Rhône Valley

This is a region that continues to deliver consistency and value in both north and south and its white wines are also becoming much more popular, all aided by a succession of good vintages. It’s very much two areas in one: if you drive down the motorway from Lyon, quite often it can be cool and cloudy until you reach Montélimar, when the skies clear and the temperature moves up a notch. The North also uses more Burgundian-style winemaking techniques in terms of its use of demi-muids oak barrels rather than the large foudres of further south. There are unifying factors though and the main one is the use of Syrah grapes. Syrah contributes much character as the single variety in the North for Côte-Rôtie, Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage and Cornas, or as a blending partner in the South. Blending in order to achieve complexity reaches its apotheosis in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. If Châteauneuf looks a bit pricey these days, try Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Lirac, Cairanne or Rasteau. Ripe, silky Grenache plays an important role in these wines, as it does in most Côtes du Rhône. Gentle whites made from Marsanne and Roussanne, and orange blossom Viogniers, particularly Condrieu, are impressive. Then there’s Tavel for rosé and Muscat de Beaumes de Venise for vin doux naturel.

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