Stretching from just south of Lyon all the way up to Avignon, the extensive Rhone wine region runs 200 kilometres (120 miles) north to south, making it the second-largest AOC wine region in all of France (second only to Bordeaux).
The Rhone has over 2,000 years of winemaking pedigree, as it was the Roman Empire that installed vineyards into some of its finest terroirs. In addition to experience, the region also has the most diverse soils in France, allowing it to produce wine in a variety of styles.
By the Numbers
A Brief Overview of Rhone Valley Wine Production
Awash with sun, about 90 percent of the region’s output is red wine, which thrives in sunny climes.
There are also some delicious rosés, making up six to seven percent of all output, and a small production of whites. Approximately 24 different grape varietals are used, but Grenache is the star, accounting for about 65 percent of all grapes planted.
With such a wide depth and breadth of selection to choose from, narrowing down the best Rhone wines can be a challenge – and one I’m more happy than happy to undertake!
With the help of B&R’s circle of wine experts, I’ve pulled together the below list of our favorites, each of which is worth a taste – or better yet, a visit to the winery!
Owner/winemaker Even Bakke is a Norwegian-American who makes excellent reds that he usually ages for five years before releasing, and some very original whites and rosés. His soil is some of the oldest on the planet, from which he chose the name of his winery – he has Triassic soil from over 200 million years ago! His wines are biodynamically minded.
Robert Parker listed this winery as one of the top 100 in the world.
Original owner/winemaker Christophe Delorme sadly left us last year at the very young age of 52. His wife, daughter and loyal staff are continuing in his footsteps, making some of the most well known wines in the Appellations they produce.
His legendary Tavel rosés are deep and structured. Their white Liracs are complex, with impressive freshness, and the red Lirac & Chateauneuf du Papes are rich and age-worthy.
Winery includes tasting room and all wines are organic.
AOC Gigondas, on the edge of the beautiful village of Gigondas
Owner/winemaker Louis Barruol makes the most impressive AOC Gigondas! His family has owned this winery since 1490 and there are even Roman wine vats carved out of the limestone in the cellar.
Most of his vines are on limestone and clay. If you’re in the area you absolutely must visit, and just hope they have wine left to taste. Louis has a very impressive negociant business where he produces excellent wines from many Rhone Cru Appellations.
Situated above the stunning medieval village of Seguret, they make a few different wines, but specialize in AOC Cotes du Rhone Village Seguret. Owner Walter McKinnley, who is half Scottish and half English, is a wonderful gent and gives a fantastic visit of his “James Bond” winery (all done by gravity).
Their soil is mostly intense limestone, which allows them to make deeply structured red wines. They also make a little white and rosé, which are delightful with serious drinkability.
Owner/Winemaker Marcel Richaud is an icon and his family are the locomotive of the AOC Cairanne – they were the proponents to bring Cairanne into Cru status this past year. His wines are organic and he has various soils, including clay, limestone, and river rock.
They make intense deep reds, small batches of white and rosés that are delicious. Very little sulphur is added to their wines and they are organic.
Owner/winemaker Robert Charvin is the former president of the AOC Rasteau. His passion and patience has helped this brilliant, but not well known appellation gain notoriety.
He has blue clay and limestone soils and he works biodynamically. He makes deep, fruity reds and some very tasty sweet VDN (fortified) wines. This Appellation is allowed to make this style of wine and its’ a very small production, but wonderful for certain dishes.