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Rhône Royalty

South of the city of Lyons, on the steep banks of the northern Rhône valley, lie some of the oldest and most esteemed vineyards in France.

Below is a quick guide to the best known appellations of the Northern Rhône

Côte-Rôtie

Côte-Rôtie is a northern Rhone wine appellation famous for producing some of the world’s finest Syrah based red wines. The region has 202 ha of vineyards on steep rocky terraced slopes in the upper Rhone River valley. The Côte-Rôtie has a continental climate with wet winters and cold mistral winds that can last into the spring. The Côte-Rôtie is sub-divided into two main sections of varying soil compositions-The Côte Brune in the north on dark, iron-rich schist and the Côte Blonde with its pale granite and schist soil. Wines of the Côte Blonde are often more balanced, elegant and meant to be consumed earlier. Wines of the iron-rich Côte Brune contain more tannin, are full-bodied and require ageing. The wines made from Syrah  with up to 20% Viognier, (a white grape) although some Cote Rotie wines are 100% Syrah. According to appellation rules, Syrah and Viognier must be fermented at the same time, a process known as co-fermentation. Côte-Rôtie wine typically exhibits an almost paradoxical combination of savoury, meat and floral aromas.

Condrieu

Condrieu is a northern Rhone wine appellation famous for producing stunning white wines exclusively from the aromatic Viognier variety. The Condrieu AOC covers more than 202 ha of steep hilly terrain located along a 19 km stretch on the right bank of the Rhône river. The soils of the area are granite, requiring the steep vineyards to be terraced to hold the loose soils. The well-drained granite soil retains heat during the day and reflects it back to the vines at night. The best vineyard sites face south, which aids growth during the cool months of late spring and early autumn. The only AOC wine permitted in the region is a white wine made entirely from Viognier of the local clone famous for producing low yields of small berries with intense floral and stonefruit aromatics. Since 1940, within the AOC is 3.4 ha of Château-Grillet, which has its own micro-appellation.

Crozes-Hermitage

Crozes-Hermitage is a northern Rhône wine appellation producing both red and white wines. It is the largest appellation  in the northern Rhone and it has a reputation for producing attractive wines for reasonable prices. Many of the red wines are relatively light and intended for early drinking, while others will keep and improve in bottle for several years. Most of the wines produced here are red wines made from Syrah  and can be blended with small quantities of white Roussanne or Marsanne grapes. White wines are Marsanne and/or Roussanne. The area has 1238 ha of vineyards; half of the entire northern Rhone region. Crozes-Hermitage has a continental climate with wet winters and marked by the cold mistral winds that can last into the Spring. The land ranges from gentle hills in the north with granite based soils to flatter terrain in the south with rocky, sand and clay soils.

Hermitage

Hermitage is a northern Rhone wine appellation famous for producing some of the world’s finest Syrah wines. The Hermitage appellation has 140ha of vines planted on the steep slopes of the hill of Hermitage in soil composed of granite and gravels. The vines grow mainly in terraced vineyards on the south west side of the hill facing the afternoon sun. The hill is divided into a number of vineyards: "Les Bessards" to the west, "L’Hermite and "La Chapelle on the top of the mountain, and "Bessards", "Le Méal", "Les Greffieux" and "Murets" to the east. Syrah is the primary red grape of Hermitage, mostly used on its own although the appellation rules do allow the addition of 15% or less of Marsanne and/or Roussanne grapes. Hermitage reds tend toward being very earthy, with aromas of leather, red berries, earth, and cocoa/coffee. Because of the high levels of tannin they are usually aged longer in oak and can be cellared up to 40 years. Rich, dry white wines are also produced from a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne.

St-Joseph

Saint-Joseph is a northern Rhone appellation producing both red and white wines. The appellation covers the largest amount of land stretching along 50km following the Rhone River, but is second in vineyard plantings to Crozes-Hermitage. The appellation has 920 ha of vines mainly planted to Syrah. The terrain is mainly hilly with the best sites in the south around the villages of Mauves and Tournon. In the north towards Cote Rotie the vineyards are steep with rocky mineral rich granite soils. Saint-Joseph produces wines with a range of qualities, styles and prices.  Generally the wines are defined by the bright fruit that makes them very drinkable while young. Syrah is the only red grape allowed in St.-Joseph. AOC regulations allow for the addition of up to 10% Marsanne and/or Roussanne. Whites are made from Marsanne and/or Roussanne.

Cornas

Cornas is a northern Rhone wine appellation that produces only red wines from the Syrah grape. Any wines designated Cornas AOC will be made from 100% Syrah by law. Cornas has a continental climate with wet winters but it tends to be sheltered from the  cold mistral winds that affect the northern Rhone and it is often the first appellation in the north to begin the harvest. There are only 90ha of vineyards in a small area of steep slopes between 100 meters and 400 meters altitude facing east south east. Soils in the region vary with sand, rocky, chalk, granite and clays. Some of the best vineyards in Cornas are "Les Chaillot", "Quartier de Reynard" "La Côte" and "La Combe". Cornas wines are savoury, rich and sturdy some requiring long ageing, others are a new more fruit forward style which typically requires 6–7 years in barrel and bottle before it is approachable.

Want to experience the magic of these wines for yourself? Discover Langton’s range of wines from the Northern Rhône today.

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