The Rhône wine region in Southern France produces a large number of wines under various Appellation d’origine Contrôlée (AOC) designations. The region’s major appellation in terms of production is Côtes du Rhône AOC.
The Rhône valley is usually divided into two sub-regions with distinct viticultural traditions. The northern sub-region produces red wines from the Syrah grape, occasionally blended with white wine grapes, and white wines from Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier grapes. The southern sub-region produces a wide variety of red, white and rosé wines, which are usually blends of several grapes such as those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Viognier on its own is used for white wines from Condrieu and Château-Grillet. Roussanne and Marsanne are in turn used for the white wines of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Saint Joseph, and Saint Péray.
The wines from the left bank are full bodied, rich in tannin while young, and are characterised by their aromas of undergrowth, chocolate, prune and ripe black fruits.
The right bank reds are slightly lighter and fruitier. In 2004, the Costières de Nîmes AOC, which had previously been treated as part of eastern Languedoc, was also included the Rhône wine region. Some of the region’s other, less widely grown grape varieties include: Bourboulenc, Clairette, Mourvedre, Muscat, Piquepoul and Ugni Blanc.
The southern Rhône has a more Mediterranean climate of milder winters and hot summers. Drought can be a problem here, but some 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.