The complete guide to learning everything you want to know about the Northern Rhone, its wines, wineries and vineyards.
In comparison with the Southern Rhone, the Northern Rhone is quite small at 2,836 hectares. The region starts in the north, about 30 kilometers below Lyon in Ampuis and ends in Valance, which is a little more than 90 kilometers south. The entire Northern Rhone Valley is smaller than all of Chateauneuf du Pape!
To illustrate this, 95% of all the wine in the Rhone Valley comes from the vineyards located in the Southern Rhone. Only 5% of the wine produced in the Rhone comes from the Northern Rhone Valley.
If that does not present an accurate picture of the small size of the region, combine Cote Rotie and Hermitage together and they only produce about 10% of the amount of wine that comes from just Chateauneuf du Pape! The Northern Rhone consists of 8 appellations that you can read about in detail on this page.
The Climate, Terroir and Grapes for the Northern Rhone Valley is quite different than what the Rhone experiences in the south.
The average temperatures are much cooler. There is more rain. The growing season is shorter and the region often experiences changes in each of the 4 seasons.
That unique Mediterranean climate and steep hillside terroir, with its rocky soils are perfect for growing the grapes allowed in the region. The natural moisture added to the vines from the Rhone river is an essential part of the regions micro climates and terroir.
Temperatures in Hermitage and Cornas are slightly warmer than the rest of the region and Cote Rotie, being the furthest north, will have the coolest temperatures.
The winds blowing through the Northern Rhone are called La Bise. The winds head into the region from the north. The wind is another important factor in the terroir, as it helps to keep the grapes and vines clean and as disease free as possible.
Interestingly, the winds in the north usually follow the rains, which is quite useful, as that can remove moisture. This is the opposite of what takes place in the south, when the winds usually foreshadow the rain.
However, just because the region allows for planting of 3 white wine grapes and only 1 red wine grape, don’t think this is not a red wine region. In fact, the Northern Rhone Valley produces about 95% red wine and 5% white wine.
While most of the appellations in the Northern Rhone Valley allow for the blending of a fixed percentage of white wine grapes with red wine grapes, that really only takes place to a large degree in Cote Rotie.
Some producers in Cote Rotie blend and often co-ferment a small percentage of Viognier with their Syrah. A small amount of sweet white wine is also made in the Northern Rhone using the Vin de Paille method.
The Best Vintages of the Northern Rhone Valley are: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1995, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1983, 1982, 1978 and 1961. Keep in mind, there can be differences in quality in the same year between the appellations in the Northern Rhone.
So, the years listed for the top vintages in the Northern Rhone, it can vary from appellation to appellation. For more details on Northern Rhone vintages, please read our Northern Rhone Vintage Chart 1978 to Today
As you might expect, wines from the Northern Rhone Valley come in a myriad of styles. Those styles are shaped by a combination of the terroir, tradition and the choices made by the winemaker. There are traditional estates that do not destem and eschew the use of new, oak barrels.
Other produces destem to varying degrees ranging from a moderate percentage of their fruit up to 100% of their grapes. Some domaines chose to age their wine in 100% new, French oak barrels, while others do not use much, if any new oak.
The desired degree of ripeness in the fruit also varies depending on the desires of the grower and the micro climates in their terroir.
These differences provide consumers with a myriad of choices ranging from traditional to modern and someplace in between, even though the region is small.
There are wines that can be enjoyed young, while the best wines from the Northern Rhone often require 2 decades or longer before they are ready to drink. Due to the minuscule production of many estates, prices for the top wines with high demand can be expensive.
But once you look past the two, famous glamour appellations in the region, it becomes easier to find better values for the wines.
However, one thing you should know, a lot of the wines from the Northern Rhone Valley can be quite hard to find, as there are producers making wines in extremely limited quantities. When I say limited, I mean between 100 to 300 cases for the world!
The Northern Rhone, due in part to its small size, and the lack of widespread consumer interest in its wines was not widely known to most wine lovers before the late 1970’s. In those days, most growers were selling their harvest to negociants and local co-operatives. Very few wineries had the funds or marketing clout to produce, bottle and sell their own wine.
The region has exploded in popularity, quality and price since the mid 1980s. It has to be said that the two most important people responsible for spreading the word about the great wines being produced in the Northern Rhone Valley are Etienne Guigal and Robert Parker.
Without their tireless efforts and continuous promotional efforts letting wine lovers know about the greatness of theses wines, worldwide recognition would have taken place at a much slower pace. Their efforts cannot be overstated.
