What’s one of the most iconic visuals of France besides the Eiffel Tower and the baguette? If you said a glass of red wine, you’re on the money. France is a legendary Old World wine region with centuries-old roots in winemaking.
From staple Pinot Noirs to Bordeaux blends, France will show up on your radar one way or another. Many of the red and white wine grapes you know today, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, originate from France.
Similar to Italy, the entirety of the country produces wine in some capacity. Rhône (sometimes spelled Rhone) is a popular destination, particularly for fans of Syrah.
What makes Rhône distinctive from other French regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy? Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating region, today’s leading wineries, and traditional wines of Rhone you can try.
Quick Look at Rhône, France
Just how old is this Old World wine region? Historians believe red wine grapes were planted as far back as 600 B.C..
Rhône is named after the long, winding river moving throughout France and Switzerland. This massive body of water is a beloved tourist destination these days, though it was originally used as a trade route in the Mediterranean.
This river contributes to viticulture by bringing with it cold, strong winds and more dramatic seasonal changes.
France as a whole is the origin of many famous wine grapes. Rhône has the distinction of being Syrah’s origin: this red wine grape is well known throughout the world for its velvety texture and ripe flavor.
If you’re fond of Merlot or Petite Syrah (a hybrid descendent of Syrah and Peloursin), you’ll want to try this variety as soon as possible!
What Kind of Wine is Rhône?
Classic wines of Rhône include Marsanne, Viognier, and Syrah. Fun fact: the latter is a popular red wine grape believed to have originated somewhere in this region.
What is the Difference Between Rhône and Bordeaux?
Rhône wine is any wine that comes from the Rhône region of France, while Bordeaux is from the Bordeaux region of France.
Both regions produce a wide variety of wines, though each one has iconic recipes people tend to think of first.
For example, the famed Bordeaux blend usually has a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Similarly, Rhône is known for its complex Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend.
The Subregions of Rhône, France
This wine region classifies their bottles under the AOC designation (short for Côtes du Rhône AOC). Not only is this certificate designed to inform consumers of the wine’s authenticity, but it’s also used for regional butter or cheese.
Rhône is divided into two subregions with their own particular approaches to winemaking.
Red wines of Northern Rhône can only be Syrah. This dedication to the grape means any bottle you get here will be full-bodied, rich, and unforgettable.
That said, three white wine grapes are allowed to be planted here: Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier.
The Southern area of Rhône is a little more diverse in its production, offering an array of all wine types. This region is a little warmer than the North,
This subregion is famed for its production of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a unique blend that allows for over a dozen grapes in its mixture. Any Châteauneuf-du-Pape you find must be created in a Châteauneuf commune.
Wineries of Rhône
If you decide to dedicate the next ten years of your life to one wine region, Rhône will keep your attention with no trouble. Rhône is home to over 1,800 wineries, many of them family-owned and stretching back several centuries.
Diving into the depths of this region will take years, so consider getting started with a few top wineries.
Established back in 1929, this winery has been going strong for nearly one hundred years. Pierre Amadieu holds the distinction of being one of the very first wineries to be approved for appellation printing on their wine bottles.
This winery prides itself on well-balanced red and white blends, with a particular lean toward Burgundy styles of winemaking.
Their portfolio is split into three categories, starting with Exceptional Terroirs for their single vineyard creations. They also provide The Essentials for their production in Rhône Valley and Best Values for young wine at lower price points.
This winery is a top-notch start for drinkers who want to budget, as well as drinkers eager to shell out extra for a high-end-aged bottle.
This family-owned winery set up roots back in the 1920s, earning the distinction of being one of the rare winemaking businesses headed by a female winemaker.
Château Beaubois is eager to share all the little details that set it apart from other businesses, particularly when it comes to terroir.
Terroir is an important term in wine terminology, referring to the soil and climate that contribute to a wine’s character. For example, a Malbec grown in France will taste distinctly different than a Malbec grown in Argentina.
Enjoying rocky soil and thermal winds, Château Beaubois has ideal soil for French favorites like Grenache and Syrah. Their portfolio is separated into fascinating sections, such as their aged Elegance series and bright Expression series.
