French Wine Vineyards, Wines of Provence and Cote du Rhone
The Rhone Valley wine region is famous for its fiesty, vigorous reds and aromatic whites, as well as the distinguished Châteauneuf du Pape and sweet, golden Muscat.
This is only the tip of the iceberg though…and there are some lovely wines further south in Provence, too!
The Rhone Valley wine region is hugely diverse, and can cater for a wide range of tastes and budgets. And there are a few lesser known, but up and coming appellations that are worth checking out.
About the Rhone Valley wine region
Countryside around Provence
Within this region there are two ‘districts’ quite distinct from one another – North and South, with the town of Valence at its middle point.
The finest (and most expensive) wines tend to come from the Northern Rhone Valley wine region – the majority are red, although a few rare white wines are produced here as well. The region has a continental climate, with steep, rocky slopes, and some of the most difficult vineyards to work with in the world. Many of them have been owned by the same family for generations.
Grapes from the Northern Rhône are mainly Syrah – often known as Shiraz outside of France – for red wines; and Viognier for white (although occasionally used for reds).
Well known appellations in the north include Hermitage (a rich red wine), and Côte Rôtie (full-bodied but not quite as heavy as Hermitage); and the pricey white wines: Condrieu and Château-Grillet.
The Southern Rhône is flatter, with a mediterranean climate; summers can get hot. A variety of grapes are used (usually in blends), including Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, or Carignan for Reds and Marsanne, Roussane, or Muscat for Whites. The southern Rhone makes up 90% of the total production of wine in the Rhone Valley and offers lots of diversity.
The everyday, easy drinking (and often cheaper) Côtes du Rhône wines are mostly found in the southern region, as well as the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, which are a blend (up to 13 varieties can be used – both red and white).
Other wine appellations include Tavel, France’s most prestigious rosé wine, often referred to as the ‘wine of kings’; and Muscat, a fortified wine.
Where to Start?
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you know your wines, and would like to visit particular wineries or sample/buy the more prestigious labels, then the Northern Rhone Valley wine region might interest you. This can easily be done as a day trip from Lyon. Be aware that there are nuclear stations just south of Lyon – so the scenery can be a bit of a hit and miss here; this might not matter though, if the wine is what you’re coming for.
On the other hand, if you are simply wanting to enjoy the experience of wine tasting in France, may not have a deep knowledge of it but would like to learn, want to try many different types of wines and explore superb countryside…then the southern region is a great choice.
Our personal preference is to visit the southern-most wineries of the Rhone Valley wine region, which are in the heart of Provence. There’s a wonderful variety of wines to try, many costing a fraction of what you’d pay further north. And the location offers plenty of opportunities for exploring other sights in the area.
Visiting, Tasting, Buying
Rhone Valley Wine in France
TIP: Fine Wines on a Budget? Wines to look out for are: Crozes-Hermitage, St-Joseph and Cornas (excellent wines but cheaper than Hermitage). Gigondas and Vacqueyras wines are good quality wines that are cheaper than Châteauneuf-du-Pape.– North –
Cave de Tain-l’Hermitage
22, route de Larnage
26603 Tain-l’Hermitage Cedex
Email through website
– South: Côtes du Rhône –
The Cote du Rhone wines can be found in the Vaucluse departement of Provence, between the towns of Bollene and Avignon. The majority of wines here are reds; this is also the home of Châteauneuf du Pape.
Château des Fines Roches
A 4 star hotel that also offers wine tasting
Route de Sorgues
If you’d like to try muscat with hints of frangipani, try:
Balma Vénitiaquartier Ravel
The outlying appellations of the Rhone Valley wine region tend to be overshadowed by the prestigious wines of the north… but they’re starting to get noticed; go before the secret’s out!– Côtes du Lubéron –
The Côtes du Lubéron is located between Cavaillon and Apt just southeast of Avignon. The wines are grown on the slopes of the Luberon mountains. About 70% of the wines here are red; the remaining is either rosé or whites. Reds are fruity and solid; the white wines are light and crisp.
Château de Mille
One of the oldest wine growing properties in the area
Route de Bonnieux
Château Saint-Pierre de Mejans
Brice Doan de Champassak
– Côtes du Ventoux –
These wines are grown on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, near Carpentras and north-east of Avignon. This region produces mostly light and fruity red wines, with herb and berry flavours.
elegant 18th century chateau with beautiful gardens
– Côtes de Provence –
For rosés wines, you could venture deeper into provence, edging closer to the riviera, and try the Côtes de Provence.
Château de Saint Martin
Route des Arcs
Domaines de Bertaud-Belieu
Presqu’île de St Tropez
Tel : 04.94.56.16.83
(email through website)
Château de Pourcieux
18th century chateaux, listed as an historic monument