Along with Bordeaux and Burgundy, Rhône Valley wines are acknowledged to be among the best in the world. Situated in the Rhône River Valley in the south of France, the Rhône is comprised of two distinct regions—the north and south—each with its own viniculture and featuring wines of very different character.
The Northern Rhône (referred to in French as Rhône septentrional) produces powerful, aromatically complex and age worthy red wines, often in very limited numbers, from the dignified Syrah grape. Typically, most red wines in the northern zone have had an alcohol content in the common 12% to 13% range, but warmer-than-normal growing seasons (like in 1997, 1999, and 2003 in particular), have brought significantly richer, more powerful, and higher alcoholic content varieties.
The Southern Rhône (or Rhône méridional) yields more than 90% of the valley’s total production. A multitude of markedly more rustic and often richer blends coming from the high-alcohol Grenache grape can be identified by a more “southern” flavor. The wines offer a rich mouth feel, and more of a roasted and somewhat liqueur-ish fruit personality with spice and wild herb accents.
In the Northern Rhône Valley the apotheosis of Viognier, an exotically scented white wine, is also grown. Viognier is a variety that has been recently planted on several continents by growers hoping to capitalize on a strong worldwide demand. There are other white wines from the Rhône Valley (albeit less exciting than Viognier). The majority of these are blends based on Marsanne and Roussanne in the North, and Grenache Blanc and less interesting native varieties in the South.
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