This is the region of France's most user-friendly wines, and, with Bordeaux, an important source of appellation contrôlée wine. Côtes du Rhône is south-east France's warmer, richer, spicier answer to the dry austerity of AC Bordeaux. The wines of the southern Rhône are France's most alcoholic, with 14-15% by no means uncommon for its most famous appellation, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (and no chaptalisation, or extra alcohol from added sugar, is allowed this far south).
Perhaps it is the alcohol that makes these southern Rhône reds so easy to appreciate. Perhaps it is the openly fruity character of the Grenache grape, which dominates here, concentrated by the relatively low yields forced upon it by the stony soils and low rainfall. Perhaps it's because the southern Rhône is the gateway to Provence, a land of olive trees, cicadas, sunshine and Impressionist summer landscapes (Jancis Robinson MW)
The southern Rhône has a more Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot summers. Drought can be a problem in the area, but limited irrigation is permitted. The differing terroirs, together with the rugged landscape which partly protects the valleys from the Mistral, produce microclimates which give rise to a wide diversity of wines. A feature of the cultivation of the region is the use of large pebbles around the bases of the vines to absorb the heat of the sun during the day to keep the vines warm at night when, due to the cloudless skies, there is often a significant drop in temperature.
The southern Rhône's most famous red wine is Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a blend containing up to 19 varieties of wine grapes (ten red and nine white) as permitted by the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC rules. Other nearby AOC regions including Lirac AOC, Tavel AOC, Vacqueyras AOC, may contain even more varieties in the blend. Gigondas AOC, on the other hand, is predominantly made from Grenache Noir and has a more restricted set of permitted grapes. Depending on the specific AOC rules, grapes blended into southern Rhône reds may include Grenache, Syrah, Mouvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault. Similar wine blends globally are known as GSM after the first three varietals. The reds from the left bank are full bodied, rich in tannins while young, and are characterized by their aromas of prune, undergrowth, chocolate and ripe black fruit. The right bank reds are slightly lighter and fruitier.
Our Southern Rhône appellations - Côtes du Rhône AOC, Côtes du Rhône Villages (Seguret), Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, Vacqueyras AOC, Carianne AOC, Gigondas AOC, Lirac AOC, Beaume de Venise AOC, Muscat Beaume de Venise AOC and Tavel AOC is an elite rosé, which has been referred to as 'the wine of kings"
White wines from the southern Rhône sub-region, such as in Châteauneuf-du-Pape whites, are also typically blends of several wine grapes. These may include Ugni blanc, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Picpoul and Clairette. Since about 1998 Viognier is increasingly being used and is also appearing as a single varietal (Wikipidia)
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