France’s Rhone Valley (also called Cotes du Rhone or the “banks of Rhone”) may not be as well known as Bordeaux or Burgundy, but is one of the country’s most important wine regions. Stretching from Lyon all the way to Marseille, it is believed to be the oldest wine-producing region in France, dating back 23 centuries. Wine cultivation predates the Romans, who ramped up wine production there and used the Rhone River as a major wine highway.
The Rhone wine region is divided into two sub-regions: the Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone. The Southern Rhone dominates. The Northern Rhone, only 45 miles long from Vienne to Valence, produces just five percent of the wines in the Rhone Valley but is distinctive with its steep terraced vineyards and wines both of great value and great quality.
There are eight appellations (geographic areas) in the Northern Rhone running in a skinny line from Cote-Rotie to Saint-Peray. Some, like Hermitage, are well known; fewer people have heard of Cornas or Chateau-Grillet. Just a few types of grapes are grown here. The only red grape in the Northern Rhone is the indigenous Syrah, called Shiraz in English. The predominant white varietal is Viognier, grown in the Condrieu appellation; some wineries also produce Roussanne and Marsanne. Many of the wineries are small, family-owned ones that have little plots in different areas of the Northern Rhone.
We had three great winery experiences in the Northern Rhone Valley. We took a private day tour of the Northern Rhone wine region from Lyon with Olivier Delalande, owner of Kanpai Tourisme (named after the Japanese term for “cheers” (literally “my glass is empty”). We’ve toured the Northern Rhone with Olivier before, visiting Domaine de Corps de Loup, Pierre Gallard, and M. Chapoutier, all excellent. He curated the wineries we’d visit carefully so we’d enjoy new experiences this time and a broad range of the wines produced.
On our way to the vineyards we had the chance to stop in Vienne, the gateway to the area, to take in some of the Roman and Medieval reminders of its past.
The first winery we visited was the venerable E. Guigal, in Ampius. A family-owned winery for three generations, it’s been a leader in the move to put the Northern Rhone on the map. We enjoyed a private tasting in the winery’s new modern tasting room after touring the owner’s private museum. We sampled:
Vidal-Fleury Viognier from Condrieu, no oak 😊++
E. Guigal Viognier from Condrieu, with a touch of oak 😊++
Syrah from Crozes-Hermitage 😊😊+
Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde de Guigal, Syrah aged 36 months😊😊
Syrah from Hermitage, also aged 36 months 😊😊
Cave Yves Cuilleron
For a completely different experience, we visited Cave Yves Cuilleron in the village of Chavanay. A smaller three-generation winery, it produces wines from six of the appellations in the Northern Rhone. We enjoyed a generous, private tasting in its petite tasting room. We sampled:
Les Potiers, a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne, from Saint-Peray 😊😊
Le Lombard, Marsanne, from Saint-Joseph 😊😊+
La Petite Cote, Viognier from Condrieu 😊😊+
Les Serines, Syrah (old vines), from Saint-Joseph 😊++
Madiniere, 95 percent Syrah and five percent Viognier, from Cote-Rotie 😊++
Lieu-Dit “Les Cotes” Syrah from Cornas 😊😊+
Domaine des Remizieres
The third winery we visited was Domaine des Remizieres in Mercurol. This was yet another third-generation family winery, with a female wine owner and winemaker. We enjoyed a private tour of the winery and cellar and then a very generous private tasting in the pretty tasting room. We sampled:
Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Particuliere, Marsanne 😊++
Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Christophe, a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne 😊😊
Crozes Hermitage Origine Syrah 😊++
Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Particuliere Syrah 😊😊
Syrah from Saint-Joseph 😊++
Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Chirstophe Syrah😊😊
Syrah from Cornas 😊😊+
Hermitage Cuvee Emilie Syrah 😊😊
We hope these three great wine experiences in the Northern Rhone Valley help you plan your trip to this wonderful wine region. Kanpai!
Do you have any additional wineries in The Northern Rhone Valley you recommend we visit? Let us know! We’re at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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