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France’s wine growing “Rhône Valley” in reality covers two very distinct wine growing regions, separated by a vine-free gap of approximately 30 miles.

Whilst the A.O.C. Cotes de Rhône can in theory come from both the North and the South, in practice the two zones producer remarkably distinct wines. By far the greatest volume of wine comes from the flatter rolling hills of the south, home to Chateauneuf-du-Pape and other old favourites like Gigondas, Vacqueras and Lirac, as well as the majority of the ever popular ‘Cotes du Rhône’ . Blending is the order of the day in the South with Grenache forming the backbone of many cuvees. The late ripening Mourvedre is also common, alongside increasing amounts of Syrah and Cinsaut (and a few others!). The whites are dominated by Marsanne and Roussanne. In the Northern Rhône the landscape is distinctly different, the valley being far steeper and the vineyards more perilous. Here, at least for the reds, Syrah is the undisputed King producing wines of spice, pepper and dark fruits that have the potential to age as long as almost anything out there. When it comes to whites, Marsanne and Roussanne are the most common, but there is also the aromatic delights of Viognier to consider, found at its very finest in the northern vineyards of Condrieu.

Up and down the quality scale the Rhône stands out today for offering serious wines made by small quality conscious growers at very reasonable prices. A stellar run of recent vintages (barring the obvious 2002) and a wider pool of quality wine making talent than ever before has see the Rhône in recent years very much regaining its position front of mind for many of the world’s great wine collectors.