The Northern Rhône wine region is renowned for its red wines, particularly Syrahs with deep, opaque colours, and complex flavours and aromas. On the nose, these exhibit a range of notes from blackberry and cherry, violets, black pepper, smoke, and spice. Typically full-bodied, Northern Rhône Syrahs offer firm tannins, good acidity, and a long finish.
Viognier is the primary white varietal in the Northern Rhône, particularly in the appellations of Condrieu and Château-Grillet. Grown on vineyards with south-facing exposures, grapes have ample sun ripening – resulting in aromatic wines known for their heady aromas of stone fruits, honey, and spice, a rich, creamy texture and a long, persistent finish on the palate.
Many Northern Rhône vineyards cling precariously to rocky hillsides of granite and schist, imparting similarly intense flavour concentration and minerality in both Syrahs and Viogniers. These are exposed to the mistral – a cool, powerful wind that has a significant impact on the vines and the wine produced in the area. On one hand, it clears the air of pollution, and prevents fungal disease among vines and the development of fungal diseases in the vineyards. On the other, it can damage vines during flowering and fruit set.
Significant appellations in the Northern Rhône include: Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and St-Joseph. Wines are typically structured and complex, with an approach focused on minimal intervention, that emphasises purity of fruit and a sense of place. To extract maximum flavour and tannin from the grapes, many Châteaux retain traditional methods such as whole-cluster fermentation and extended maceration, ageing in oak barrels for up to several years.