A Tour of the Rhône Valley: Northern Power, Southern Richness


A Tour of the Rhône Valley: Northern Power, Southern Richness

Wine Team New York |
There is little else in the world that can match southern France’s Rhône Valley when it comes to red wines of meaty, savory complexity, dense fruit richness, and garrigue-infused earthiness.

It is a region with a split personality. To the north, a single grape – Syrah – dominates, grown on steep, challenging hillsides in a continental climate. Hot summers and blustery winters lend wines balance and vibrancy. To the south, where abundant sunshine warms a flatter, stonier, more Mediterranean landscape, winemakers specialize in blends of multiple grapes, usually with Grenache in a starring role. Some of the Old World’s most coveted and legendary wines hail from these long-established vineyards, and below we’ve assembled a selection of top bottles that every cellar needs.

In Northern Rhône, the conversation inevitably begins with Hermitage. Off this famous, small hilltop where the Mistral fiercely blows, producers such as the iconic Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné produce blockbusters like the La Chapelle cuvée. Massively proportioned yet refined, this is the kind of bottle the rest of the world measures their Syrah against. In another classic appellation, aptly called Côte-Rôtie or “roasted slope,” benchmark estate Domaine Jamet translates treacherous, schist terroirs into a darkly elegant, silky stunner. No discussion of the region is complete without Château Grillet Blanc – one of Europe’s great white wines, a rich Viognier masterpiece blending salinity and lemon peel lift.

Southern Rhône’s heart is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Here, kingly, sumptuous blends of grapes like GrenacheSyrah, and Mourvèdre are often born of a trademark terroir: galets roulés – rounded stones that absorb the sun’s heat and drive powerful concentration in the grapes. The Hommage à Jacques Perrin bottling from Château de Beaucastel is a timeless expression of Châteauneauf-du-Pape, overflowing with crème de cassis, tobacco, and herbs. The little brother appellation, Gigondas, offers some of the Rhône’s greatest values, especially when crafted by a passionate talent like Louis Barruol of Château de Saint CosmeDomaine Henri Bonneau is a highly traditionalist producer whose Les Rouliers cuvée breaks the rules while summoning the authentic spirit of the Rhône. A blend of vintages that often contains declassified wine from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it’s a rarity and a brilliant buy.

Between the northern and southern regions, the Rhône Valley offers a lifetime of wine to explore. Consider the curated library below a roadmap to exploring this soulful, magical place.

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