An introduction to the Rhône

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Rhône buyer Marcel gives us a quick introduction to the region. Video transcript

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Hi. I'm Marce from The Wine Society, and, well I'm here to talk about the Rhône, and I’ve been buying wines from the Rhône since sometime in the 1980s, I can’t remember. The whole scene in the Rhône valley changed at about that time with the 1990 vintage, which was one of the great vintages the Rhône has ever seen, and that sort of propelled the region to what it is today; a thriving mass of small and very exciting growers.

Now, when one talks about the Rhône, there are in fact two, quite distinct regions. Originally enough, one’s called Northern Rhône, and one’s called Southern Rhône. Southern Rhône is the larger of the two, and in fact, the whole of the Northern Rhône, actually, can fit in one single appellation of the south. The south is huge. It’s mostly on a flat, delta plain, dominated by the Rhône and by all the various rivers that flow into it. Geologically quite complex but dominated by limestone. The climate: Mediterranean. So, really quite hot in the summer, and that has an influence on the grape varieties, and they are dominated by the grenache which is a grape variety that came from Spain, or from Catalonia. Produces very full, sweet flavoured alcoholic wines.

Southern Rhône, huge, huge choice of wines, huge choice of prices too. They start at a very, very modest level, wines like The Society’s Côtes-du-Rhône, and they go all the way up to high prices in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Northern Rhône by contrast, much smaller. It’s confined within the valley of the Rhône and on very steep vineyard sites. Geologically mostly granite, so actually it’s more complex than that. Only one grape variety, the syrah, which produces quite powerful, very fine red wines with an ability to age. And then there are a few whites too.

In general though, the Rhône is not far short of 90% red. Exciting place, as I said, lots of small growers, good value for money, and something I would recommend, particularly anybody with a kind of foody interest; these wines are food wines.

I’ve spent the last thirty years exploring and discovering wines of the Rhône valley, and I hope you get as much pleasure as I do.

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