France: Rhône Valley

East and South of Orange

Gigondas, Vacqueyras and beyond
By Liz Berry MW

This Guide was last updated on 22 February 2010
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Main appellations


Appellation for both red and rosé wines. The reds are predominately Grenache (up to 80%) with Syrah and Mourvèdre added to the blend. Traditional maturing in oak casks or foudres, the reds mature slowly and the best can be kept for ten years or longer. Sometimes they are thought of as ‘poor man’s Châteauneuf du Pape’. Rosé production is mainly from Grenache.


Red, rosé and white production. Reds account for 97% of production and are blends using mainly Grenache (minimum 50%), Mourvèdre (minimum 20%), Syrah and other typical Côtes du Rhône varieties. Many wines are matured in oak for 12 months or more and age well for 5-7 years. They are referred to sometimes as "poor man’s Gigondas"!

Beaumes de Venise

Single appellation for red wines since 2005, before which the wines were Côtes du Rhône Villages. Blends using mainly Grenache (minimum 50%), Syrah (minimum 25%) and Mourvèdre.

Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise

Muscat de Frontignan is grown also in the village of Beaumes de Venise to produce one France’s most famous sweet Vin Doux Naturel wines.


Although this village is also one of the Côtes du Rhône Villages producing reds, whites, and rosés, it has its own appellation for Vin Doux Naturel made mainly from Grenache. As well as the red port-like wine, an aged rancio style may be made too. Ages well, the best vintages for up to 20 years and is the ideal accompaniment for dark chocolate desserts.


Previously named Côtes de Ventoux, predominately red and rosé production made mainly from blending Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan. Clairette and Bourboulenc are partners in the limited quantity of white produced.

Côtes de Luberon

This appellation is wedged between the southern Rhône vineyards of Côtes de Ventoux and those of Provence’s Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. Mainly red wines produced, but whites and rosés are made too. The reds and rosés are made using Grenache, Syrah and Carignan blended with a little Mourvèdre and Cinsault. The whites are blends made from Ugni Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Rolle, with a range of other varieties. Although many cuvées are based firmly towards the tourist market, there are some excellent wines starting to be produced in this area.

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.

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 microregion, these include Rasteau, Cairanne, Séguret, and Sablet.

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 is the departmental ones of IGP de Vaucluse. 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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