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 wine styles


Châteauneuf du Pape reds are round and unctuous, full-bodied and supple with good length. They have good colour and a complex nose that may include red fruits, leather, aniseed, liquorice and spices with hints of balsamic. The best drink well after five years but can be laid down for ten years or more. Styles vary tremendously, as growers may use any combination of the 13 permitted grape varieties, and may vinify in barriques, large foudres, or not use oak at all. Lirac red is to some extent a ‘baby brother’ to Châteauneuf; peppery, spicy and broad in style, but with less weight and power than Châteauneuf, and generally for drinking in its youth, over four to eight years from the vintage. Costières de Nîmes reds are often akin to Côtes du Rhône in style, generally early drinking, light quaffing wines, with a few exceptions. Overall the reds produced in this region range from light bodied fruity reds to fuller bodied complex wines with spicy and garrigue notes. Traditionally the best have always been aged in large oak foudres, though a few producers use barriques today.


The white wines from Châteauneuf du Pape are pale yellow in colour and have floral nuances, vine blossom, honeysuckle and narcissus with aromatic freshness and length. These are generally wines for drinking young, although traditionally made, oak aged examples can last for many years. Other dry whites such as Lirac are full bodied with lively aromatic characteristics and may be quite high in alcohol.


The best Tavels are amongst the best rosés in France, full flavoured, dry but fruity wines that are excellent with fish and white meats. Other rosés should be dry, bright and fresh with red fruit flavours.

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