The Rhône Valley is a vast area running from north to south in eastern France. In winemaking terms, the region splits naturally in two, the southern and northern Rhône, and as it starts in the north not too far from Lyon and ends on France’s south coast, you can imagine just how varied this region is both climatically and culturally.Although both the north and the south specialise in red wine, the northern Rhône does produce some distinctive and fashionable wines from the white grapes of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, the latter of which makes some of the most delicious and expensive white wines in France, from the small appellation of Condrieu.Viognier is also important in northern Rhône as a variety to blend with Syrah, the only red grape variety that is allowed to be produced in northern Rhône. The north is crammed with vines on granite slopes looking for the most sun for the sun-seeking grape Syrah to ripen properly.The southern Rhône, by comparison, is much more Mediterranean in architecture and climate. In this region a whole host of red grape varieties can be grown and used in wine, illustrated not least by the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape which is allowed to have 13 different grape varieties in its blend. Grenache is the chief component in this blend and the support of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Counoise are not uncommon. The best Rhône reds are capable of ageing for many years in the cellar.
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