With this new found, growing popularity for Northern Rhone wines, the growers were finally able to make enough money to invest and reinvest in their properties.
The ability to plant new vineyards, reduce yields and harvest riper fruit is only part of the positive changes. With their new found wealth, producers were able to build new cellars, ferment at cooler temperature temperatures and vinify on a parcel by parcel basis.
They started to age their wine using a higher percentage of new oak barrels. Next came the creation and moderate proliferation of single vineyard wines or wines made from specific parcels or barrel selections.
More growers continue moving to organic, biodynamic or self sustaining farming techniques, creating healthier, natural soils all the time.
None of this would have been possible without the necessary cash infusion that came with the ability for growers to sell their wines for more than they cost to produce. It is impossible to overstate or over estimate the influence of Etienne Guigal and Robert Parker in the growth and popularity of the wines from the Northern Rhone Valley.
Cote Rotie is perhaps one of the most, elegant, aromatic and seductive wines in the world.
At their best, the wines of Cote Rotie offer depth of flavors and complex aromatics including bacon fat, black and red fruits, kirsch, mineral, pepper, earth, spice and floral scents. The best Cote Rotie wines provide ample freshness in the finish, coupled with pure red and sometimes darker berries coupled with opulent textures.
The links just below, and on left side of this page will bring you to full, detailed profiles with wine tasting notes, histories, information on the wine making and terroir of the following Cote Rotie Producers.
- Gilles Barge
- Yves Cuilleron
- Delas Freres
- Pierre Gaillard
- Yves Gangloff
- Jean Michel Gerin
- Gentaz Dervieux
- Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline La Turque La Landonne Ampuis
- Bernard Levet
- Nicolas Perrin
- Stephane Ogier
- Rene Rostaing
- Saint Cosme
- Georges Vernay
- Vidal Fleury
- Francois Villard
The wines of Cote Rotie at their best are the most sensuous, silky, exotic, vinous treasures in the wine world. They offer textures that caress the palate with erotic sensations and intense perfumes. Due to the small size of the Cote Rotie appellation, coupled with high demand, the prices for most Cote Rotie wines are high, but they can be worth it.
The links on the left side of the page bring you to full profiles of the best domaines and producers in Cote Rotie. The profiles include wine tasting notes, history, images, information on wine making and terroir.
The terroir of Cote Rotie is quite unique. The most famous vineyards of Cote Rotie are located on two hills, known collectively as Cote Blonde and Cote Brune.
You can actually see the differences in the soils when you look at both hills. The soil of Cote Brune is darker in color, due to the schist, mica and iron oxide in the terroir. Soils on the Cote Blonde are much lighter, because of the sandy granite and type of schist in the terroir.
But the truth is, Cote Rotie consists of a series of small slopes and hills located not far from Ampuis. Cote Rotie is unique due in part to the fact that many producers add various amounts of Viognier, a white wine grape to their red wine as part of the blend. Viognier is best known as the white grape varietal grown in the Condrieu appellation. Cote Rotie is tiny with only 310 hectares of vines.
Northern Rhone Wine with food Wines from the Northern Rhone are easy to match with food. There are many people that prefer to drink the bigger red wines only in the winter months. But I do not agree. The natural acidity, sweetness and spicy characteristics allow for easy wine and food pairing.
For the red wines of the Northern Rhone: beef, pork, duck, stewed, roasted and braised dishes, lamb, chicken, sausage, quail, pigeon, game and cassoulet are perfect for the wines. You can also easily pair Northern Rhone wines with a myriad of hard and soft cheeses.
Northern Rhone Valley white wines are often rich, with a lot of body, concentration, natural sweetness and acidity. These white wines are perfect when matched with lobster, crab, shell fish, halibut, sea bass, monk fish, scallops, turbot, oysters, mussels, clams, snails and other sea foods including seafood stews and bisque’s.
Depending on the preparation, perhaps foie gras could work as well! White Northern Rhone wine can also be paired with semi-spicy foods, dishes with cream sauces, pork, chicken, veal and of course, the wines are a great match with a diverse array of hard and soft cheeses.
Hermitage, located just south of Cote Rotie is a small appellation. The total size of Hermitage is about 130 hectares of vines. Think about this… Chateau Lafite Rothschild is 100 hectares. Cote Rote is massive in comparison with a whopping 201 planted hectares!
Hermitage is located about 30 miles south of Cote Rotie, not far from the village of Tain l’Hermitage. Many of the best Hermitage producers also make wine from nearby Northern Rhone appellations such as; Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas, St. Joseph and the St. Peray appellations.
