The Rhône wine region in Southern France is situated in the Rhône valley and produces numerous wines under various Appellation d'origine contrôlée(AOC) designations. The region's major appellation in production volume is Côtes du Rhône AOC.
The Rhône is generally divided into two sub-regions with distinct vinicultural traditions, the Northern Rhône (referred to in French as Rhône septentrional) and the Southern Rhône (in French Rhône méridional). The northern sub-region produces red wines from the Syrah grape, sometimes blended with white wine grapes, and white wines from Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier grapes. The southern sub-region produces an array of red, white and rosé wines, often blends of several grapes such as in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.The Rhone Valley is a large, viticultural region that is continually gaining in popularity. In fact, it’s the second biggest appellation in France. Only Bordeaux has more vineyards. There are more than 71,000 hectares of vines planted in the Rhone Valley today. In total, there are 30 different AOC appellation in the Rhone Valley. In addition, there are 27,500 hectares planted in Provence. When added all together, the annual production of wine from the Rhone Valley is more than 400 million bottles bottles of wine per year! There are 23 different appellations in the Southern Rhone and there are 8 appellations in the Northern Rhone Valley. Traveling north to south, the Northern Rhone begins about 30 kilometers below Lyon in Ampuis and ends in Valance, which is a little more than 90 kilometers south. Chateauneuf du Pape is about 90 kilometers below Valance.
The Southern Rhone is a much larger area than what you find in the Northern Rhone. To illustrate that point, close to 95% of all wines in the Rhone come from the Southern Rhone! The title to the largest appellation in the Rhone Valley belongs to the Cotes du Rhone . The smallest appellation in the Rhone Valley is Chateau Grillet with 3.7 hectares of vines. The most recent AOC granted appellation status is Duche d’Uzes, which was awarded AOC status in 2012.
There are 27 unique grape varieties allowed for planting in the Rhone Valley. More than 5,000 different producers, domaines and vineyards are actively involved in making wine. Red wine is king in the Rhone Valley. In the Northern Rhone, Syrah is the only red wine grape allowed. In the Southern Rhone, things get more complicated as more than 15 red wine grapes are permitted for the red wine. However, the most popular red wine grape in the Southern Rhone is Grenache . In fact, 79% of all wines produced in the Rhone Valley are red. 15% are rose’ and the remaining 6% are white wines. Combined, you could also say 94% of all Rhone Valley wines are red and 6% are white wine. For the white wines of the Rhone Valley, 12 different grape varieties are planted in the region. In the Northern Rhone, only three white wine grapes are planted, Viognier , Marsanne and Roussanne . In the Southern Rhone, things once again are more complicated with a total of more than 15 different grape varieties being planted in the various appellations.