By contributing writer Steve Gross
Our Tasting Tour of French Wine now takes us south to the Rhone Valley, where the wines often rank among the best wines in the world. Wines from Condrieu, Hermitage, Cornas, St. Joseph, and Chateauneuf du Pape are worth seeking out, and they offer excellence in a manner you may not have tasted before if you haven’t tried Rhone wines.
Where is the Rhone Valley?
The Rhone Valley lies in southeastern France, with the Rhone river flowing in a southerly direction to the Mediterranean Sea. The major cities there are Avignon, Arles, and Orange.
The Northern Rhone, where red wines like Cornas, St. Joseph, and Hermitage, and whites like Condrieu come from, has cold winters and warm summers.
The Southern Rhone, home of red and white Chateauneuf du Pape, offers more mild weather, as it lies nearer the Mediterranean.
How much do Rhone wines cost?
Wines from the Rhone region are priced from less than $10 to more than a lot of people would be comfortable paying.
It’s hard to find a Chateauneuf du Pape for less than $35, but you can easily find very drinkable Cotes du Rhone for $10-15.
What can you expect in the flavor of a Rhone wine?
If you’re interested in a wine that shows it colors plainly, you might not do better than an offering from the Rhone Valley.
The red wines often have an earthy quality, noted by a bit of must on the nose, and the fruit is usually accompanied by a fair amount of woodsy, berry-dominated aromas.
In terms of white wines, Viognier, the main grape in the Northern Rhone, is very aromatic, with a bit of stony-ness. There are other Viognier-based wines in the world (including some from the US), but Condrieu is considered by many the best representation of what the Viognier grape can express.
If I were limited to drinking wines from one region of the world, the Rhone Valley would rank right up there, so there will be a lot to learn. Get yourself a bottle of Cote du Rhone or Crozes-Hermitage and let the discoveries begin!
I’ll have more to say about the red and white wines in the next few posts, so stay tuned. Or better yet, subscribe to VineSleuth Uncorked so you never miss a post!