The production of those other appellations dwarfs that of Hermitage. The famous “Hill of Hermitage,” which covers just a scant 140 hectares in total, with its steep, rocky, granite, hillsides was granted protected status from the French Government.
This is one of the most picturesque vineyards in the entire world of wine. Hermitage has been used The wine of has a history of being blended with Bordeaux and Burgundy at times in the past, to add body, color and tannin in select vintages.
This discreet practice which was not always openly talked about is no longer allowed. Hermitage is famous for not only their red wines, but for their white wines, which are made from Roussanne and Marsanne grape varieties. A tiny amount of sweet, white Hermitage wine is also produced and sold as Vin de Paille.
The links below and just to the left side of the page will bring you to full, detailed profiles on the top domaines in Hermitage where you can read numerous wine tasting notes, histories, information on the wine making and terroir in the Hermitage appellation.
It is important to note, that while Cote Rotie and Hermitage are clearly the top appellations in the Northern Rhone, there are other areas that produce outstanding wine, that are much more affordable for most wine lovers. While not offering the same level of finesse, complexity or the ability to age, the wines drink better at a younger age. They are made by the same producers located in Cote Rotie and Hermitage and cost a lot less money.
All About Crozes Hermitage, Wines, Wineries, Winemakers It’s important for fans of Hermitage wine, who love those wines, to know about Crozes hermitage, because these Northern Rhone Syrah wines are priced fair, stylish and drink well early.
The history of Crozes Hermitage dates back to perhaps the 1700’s, when wine from Larnage, a village in the appellation began being exported to England, via Bordeaux. At the time, the wine was often better known as vin de Mure, which took its name from the most powerful and wealthy family in the village.
By the end of the 1800’s, the wines from Crozes Hermitage were the most expensive in the Northern Rhone Valley, after Hermitage and Cote Rotie. The Crozes Hermitage appellation was officially created in 1937 and expanded in size 1952. More expansion in the number of hectares under vine began taking place in the 1980’s.
At the time of its initial creation, much of the wines were sold to negociants. Perhaps Jaboulet was the only popular and successful producer in the appellation. They were also one of the leading negociants too. That is how the area remained until the 1980’s.
In those days, just as had been the tradition of the appellation previously, most of the wines from Crozes Hermitage were produced and sold by negociants or the local co-operative.
Of course that is no longer the case today, as Crozes Hermitage is quite a viable appellation with numerous producers making some very good wine. One important change to keep aware of is, more young, innovative growers than ever are making, bottling and selling their wine today.
Less growers all the time are selling their harvest to negociants or the local Cooperative. This trend really kicked into high gear with the 2003 vintage, going forward. You can now find vineyard designated and parcel selections from the Crozes Hermitage appellation.
Crozes Hermitage is 1,032 hectares, making it the second largest appellation in the Northern Rhone. Located on the other side of the hill of Hermitage, just north of Tain, Crozes Hermitage consists of 11 communes.
The villages of Serves, Erome, Larange and Gervans occupy the most northern part of Crozes Hermitage. Beaumont Monteaux, Chanos Curson, Les Chassis, Crozes, Mercurol, Crozes, Mercurol, Pont de L’Isere, La Roche de Glun make up the rest of the appellation.
There are various terroirs and soils in Crozes Hermitage along with the influence of the Rhone river. The appellation of Crozes Hermitage is ideally located.
In the north, you find more granite hills, slopes, limestone and red clay soils. To the south, you have the Isere river, with its rocky, sand and stone infused soils.
To the east, you have the Rhone river. At the bottom of the slopes, plains and flatter terroir, there are more rocks and clay than you find on the hillsides. In Crozes hermitage, the growers with hillside vineyards can make much better wine, than the wineries with sites in the flats.
It’s important to keep in mind that the large size of the appellation does now allow for uniform terroirs, which explains in part, why the quality varies so widely from each producer.
Many of the vineyards located on the flat sections of Crozes Hermitage are machine harvested today, which is certainly not the case with the hillside plantings.
To produce the wine of Crozes Hermitage, most of the growers destem 100% of their grapes. There are of course still traditional producers that prefer whole bunch vinification. Vinifications are performed in traditional concrete tanks. However, the cooperatives prefer using stainless steel vats.
Pump-overs and cap punching are common. On average, the majority of producers age their wine in a combination of new and used, French oak barrels and demi-muids for between 9-12 months, although some estates prefer longer aging times.
There are a few modern producers that are making special cuvee’s from either parcel selections, old vines and vineyard designated wines today.
