As the winter weather arrives wines that warm us up take precedence over the refreshing white wines of summer. The dark-fruited red grapes from the Rhône department of France are great wines to enjoy anytime, but they are especially delicious during the colder months because their dark fruit flavors and lush texture pair so well with hearty fare.
The Rhône valley is divided into two distinct regions; northern and southern. The northern Rhône is renown for the wines made from Syrah and Viognier. Here you will find the appellations of Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Croze-Hermitage, St-Joseph, Cornas, Condrieu and Château Grillet. Vines have been grown on the hill of Hermitage since the Romans occupied the region. Both Pliny and Martial mention the wines of Hermitage in their writings. The name of the appellation is on the label, not the grape variety.
The southern Rhône is a patchwork of numerous grape varieties with the most recognizable red grapes being Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The primary white grapes are Rousanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Lirac, Vacqueyras, Vinzellas, Côtes-du-Rhône and Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, are all wines made in the southern French wine region. Each of these appellations have slightly different rules as to which grapes can be blended into the wines.
Read Cara’s complete wine newsletter The Grapes of Rhône