A Beginner’s Guide to Côtes du Rhône

Northern and Southern Rhône in the Rhône Valley:

The Rhône Valley is home to the Rhône wine region; divided into Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône. Wines from Northern Rhône make up 4-5% of all the wines from the region.France wine map

The Rhône River starts in the Alps and ends up in the Mediterranean Sea in the south. The wine region starts at Vienne in the north bordering the river the 200 km south to Avignon.

Soils in the Rhône Valley are a mix of rocky hillsides, sand and clay, rocks with stones and pebbles.


The climate in the north is continental with hot summers and cold winters. Snow is more common in Northern Rhône. By comparison there are mild winters and very warm summers in Southern Rhône. The Mistral is common here which is a very strong wind which can last up to 5 days. The wind can blow at up to 60mph and can cut through you…making winter days even colder..and chilling down mild spring and autumn days. It can also damage vines but can also be an advantage, especially in the summer where it cools down the grapes and at other times of the year, whipping away the moisture from under the canopy.

Different appellations:

  • Côtes du Rhône is the largest wine appellation in the region based on volume. The wines from here are easy drinking and made to be consumed early.
  • Côtes du Rhône Villages: this is the next step up and these more complex wines are made for ageing
  • Côtes du Rhône (named) Villages AOC: another level up where 21 villages can be added to the label.
  • The Crus: These account for 20% of production from the Rhône e.g  Beaumes des Venise, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Condrieu, Côte-Rôtie (“roasted slope”).

Grape varieties:

Grenache is widely grown in the south. The other Rhône varietals include Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise. White varieties are Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc.Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Sinards

The red wine styles in Côtes du Rhône tend to be fruit forward (red fruit) with structure, notes of spice with some length but easy drinking and great value.

Plus the wines go well with so many great food combinations; barbecue meat in summer….casseroles, heavy meat dishes or vegetarian curries in winter.

Mainly known for its red wines, the region does also produce rosé and whites.


This is a famous town and wine region. It is translated as; “The Pope’s New Castle.” There are 13 varietals planted in the vineyards here. The town itself is beautiful with cobbled streets and bustling cafés. In the town there are a selection of cellar doors or “cavistes” that consumers can visit for a tasting instead of travelling to the vineyards which is also possible. It is well worth a visit to the wineries where you’ll see the famous “galets” which are pudding stones. These stones absorb heat during the day and release it at night when the air cools and radiate heat back into the vines.

Let us know if you head over to the Rhône Valley!


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