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 wine styles


Gigondas has a distinctive nose with cherries and other red fruit, which develops into more woodland characteristics on ageing; the best have great depth and power. Vacqueyras is deep coloured, full-bodied and round with ripe fruit, black cherries and liquorice hints, usually less able to age than Gigondas but representing good value. Other reds vary greatly in style ranging from light bodied fruity reds to fuller bodied complex wines with spicy and wild herbal notes. Most of the more expensive wines will be oak aged in larger foudres or small barriques.


Gigondas rosés are deep pink with almonds, red fruits and spices. Côtes du Rhône rosés at best are fruity and zesty.


The best whites are pale yellow in colour dry with a fresh, floral or herbal character.

Vins Doux Naturels

Fortified wines produced by ‘mutage’. This process involves adding grape spirit to the must of red or white wines at the beginning of fermentation. This stops the fermentation process and leaves some of the grapes’ natural sweetness. Alcohol levels vary from 15% – 18%. Muscat de Beaumes de Venise wines are sweet with good length and deep gold in colour with pink glints. Perfumed with floral notes, citrus and exotic fruits. This is a delicious wine to drink on its own, as an aperitif, or with some fresh fruit.
Rasteau reds have deep colour and could be described as port-style with forest fruits, spices and liquorice notes and good tannins. The rancio style wines have been aged in the sun and taste like a cross between tawny port and a red wine with a touch of sherry thrown in. This is absolutely delicious with chocolate based desserts, creamy blue cheeses, and (surprisingly) with gamey meat dishes such as duck and hare.

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