Wine Tourism in the Rhône Valley
Within the wide variety of French wines, the Rhône Valley (Côtes du Rhône) has been an area traditionally shadowed by the more renowned wine region of Burgundy, however, from the twentieth century this area has been reclaiming a leading role among the French wines.
The Rhône Valley
From an oenological point of view, the Rhône Valley covers the South East of France, between the city of Vienne, to the north reaching Arles, already in the Mediterranean coast. It is an area located between the Alps and the Massif Central, in which the Rhône river acts as the backbone of an area where the terrain and climate have led to a characteristic way of producing wine.
Wine and grapes in the Rhône Valley
With 465 million bottles yearly and 180.400 acres of vineyards, wine tourism in the Rhône Valley has experienced an important growth in the twentieth century.
Within the great variety of wines in the region, the following should be noted:
This denomination is given to the wine produced in the northernmost part of the Valley with an extension of little more than 247 acres of rough terrain, where the vine is cultivated in terraces.
The Syrah variety is used for the production of this wine, although one fifth of the native white grape Viognier is also allowed.
Hermitage is located on the right side of the river and, according to legend, the knight Gaspard de Stérimberg began the cultivation of vineyards in this area in 1224.
The result are red wines produced with the Syrah varieties, admitting up to 15% of the native white varieties Roussane or Marssane, which produces a long lasting wine.
In this area the unusual “Vin de Paille” (straw wine) is also produced, it is a sweet wine in which the grapes are left to dry in the sun over straw mats to become raisins before production.
It receives this designation from Pope John XXII who initiated the cultivation of the grapevine in this region in the fourteenth century. Currently, about 7.400 acres are cultivated in 5 municipalities in which the wines’ character appears to be strongly marked by sandy and clay based soils, with large pebbles swept by the river that act as thermo regulators.
The main distinction of this area is that we are in the presence of one of the few wines in the world that can be produced with up to thirteen varieties of grapes, both reds and whites: Garnacha, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Muscardin, Counoise, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Picpoul, Roussanne, Terret Noir, Picardan and Vaccarese.
This leads to a usually expensive wine, a cult status wine that must stand 5 or 6 years before opening. This wine is especially recommended for game or cheese dishes.
Some wine tourism activities in the Rhône Valley
Today, the activities offered to the traveler interested in making their visit to the Rhône Valley memorable have notably increased.
In the region you will find restaurants run by prestigious chefs, like the incomparable Paul Bocuse in Lyon. Also you can discover the Palais des Papes in Avignon, one of the biggest and most prestigious medieval gothic buildings of Europe, as well as the capital of the Rhone Valley and Lyon, the third largest city in France and gastronomic capital, with its Renaissance neighborhood and its modern architecture.