France: Rhône Valley

Around Tain l'Hermitage

The wines of Hermitage, Crozes, Cornas and Saint Joseph
By John Wheeldon

This Guide was last updated on 08 August 2011
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Main appellations


Both red and white wines are produced in this relatively small appellation which covers vineyards on the famous hill on the left bank of the river. Reds dominate and are made using Syrah (up to 15% of the white grapes Marsanne and Roussanne is permitted, but few producers use them). The whites are blends of Roussanne and Marsanne. Both reds and whites are usually oak matured and destined for long ageing. In very good years, some of the white grapes are dried to make a lusciously sweet Vin de Paille. The yields are a very low 15hl/ha.


One of the largest appellations in the northern Rhône with more than ten times the vineyard area of Hermitage, producing both red and white wines on the river’s left bank. The southern part of the area has been expanded in recent years. The reds are made predominately from Syrah with a small amount of Marsanne or Roussanne permitted in the blend. The whites are blends made exclusively from Marsanne and Roussanne.

Saint Joseph

Large red and white wine appellation which extends into the other Northern Rhône micro-region ‘South of Vienne’ and here includes the villages of Saint-Jean-de-Puzols and Mauves as well as the vineyards of Tournon, all on the right bank of the river. The reds are made mainly from Syrah with up to 10% Marsanne or Roussanne permitted. They are aged in oak or occasionally chestnut barrels from ten months to two years. White Saint Joseph wines are blends of Marsanne and Roussanne and may be aged for several months in oak.


This small appellation is exclusively for red wines produced using 100% Syrah, usually aged in for two years in wooden barrels. Due to the good southerly exposition of the vineyards, this is usually the first appellation in the northern Rhône to begin harvesting.

Saint Péray

A small appellation for still and sparkling white wines made from Marsanne and Roussanne. The still wines are fermented both in new oak and stainless steel. The sparkling wines must be made in the Traditional Method.

Côtes du Rhône

Although fairly unimportant in the northern Rhône, this is an extensive appellation for southern Rhône accounting for about half the Rhône Valley’s production, 95% of it for red wines, the rest rosés and whites. In the north, the few reds are based usually on 100% Syrah; there are a very few whites and virtually no rosés.

IGP (Vin de Pays)

There are a number of IGP (formerly Vin de Pays) designations that can be used by producers within this micro-region. But by far the most common here is the departmental one of IGP de l’Ardèche. Rules are more flexible than for AC wines so many wines are from a single grape variety that would not be permitted under the AC rules. The designation is widely used here for 100% Syrah wines from young vines.

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