Rhône Valley. Vines grow on steep slopes and in soils that are rich in granite and schist. The northern Rhône has a ‘continental’ climate (hot summers and cold winters) with plenty of precipitation throughout the year so drought is uncommon. Syrah is the main red variety in this region and produces wines that are rich and full-bodied. White wines are made from Marsanne and Roussane and are charecterised by their fresh and elegant style. The vineyards of Condrieu are known for their rich and luscious Viogniers. The northern Rhône is home to many of the Rhône’s appellations including: Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Saint Joseph, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas.
South of Montélimar until Avignon lies the southern Rhône valley. This area has a Mediterranean climate with varied soil that can often be quite poor. At least eight grape varieties are used in winemaking here including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussane. Many of the grape varieties found here are Spanish in origin and found their way to the southern Rhône in the 17th century. Grenache is the principle variety and produces full-bodied, robust and powerful wines. The most famous wine to come from this region is undoubtedly Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Generally, wines here are not as suited to ageing as those made in the northern Rhône (Châteauneuf-du-Pape being the exception) but are wonderful after 5 years in the cellar. The southern Rhône is home to many appellations including Côtes-du-Rhône, Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Châtauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Tavel and Lirac.