Northern Rhône Crus
No gentle slopes here: on the right-bank of the Rhône, Côte-Rôtie wines draw their character from the extremely steep hillsides that sometimes reach a gradient of over 60°.
The very narrow vineyard is planted on terraces fewer than 50 vines wide. Located a few miles from Lyon, this is the northernmost appellation in the Rhône Valley.
This prestigious cru is made from Syrah grapes that when combined with the viognier produce extraordinarily delicate aromas and remarkably fine tannins. The wine’s beautiful ruby colour, the complex and elegant nose of spices, summer fruits, black fruits, and violet, its robustness and of course its pedigree make this a highly sought after wine…
Côte-Rôtie is the only red cru in the Northern Côtes du Rhône to plant Viognier (up to 20%) alongside the Syrah. The Syrah produces quality wines, with rich colours and tannin content. In Côte-Rôtie, viognier complements the Syrah with finesse and aromas. The cru’s colour is a deep ruby red.
Its nose can vary from fruits – red or black – to notes of violet and spices. It is a robust, pedigree wine that ages very well, and may display notes of woodland, leather, tobacco, or coffee. With a long finish, it is perfectly balanced and quite fat.
The Condrieu terroir, on the right-bank of the Rhône, is famous for its white wines, and is the northern most white wine appellation in the Rhône Valley. These impressive wines inherit their exceptional character from the viognier that is planted here in its home terroir. The appellation’s narrow terraces are generally composed of granite and “arzelle”: a mixture of decomposed granite, mica, shale, and clay that gives Condrieu wines their fruity aromas of peaches and apricots.
When the viognier almost disappeared in the 1950s, a passionate few winemakers kept the appellation alive long enough to see a renaissance in the 1980s. Today, the AOC covers 110 hectares and has become a global benchmark, especially in the USA.
The golden, delicate, and aromatic Condrieu reaches its best at a young age. Full bodied on the palate, its robust body reveals hints of peach and violet.
Château Grillet’s 3.5ha make it the smallest AOC in the Rhône Valley.
Located on the right bank of the Rhône, its vineyards overhang the river forming the perfect amphitheatre: open to the South-East and bathed in warm sun.
As in Condrieu, viognier is the only grape variety planted. Château Grillet’s terroir is characterized by a light, fragmented soil rich in mica. Produced by a sole harvesting owner, this elegant variety is characterized by its aromas of honey and fruit (peach and apricot), blending a subtle acidity with resounding smoothness..
On the right-bank of the Rhône, the Saint-Joseph vineyard sits upon the 45th parallel, planted on steep hillsides that have been carved into terraces since ancient times. The AOC gives its name to the vineyard found between Tournon and Mauves. The AOC was created in 1956 and comprised of 6 local authorities (90 hectares).
The AOC was expanded in 1994 and today covers 1082 hectares across 26 local authorities. The vineyard winds from Chavanay to Guilherand, and connects Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie to the north, and Saint-Péray and Cornas to the south.
The appellation is known for its red wines made from Syrah but also produces white wines from Roussanne and Marsanne.
The red wines are diverse due to the diversity of terroir, but are typically strong flavoured and refined, expressing notes of pepper and spices.
This mythical cru has built its reputation on a single hill which was home to a hermitage founded by Gaspard de Stérimberg in 1224.
The vineyard’s perfect location on the left-bank of the Rhône is known for its exposure to the sun, the influence of the Mediterranean, and for being sheltered from the northerly winds. This harmony between the soils and the exposure are perfect for Syrah that, in the area’s red crus, finds the perfect expression of its strength. This balance is also reflected in the tannins that oscillate between strength and finesse, depending on the soil type and micro-climate of the vineyard parcels on the hill.
The appellation also produces light and golden age-worthy white wines that are characterized by floral notes with a touch of vanilla, and nutty aromas dominated by roasted almonds.
The red wine, made using Syrah, can contain up to 15% Roussanne and Marsanne (though today, very few growers blend white grapes into their reds) and is a deep ruby red colour. The wine can be austere when young, but after four to five years, this strong, meaty and robust wine acquires a surprising roundness and flexibility. Ageing incredibly well, the best vintages become finer and more harmonious over time, developing exquisite notes of violet, spices, and blackcurrant.
The Hermitage white wines, made from Marsanne and Roussane grapes, display a wonderful yellow colour and are of a rare smoothness. They develop the creamy, honeyed aromas of hazelnut, peach, and apricot, and may even reveal scents of iris, narcissus, and linden. They can be kept for decades.
From easy drinking… to fine wines! On the left bank of the Rhône, the Crozes-Hermitage vineyard straddles the 45th parallel. The largest vineyard amongst the northern appellations, the appellation is spread across 11 local authorities in the Drôme.
A prestigious cru, Crozes-Hermitage is available in red, made using Syrah grapes, and white varieties, made using Roussane and Marsanne. In this wine, Syrah provides a fine balance between fruits and tannins. The reds develop pleasing fruity notes, even if some winemakers choose to play upon a seductive robustness. Red Crozes-Hermitage wines are elegant, balanced, and a pleasure to drink.
On the right-bank of the Rhône, the vineyard sits on the Eastern slopes of the Massif Central in Cornas, which means “burnt earth” in old Celtic. The abrupt, south-facing slopes form a natural amphitheatre that protects the vines from cold winds. South-facing vines mature early, which is why this appellation is the first red to be harvested in the Northern Côtes du Rhône.
Syrah is the only variety of grape used in this appellation, and is able to express its full flavour. Cornas is a very dark red wine: almost black with purplish tints when young, becoming amber with age. It is one of the most robust French wines. These wines age superbly: their tannins round over time and it develops aromas of black fruits, with a spiced, “licorice” finish.
The 75 hectares of the Saint-Péray vineyard flourish on the gentle slopes at the foot of Crussol Château, under the kind influence of the “Colline de Crussol”, the limestone spur from which it takes its name. On the right-bank of the Rhône, to the west of Valence in the Ardèche, Saint-Péray AOC is the southernmost of the northern Côtes du Rhônes appellations. And that is not all that makes them unique: One third of the wines produced in this appellation are sparkling!
The limestone and granite terroir, the exceptional climate and the superb topography give Saint-Péray whites their unique character. The appellation’s sparkling wine is the only such wine in the Rhône Valley, and the appellation’s winemakers learned the “traditional” method in 1829.
Today, its pale, still wines are subtle and fresh, balanced and aromatic, and diffuse floral and mineral notes. Assembled from Marsanne – which is often the dominant grape – and Roussanne, sparkling Saint-Péray gives off notes of toast, honey, and almonds that seduce the palates of wine lovers the world over.