Wine drinkers with broad tastes will have plenty to enjoy here.
Clos Bellane is deeply appreciative of the gentle, temperate climate, committing to several grape varieties that thrive in more mellow conditions.
Their Côtes du Rhone vintages excel at showing just why this region is so highly favored. Their portfolio displays an impressive range of red, white, and rosés with the explicit intent of giving you something truly special.
Their climate is only matched by their prime limestone soil, a fantastic ingredient that encourages sweeter and riper-tasting wine grapes.
The Best Wines of Rhone, France
What you may consider a great wine may be average to someone else. Our Rhône wine list below is determined by the characteristics that make this region truly distinctive.
As such, we focused on Rhône’s very own Syrah as well as their unique blends. That said, we’ve made sure to add some tasty white and rosé options!
Pierre Amadieu Côtes du Rhône Roulepierre
We’ll start off our list of Rhône wines with a classic blend of Syrah and Grenache. The winemakers highly recommend you drink this bottle within two years to preserve its flavors.
While it’s common to think wine always needs to be aged, your experience depends on your tastes.
This ripe, intense bottle boasts plummy notes, similar to a young Merlot. Consider this bottle as a standalone sipping wine or paired with red meat.
Pierre Amadieu Côtes du Rhône Grande Réserve
If you could use a more aged wine on your rack, consider instead this quintessential Côtes du Rhône Grande Réserve. Not only does this bottle have the prestigious classification behind it, but it’s also been aged for a solid five years.
This bottle is savory and sumptuous, offering a long finish that’ll bring out the best in any dinner. We recommend saving this bottle for a grilled meal or even as a pairing to dessert.
Costières de Nîmes Elégance
Heady and complex, this bottle needs to be sipped and savored. This blend is mostly Syrah with a hint of Grenache, two grapes that thrive in France’s legendarily temperate climate.
The dominant flavor notes are ripe red fruits, topped off with a subtle bouquet of earthy leather and spices.
Clos Bellane La Petite Bellane
Clos Bellane shows its commitment to quality with a single origin Syrah that doesn’t hold back. This sophisticated bottle is a burst of almost contradictory flavors.
Brambly blackcurrant and green peppers are balanced out by softer tannins, giving this Syrah a profile you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Chicken, duck, or a veggie burger will bring out this vintage’s best side.
Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du Pape Roussanne Vieilles Vignes
Alongside a classic Syrah, another must-have Rhône wine is a traditional Châteauneuf Du Pape from the Southern part of the region. This bottle is a medley of flavors and aromas, practically begging for a charcuterie night.
Crafted from 100% Roussanne, the newer vintages have a nutty aroma and a delicate, honeyed flavor. Fans of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio will fall in love with this delectable bottle.
Domaine Belle Hermitage Blanc 2018
This bottle has been supported by both hearty, limestone-rich terroir and twenty years of aging. If you need a bottle for a special occasion, Domaine Belle’s Hermitage Blanc 2018 is a shoo-in.
Hermitage wine comes from the Hermitage region of Northern Rhône. Most Hermitage Blanc wines have a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne grapes, following the long tradition of carefully crafted French blends.
Consider chilling this bottle before serving to bring out its honey-like flavor notes.
Dune Gris Rose
With a low price and semi-tart flavor, this wine bottle is a solid entry point for drinkers looking for a warm-weather wine.
This rosé is made with Grenache grapes, making it even more zesty and bright than usual. Chill this wine and serve it alongside a salad, barbecue, or light snack.
Why Should I Try Wines of Rhone?
The wines of Rhone are transformative. The staggering amount of care and attention put into these bottles will change the way you browse the wine rack.
Rhône is believed to be the birthplace of the popular Syrah grape. Northern Rhône is so dedicated to Syrah that it forbids planting any other red wine grape.
This French region has over 1,800 wineries and is divided into two subregions: the North and the South. You’ll have no shortage of meticulously crafted red and white blends to sift from, including the traditional Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Want to learn more about French wine regions? Check out our breakdown of Bordeaux, then take a look at our guides on French grapes like Merlot and Malbec.