The Rhône – North vs. South

By / Magazine / November 9th, 2015 / 17

I love the wines from France’s Rhône region. What’s the difference between the juice from the southern and northern parts of the valley?

I share your love. France took it on the chin the hardest when the initial wave of New World wines hit shore and, unlike Italy and Spain, has struggled to find the momentum to support a major comeback ever since.

The Rhône Valley has been the one bright light. Renowned for some masterful blending techniques that create undeniably drinkable wines, the region has become the gateway back to France for a whole new generation of oenophiles.

As you mention, it’s considered the sum of two parts: The northern Rhône and the southern Rhône. While climate certainly differentiates one from the other (continental in the north and Mediterranean in the south), the grape focus of each really defines their individuality.

The north is the home of Syrah (a red grape you may also know by the name Shiraz), which gives its wines darker, more brooding personalities. While Syrah is big in the south as well, the fruit-forward Grenache leads the way where it is blended with a cornucopia of other indigenous grapes. Need an example? Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the south’s most famous son, is a mega combination of up to 19 different grapes. Vive la France!


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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