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French Wine Regions: The Rhône Valley

The first thing to know about France's Rhône Valley is that it is divided into two parts. The northern Rhône is home to dark, powerful, spicy reds made with the Syrah grape (and a few luscious whites made from Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne). The warmer southern Rhône grows some Syrah, but its signature red wines—softer and riper—are blends, typically with Grenache as the dominant variety.

Rhône Valley: Main Varietals

White Wines: Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier
Red Wines: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre

Rhône Valley Bargain Bottles

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the southern Rhône's most prized (and pricey) wine. But many estates also make good value wines, like the 2009 Perrin & Fils Côtes du Rhône Villages ($15), from Château Beaucastel's owners, and the 2009 Selection Laurence Feraud Côtes du Rhône ($13) from Domaine du Pegau.

Three Great Rhône Valley Regions

Gigondas

2008 Domaine Santa Duc Cuvée Tradition ($43) The 2008 vintage was weak in the Rhône, but top producers like Santa Duc still made remarkable wines. This Grenache-based red is darkly spicy, with a sweet, peppery finish.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape

2009 Domaine Roger Sabon Les Olivets ($45) Luscious, dark cherry and herb notes fill this substantial red, from a domaine whose history reaches back to the 1500s.

Côte-rôtie

2007 Domaine Michel & Stéphane Ogier ($70) Until 1980, Michel Ogier sold all of his grapes to the well-known firm of E. Guigal; now his son Stéphane runs the family estate, producing perfumed, complex Côte-Rôties like this one.

Rhône Valley: Tiny Appellation, Big Money

Rhône Valley: Tiny Appellation, Big Money
© Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

The second-richest man in France bought one of the smallest wine appellations in France this year—the entire thing. François Pinault purchased Château Grillet, a single château on 8.5 acres of land that is also an appellation unto itself. Grillet's legendary white wine sells for about $125 a bottle. But there are affordable and very good white wines from less famous places in the Rhône, mostly in the south. Try the 2010 Château D'Aqueria Lirac Blanc ($17), a Grenache Blanc blend with a honeysuckle scent.

video Video: Rhône Valley Wine Pairing Advice


Pairings & Recipes for Rhône Valley Red Wines:

Published October 2011
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