On average, at least 92% of the wines produced in Crozes Hermitage are red. Syrah is the only allowable red wine grape. Marsanne and Roussanne are the only white wine grapes planted in the appellation.
Red and white wine grape blends are allowed, with a maximum of 15% white wine grapes able to be added to the blend, provided they are co-fermented.
However, most of the wine from Crozes Hermitage is produced from 100% Syrah. The top producers in Crozes Hermitage are: Jaboulet, Delas Freres, Alain Graillot, Ferraton, Guigal, Remizieres, Albert Belle, Saint Cosme, Yann Chave, Colombier and Domaine Natacha.
The best vintages for Crozes Hermitage are 2020, 2019, 2028, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2001 and 1999.
All About St. Joseph, Wines, Wineries, Winemakers If you’re a fan of Syrah from the Northern Rhone, but the high prices being paid for the glamour wines from Cote Rotie and Hermitage are more than you want to spend, you need to know about the wines from St. Joseph.
Not only are the prices fair, but the wines from St. Joseph do not demand nearly as much aging before they are ready to drink.
The foundation of Saint Joseph dates back to 1292. During the 1500’s, the wine was revered and enjoyed by members of the royal family.
The appellation of St. Joseph was created in 1956. At the time, the region only included wine from 6 communes. Those original 6 communes continue to produce the best wine of the appellation; Glun, Lemps, Mauves, St. Jean de Muzols, Tournon and Vion. The best terroir and soils in those areas are the granite hillsides. As you will see, that quickly changed.
The boundaries of St. Joseph were increased in 1969. Today. Saint Joseph allows a total of 26 communes to be used for making wine in the St. Joseph appellation.
Saint Joseph has continued increasing in size. In 1971, only 97 hectares were under vine. Today, there are more than 1,200 hectares of vines in the appellation, making St. Joseph the largest appellation in the Northern Rhone Valley.
Close to 115 different growers are active in the appellation. When you compare that with how few vines were planted in 1956, you get an even clearer picture on the expansion of the appellation.
It’s important to note about the expansion of the appellation. That is because the original 6 communes in the north of St. Joseph, can often produce the best wines in the appellation.
Today, the St. Joseph appellation is almost 65 kilometers long, from top to bottom. In the north you have Condrieu. As you travel south, to the bottom of the appellation you have Chateaubourg. There are rivers and streams that bring water to the appellation.
With this much land, there is going to be numerous different terroirs, exposures, inclines and micro climates. Of course, vine age, vineyard management, soil, exposures and micro climates coupled are important factors that come into play when making a wine. All of that is something to think about when looking at which wines to buy from St. Joseph.
The vineyards in St. Joseph are planted to both red and white wine grape varieties. The terroir of St.Joseph is mostly hillside plantings with granite, mica schist limestone, rock and clay soils, which as you now know, can vary widely, due to the size of the appellation.
The large size of the appellation does not allow for uniform terroirs, which is why the quality of the wines from St. Joseph can be quite variable among all the different producers.
In fact, the picking dates for the harvests can be as much as a week part when moving from south to north, which in rainy vintages can really alter the quality of the wines.
The best terroir in the St. Joseph appellation is found in the closest proximity to Hermitage, which is to the south. The warmer temperatures in the south help the grapes reach better stages of ripeness.
Vineyard farming practices in St. Joseph are moving more rapidly towards biodynamic farming, with the leaders of pack being not only Michel Chapoutier, but the local co-operatives. Roughly 93% of the appellation is planted to red wine grape varieties.
AOC law allows for the blend to include up to 10% white wine grapes in the red wine, provided the gapes are co-fermented.
The majority of the grapes are destemmed. Stainless steel tanks are preferred for the vinification by most producers. The majority of wine makers in Saint Joseph age their wines in barrel, with varying percentages of new, French oak barrels, used French oak and demi-muids for between 12 to 15 months.
The wines of Saint Joseph are some of the most elegant, or feminine wines in the Northern Rhone Valley. They also drink well very early, if not on release and remain very well priced.
If you are interested in the wines of St. Joseph, you should know that today, more young, dynamic producers than ever are making, bottling and selling their own wine. Less growers all the time sell their harvest to negociants or the local Cooperative.
This trend really kicked into high gear after the 2003 vintage. You can now find vineyard designated and parcel selections from the St. Joseph appellation. The top producers in St. Joseph are: Chapoutier, Delas Freres, Guigal, Domaine Coursodon, Andre Perret, Jaboulet, Chave and Ferraton.
The best vintages for St. Joseph are: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2010, 2012 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2001 and 1999.
