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Northern Rhône Wines a Tasting Road Trip

Northern Rhône Wines

Along with vintage, cépage (grapes), producer, a geographic tag is attached to Rhône Valley wines. The northern section stretches 65 kilometres (40 miles) running from Vienne to Valence. Wines from the Southern Rhône are part of the production in Provence. When it comes to wine, there is no reason to limit your tastes to geography, so let’s take a road trip to the north with the Provence WineZine.

Viene is just 40-minutes south of Lyon and where this wine adventure starts. The “star” grapes in the Northern Rhône are Syrah for reds and Viognier for whites, other white grapes are Marsanne and Roussanne.

The Northern Rhône wines are world-class and often with price tags reflecting that notoriety. Starting in the north vineyards stretch along the west side of the Rhône and starting at Crozes-Hermitage on the other bank. It may be a small geographic area but the steep, terraced vineyards, temperate weather and suitable grapes result in excellent wines. There are eight (8) AOCs/AOPs in descending order:

Côte Rôtie (steepest slopes)
Condrieu (white wines only)
Chateau Grillet (single vineyard)
St Joseph (largest area)
Hermitage (probably the best known)
Crozes-Hermitage (largest production)
Cornas (the smallest)
Saint-Péray (sparkingly and white wines only)

This map of the Northern Rhône from Wine Folly depicts both the appellations and the villages.

Northern Rhône Valley Wines Wine Folly

Credit @Wine Folly

In love with Condrieu

We recently opened a bottle of Les Terrasses de L’Empire (2017), a classic Condrieu from Domaine Georges Vernay. The familiar aromas of fragrant white peaches and mangoes, intertwined with ephemeral notes of minerality, wafted across the table and caressed my senses. In a heartbeat, I was transported back to Condrieu where I left off in the first- of my three-part series entitled “Taking the Slow Road Along the Rhône from Lyon to Lourmarin.

As I continue the story of our drive south through the Northern Rhône Valley, suffice to say that when we awoke the second morning to a beautiful but chilly day, we were looking out on the Rhône River, anticipating a drive to the Hermitage appellation, and I realized I had not yet had my fill of Condrieu. I wanted to go to the place where it all started…or, rather, where it was all saved from obscurity.

Domaine Georges Vernay
1 Rue Nationale,
69420 Condrieu, France
Run by Christine Vernay (winemaker) and her husband Paul Amsellem

The next stop involved crossing the Rhône River to the Hermitage side to Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné. Continue reading here for the full details on this slow-wine-tasting-road-trip.


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Susan Newman Manfull

It was love at first sight when my family and I arrived in the charming village of Lourmarin for a short vacation, nearly 20 years ago. We returned home to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the next thing I knew, we were planning a much longer sojourn in that village and making arrangements to enroll our daughter in the local school there. That led to buying a maison de village— actually two, then a courtyard, a parking spot, and a bergerie— in our favourite Provençal village where we (readily) adopted that certain joie de vivre, established dear friendships, and, to this day, endeavour to blend in with the crowd at Café Gaby.

We no longer own property in Lourmarin, but we continue to hang our hats there frequently and gather fodder for our souls and The Modern Trobaors and Provence WineZine. There is never a shortage.

The Modern Trobadors, conceived in 2008, is about all things Provence: its markets, hilltop villages, lavender, art, literature, culture, history, food, wine, and news. Provence WineZine, launched in August 2014, focuses on wines from Provence and the Southern Rhône Valley regions—with a special emphasis on Provence's world-renowned rosés—and the men and women who make them.

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