During these unprecedented times and extended periods of social distancing, there has never been a better time to join the French Winophiles. Come explore the French wine country with us, from the comforts of your couch. This month our writers are focusing on the wines of Northern Rhône.
There is so much to explore and so much to fall in love with the Rhône Valley. The Rhône Valley stretches from the city of Lyon into the Mediterranean. This month we are going to focus on Northern Rhône.
The steep hillside vineyards of Northern Rhône run from Lyon to Valence. Syrah is King in the north. Most of the red wines are primarily single varietal Syrahs, some blend a touch of Viognier to add perfume and structure to the wines. Syrah is to Northern Rhône to what Pinot Noir is to Burgundy. The whites of the Northern Rhône are primarily blends of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. There is a continental climate in Northern Rhône, and is considerably cooler and wetter than its southern counterpart.
Though Syrah is the main grape varietal of the north, the style of wines differs greatly based on the cru villages, terroir and the traditions of the winemaker. The soils are primarily granitic and schist soils. The north produces only 10% of the wines of the entire region, but the wines are higher quality and higher in price, as many are small production and are extremely sought after. Most of the vines are hand-harvested due to the steepness of the slopes. The red wines of Northern Rhône are typically bold structured, powerful, intense and tannic. The wines have notes of spice, violets, blackberries, bacon fat, truffles, and distinct white pepper. The Northern Rhône comprises of 8 main crus that are unique and distinct in styles.
Also known as the “roasted slope” it is the northernmost of the cru AOC’s. The vineyards were first planted by the Romans under Caligula. Syrah is blended with a touch of Viognier. Côte Brune and Côte Blonde are the most famous sites of the region. The vineyards of Côte Rôtie are some of France’s steepest at 55 degrees, thus all grapes are hand-harvested. The wines are some of the most seductive wines of France. Guigal is the most prestigious producer in the region.
Condrieu is most notable for producing white wines. Condrieu wines are made with 100% viognier. The wines are big, vibrant, rich, and have an oily texture that is signature Viognier. The narrow terraces of Condrieu are made up of granite and arzelle: a mixture of decomposed granite, mica, shale, and clay. These soils impart aromas of peach and apricot that are distinctive to Viogniers from Condrieu.
Chateau-Grillet is only allowed to grow one grape and has only one producer in the entire region. Growing Viognier on only 3.5 hectares, Chateau Grillet is the smallest Rhône appellation and is also a World Heritage Site. Produced by only one maker, this white wine is elegant with notes of honey, apricot and peach.
Produces primarily medium-bodied Syrahs that are more approachable and don’t require long aging. They also produce whites, with Marsanne and Roussanne. Some of the best values come from this region.
A legendary cru, Hermitage is a region that produces both whites and reds and is one of the most sought after AOC. With a perfect location on the left bank with south facing sunny hills perched up above the town of Tain L’Hermitage. It is home to some of the most prestigious wines of the region with the greatest aging potential. Some notable producers are Chapoutier and Jaboulet.
Just behind the hills of Hermitage lie the vineyards of Croze-Hermitage. It is the largest appellation in the northern Rhône, with flatter land. The wines are approachable and meant to drunk young as they are lighter in style.
Cornas is located on the right bank of the Rhône and means “burnt earth” in old Celtic. Cornas has a rich history of winemaking dating back to 885. Only red wines are produced in Cornas. Wines are a bit more masculine with firmer tannins than other northern Rhône wines and require a bit more time in the cellar before consumption. Jean Luc Colombo and Thierry Allemand are credited for bringing awareness to this region over the last two decades.
Saint Péray AOC
Saint Péray is the southernmost of the Northern Rhône Crus, the wines are all white with one-third of the production being sparkling wines. The sparkling wines are made mainly with Marsanne. Lying along the southern edge of the Rhône, Marsanne and Roussanne are two white grapes grown on limestone and granitic soils, giving the wine’s acidity and structure.
We have a great crew lined up this month. Be sure to check out their experiences, their wines, and their food pairing suggestions. Here is a preview of some of the topics we will be discussing.
- Cindy from Grape Experience shares “Strength and Power Meet Balance and Elegance in Syrah from the Northern Rhone”
- Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm presents “To Syrah with Love”
- Lauren from Swirling Dervish explores “Old World Syrah from the Northern Rhone: 2016 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage”
- Jeff from Food Wine Click presents “A View of Northern Rhone’s Saint Joseph through Three Wines”
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass shares “Crozes-Hermitage: A gateway to Northern Rhône wine (#Winophiles)”
- Jill from L’Ocassion tells us “How France’s Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône Valleys Differ”
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator writes about “In These Times, Drink from Deep in The Cellar: Two from Northern Rhone’s St Joseph’s #Winophiles“
- Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles explores “Finding connections in the Northern Rhône #Winophiles”
- Susannah from Avvinare writes about “Virtually visiting Crozes-Hermitage through Chapoutier’s Wine”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Camilla shares “Chicken Chasseur + Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2016”
- Nicole at Somm’s Table presents “A Simple Spring Lamb Feast with Maison Nicolas Perrin Crozes-Hermitage”
- Jane from Always Ravenous shares “A Taste of Hermitage Marsanne”
- Martin from Enoflyz shares writes about “Looking For Value in Northern Rhône? Look For Crozes-Hermitage!”
- Lynn from Savor The Harvest presents “Exploring Treasures of the Northern Rhone #Winophiles”
- Terri from Our Good Life shares “Hey Syrah, Syrah, whatever will be, will be”
- Here on Syrah Queen I share “Exploring Côte-Rôtie – Syrahs With A Twist”
Twitter Chat (#Winophiles)
Join us for a twitter chat #Winophiles on Saturday, April 18th 11:00 am EST. We will take a deep dive into the Northern Rhône.