France: Rhône Valley

North and West of Avignon

Châteauneuf du Pape, Lirac, Tavel and Costières de Nîmes
By Liz Berry MW

This Guide was last updated on 27 February 2010
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Main appellations

Châteauneuf du Pape

Red and white wine production, although white only accounts for 5%–10% of the total. Up to 13 grape varieties are permitted - the main ones used today are Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Muscardin and Counoise for reds, and Clairette and Grenache Blanc for whites, with some Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Picpoul. The principle red variety is generally Grenache, although cuvées can be found favouring Mourvèdre or Syrah, and with a greater part, or total absence, of the other red varietals. Yields are strictly limited, (35hl/ha), all picking is manual, with a first selection of healthy fruit in the vineyard, and the traditional vineyard is trained as unsupported bush vines, although more modern plantations are sometimes trained on a system of posts and wires for ease of maintenance. Châteauneuf can vary tremendously in price, quality, and style, some of the micro-cuvées weighing in at over €100 per bottle, whilst some of the supermarket offerings provide a pale copy of the appellation at a mere €5.

Lirac

Appellation for red, white and rosé wines mostly blends, but with reds and rosés based largely on Grenache. Long maceration is used for reds, and the saignée method for rosé production.

Tavel

An appellation exclusively for rosés produced mostly by the saignée method from a blend dominated by Grenache. These wines can also age well which is rare for rosés.

Costières du Nîmes

Located in the south-westerly corner of this micro-region in the Gard department, stretching west from the Rhône River to the town of Nîmes, and to the north and south of the town. Red, white and a large amount of rosé wine is produced using the same major varietals as in Côtes du Rhône. There are now a number of producers with serious cuvées of top quality wine. There are also a number of producers with excellent wines produced as Vin de Pays, where the grape variety mix is at variance with the appellation.

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 micro-region, these include Saint Gervais, Chusclan and Laudun.

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 are the departmental ones of IGP de Vaucluse and VIGP 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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