The Rhône Valley was born 300 million years ago when the tectonic plates between the Massif Central and the Alps collided. The Massif Central then witnessed significant volcanic activity, which had an impact on the rock formation in the northern part of the region that is currently highly influenced by granite.
Furthermore, the clash between the two plates affected the entire geological formation of the soils in the Rhône Valley which are composed of sand, clay, limestone and sandy silica, creating the ideal conditions for the development of vineyards.
Much more recently, nearly 2,000 years ago, viticulture began on the outskirts of Massalia, the Roman city of Marseille. In the first century A.D., it moved up the Rhône to reach the north of the region. Thus, the Rhone Valley is the embodiment of a heritage-filled wine-growing tradition that commenced several thousands of years ago.
Over the centuries, Rhone Valley wines have established a reputation that has crossed borders. By protecting its prestigious name and the quality of its wines, the region was one of the first to establish a system of appellations and regulations.
Ideally situated on a vertical axis running from south to north, the Rhône Valley benefits from a wide variety of climates and terroirs. The northern Rhône Valley is characterised by its steep hillsides and its vines thrive on vertiginous slopes. The world-famous appellations such as Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Condrieu blissfully grow on these lands.
Further down, the southern Rhône Valley offers an array of landscapes. Indeed, hillsides, plateaus and terraces are present in this part of the region. Some places are even relatively steep due to the proximity of the Massif Central and the Alps. The notable difference remains the climate: it is Mediterranean in every respect, which allows the vines to flourish gradually. The legendary appellations that rest on these soils are, for example, the AOC Côtes du Rhône or Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Beaumes-de-Venise.
The wines from the Rhone Valley are made from the region's emblematic grape varieties. In the northern part, Syrah is used for red wine and Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne for white wine. On the southern part, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah give the red wines their typical character. There are around twelve white grape varieties with two commonly used varietals: Clairette and Bourboulenc.
Some illustrious Rhone Valley wine producers are M. Chapoutier, Famille Perrin, Paul Jaboulet-Aîné and many others. All of them contribute to defining the fine and precise signature style of Rhône wines.