The Rhône is France’s second largest producer of AOC wines (after Bordeaux). Its viticultural history dates back to the Romans who sculpted its terraced topography and introduced the vine.
It is in the Rhône where east meets west. The granite and schist of the Massif Central (west) collide with the sedimentary soils of the Alps and its foothills (east)….
So, how well do you know the Rhône?
- Did you know that much of the Rhône was once planted to olive and fruit trees?
A catastrophic freeze in 1956 killed entire orchards. Farmers replanted with grapevines – one of the few crops to survive the freeze of 1956.
- Did you know that the largest cluster of extinct volcanoes on planet Earth is in the center of France?
The Massif Central, just to the west of the Rhône Valley, is made up of 450 of them. It is this block of granite that stopped a glacier in its tracks during the last Ice Age and turned it south to carve the Northern Rhône Valley!
- Did you know that the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape weren’t planted until the 13th century?
Planting had to wait for the invention of tools strong enough to tackle the rocky soil!
- Did you know that sparkling wine is made in the Rhône Valley?
Saint-Peray makes traditional-method bubblies from Marsanne and Roussanne while appellations in the Rhône’s Diois prefer the ancestral method and Clairette. Grab your flutes!
- Did you know that some slopes in the Northern Rhône are so steep that what little topsoil there is washes away in heavy rains?
Every autumn, vignerons must cart baskets of soil back to the top.
- Do you know what the Mistral is?
The Mistral is a cold, north wind funneled through the steep ravine of the Northern Rhône Valley where it picks up speed to race across the south of France. It can reach speeds of more than 60 m/h / 100km/h!
- Did you know that the Southern Rhône Valley is part of cultural Provence?
…a land of olive trees, cicadas and sunshine.
Interested in learning more about or studying the Rhône Valley and its wines?
Take a look at our Master Level Rhône Valley Course:
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BY Julien Camus
Founder & President @ Wine Scholar Guild