Rhône Valley and Southern France

Table of Contents
  1. Rhône Valley
  2. The Northern Rhône
  3. The Southern Rhône
  4. Provence and Corsica
  5. Languedoc-Roussillon
  6. Southwestern France and the Dordogne
  7. Review Quizzes

The Rhône Valley

The Rhône Valley in France is overwhelmingly devoted to red wine production.

While the Rhône River is dotted with vineyards from its headwaters in Switzerland to its mouth on the French Mediterranean coast, the Rhône Valley properly refers to two clusters of appellations along the banks of the river in Southern France. The Northern Rhône, or Rhône septentrionale, occupies a narrow band of vineyards hugging the river just south of Beaujolais, from Vienne to Valence. The vineyards of the Southern Rhône, or Rhône méridionale, funnel outward south of Montélimar toward Avignon, near the river’s Mediterranean basin. While these two separate stretches are often considered collectively, the Northern and Southern Rhône are climatically and viticulturally distinct.

The Rhône Valley and its environs boast a long history of enological importance. The introduction of winemaking in France can be traced to the Greeks, who established vine cultivation at their Massalia settlement—modern-day Marseilles—in approximately 600 BCE. At the height of Greek trade, some 10 million liters of wine in amphorae were shipped through Massalia into the heart of Gaul via the Rhône River. The Romans continued this trend with their arrival in the Southern Rhône in 125 BCE, and viticulture spread to the Northern Rhône by the first century CE. The Northern Rhône’s picturesque, hallmark terraces were first constructed by Roman workers. Vienne evolved as an important Roman provincial capital, and the Viennese vinum picatum, or "pitched wine," was exported to Rome itself. Whether vinum picatum was simply a reference to the wine’s character resulting from its mode of transport

  • Hey Jelena! That is true, white grapes are allowed within the rosê wines and blending of finished wine is not allowed. Producers are allowed to vinify white and red grapes together. These white grape varieties are used to add aromatics, increase acidity, and add color retention. 

  • In Provence section "Blending of white and red wines is not an approved method for still rosé production here or elsewhere in France.". Is it correct that AOC allows up to 20% of white varieties in blend (like Vermentino aka Rolle) that we often see on the label is assemblage description? the use of white grapes in blend may be useful to reduce alcohol level?

  • Thanks, Mirco! The guide is updated. 

  • Section in the study guide about Gigondas AOP needs updating to reflect the changes in 2022 allowing the production of whites from the 2023 vintage 

  • Oops - just noticed it was encepage vs assemblage. My mistake.