France: Rhône Valley

Between Montélimar and Orange

The northern Côtes du Rhône Villages, Tricastin and Vivarais
By Liz Berry MW

This Guide was last updated on 26 January 2012
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Main appellations


Single appellation for red wines since 2005, before which the wines were Côtes du Rhône Villages. Produced from blending Grenache (minimum 50%) together with at least 25% of Syrah and/or Mourvèdre plus other local varieties.

Côtes du Rhône

An extensive appellation accounting for about half the area’s production, 95% of it for red wines, the rest rosés and whites. The reds should have at least 40% Grenache in the blend and Syrah and Mourvèdre also have to be included. The rosés are blends containing at least 50% Grenache with Syrah and Mourvèdre and up to 20% white varieties. The whites are blends mainly of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier. Wines vary from inexpensive ‘plonk’ to some quite exciting rich, gamey mineral reds with good medium term ageing potential.

Grignan les Adhémar (formerly Coteaux du Tricastin)

The name change happened in 2010 due to the association with the Tricastin power plant. Red and rosé production mainly with just a little white. Principally Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Carignan for red blends and Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier for whites. This region has planted more vineyards over the last five years, and has started to produce some very good quality wines.

Côtes du Rhône Villages

Within the geographical area of Côtes du Rhône but requiring stricter production conditions than for basic Côtes du Rhône generally giving a little more individual character and better quality. Reds account for 99% of production and are made from a minimum of 50% Grenache with 20% Syrah and/or Mourvèdre required. A number of the better villages are allowed to append their names to the appellation. In this micro-region, these include Visan, Valréas and Saint Pantaléon, as well as Cairanne, Chusclan and Sablet

Côtes du Vivarais

Predominately red wine production from Grenache and Syrah. Some rosé production too. A small quantity of white produced from Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Leaner, lighter and more mineral styles produced here.

Brézème - Côtes du Rhône

Also to the north of the area, the small appellation of Brézème produces some interesting wines. Producers here claim that the INAO forgot them when handing out appellations, for the wines are simple 'Côtes du Rhône' although local producers put the word Brezème in larger letters than the appellation, and they feel that they merit the 'Villages' appellation at the very least! This region, between the Drôme and the Rhône, on the left bank of the Rhône, is also a cooler area, with the influence of the Mistral. There are some very good wines here, mainly from pure Syrah, which enjoys the cooler climate here.

IGP (Vin de Pays)

There are a number of IGP (formerly Vins de Pays) designations that can be used by producers within this micro-region. The most common here are the departmental ones of IGP de l’Ardèche, IGP du Drôme and IGP du Gard. 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. Quality and style varies tremendously.

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