All About Cornas, Wines, Wineries, Winemakers Cornas has a long history as a region planted with vines that dates back to 885.
Most wine from Cornas were produced for the enjoyment of the local population. Although there are rumors that due to its robust character, during the early 1800’s, barrels of Cornas were shipped to Bordeaux and other regions to add strength and vigor to their wines.
Cornas became an official appellation in 1938. Only red wine is produced in Cornas. The wines of Cornas were, until the 1950’s sold mostly to locals and in France. Few producers bottled and sold their wine. Most of the harvest, until the early 1980’s was sold to negociants.
That is obviously not the case today. Perhaps the leading proponent of Cornas in those days was Jean Luc Colombo. A lot of credit certainly belongs to Jean Luc Colombo for pushing the awareness of Cornas wines outside of France.
Cornas is small, with only 104 hectares under vine. Located just a bit south of St. Joseph, and north of St. Peray, the vineyards and terroir can be easily divided into three sections.
In the north, you find granite and limestone soils. In the center, the terroir is mostly granite with clay soils. As you head south, you encounter granite and sand. The terroir is naturally warmer than all the other vineyards in the Northern Rhone, especially in the south.
So Cornas is almost always one of the earlier appellations to harvest. You also find more hard granite in the steep hillside vineyards, which can run up to more than 380 meters, than you do in the flats, which has more clay in the soils.
There are old vines in the region, some of which planted all the way back in 1914. Cornas is also shaped by its proximity to the Rhone river and the 11 streams that run through the appellation adding a lot of much needed moisture to the vines, especially in the hot, dry years.
The Chaban is the most prominent of the 11 streams. Cornas remained a small, relatively unknown appellation until Robert Parker scored a wine 100 Pts, which made previously, uninterested collectors take notice of what was often considered to produce a rustic, tannic, masculine, character driven Northern Rhone wine.
Today, that is no longer the case as Cornas wines are now growing in demand and price.
To produce wine in Cornas, the majority of destem to some degree, depending on the vintage. Although the very traditional producers prefer whole bunch vinification and do not destem.
The more modern wineries remove a greater part of their stems. Vinification takes place at many estates in open top, traditional cement vats. Other growers prefer stainless steel tanks.
Very few domaines use a lot of new, French oak barrels to age their wine in. New oak is not as popular in the traditional appellation of Cornas, as you find in Cote Rotie or Hermitage. Although the more modern estates do use a large percentage of new oak.
The wines of Cornas can show more of a stern, masculine, dark berry quality and gritty tannins than you find in the other Northern Rhone appellations.
They can be quite backwards and require cellaring time before they are ready to drink. Like the other appellations in the north of the Rhone valley, more estates are now making vineyard designated wines and parcel selections in Cornas.
The top producers of Cornas are: Alain Voge, Courbis, Auguste Clape, Thierry Allemand, Noel Verset, Jaboulet, Eric et Joel Durand and Vincent Paris.
The best vintages of Cornas are: 2020, 2029, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2001 and 1999.
The following three Northern Rhone appellations only allow for the production of white Rhone wine.
All About Condrieu, Wines, Wineries, Winemakers While the Romans clearly cultivated what we know of as Condrieu, the Condrieu appellation was only recently created in 1940.
Since its founding, the appellation has continued expanding its boundaries. For example, in 1982, Condrieu was a mere 14 hectares of vines.
Aside from the Viognier planted in the nearby appellation of Chateau Grillet, there were almost no other vineyards with Viognier planted in the world!
Fortunately, the rebirth of Viognier began taking place, thanks to growers in California. In France, the resurrection of Viognier came about with the help o
Today, Condrieu has close to 135 hectares planted with vines! Condrieu is located not far from Cote Rotie only produces white wine from Viognier grapes.
The Condrieu vineyards are distributed into 7 communes. The entire appellation of Condrieu is small, with only 135 hectares of vines. Condrieu has a terroir with mostly steep hillsides packed with mica, schist, granite and clay soils.
The Rhone river also plays an integral part in the environment, helping to add moisture to the vines. Condrieu needs to be made from old Viognier vines.
The wines can be thin, if the vines are younger than 10 years of age. The appellation fortunately has old vines, some of which more than 80 years of age.
To produce the wine of Condrieu, most growers vinify in French oak barrels. Some growers use a combination of stainless steel tanks and oak barrels for the vinification.
The amount of new oak varies from producer to producer, and the influence of the vintage. There is skin contact and malolactic fermentation, which take place in barrel.
The wines are often aged on their lees for some or all of the aging process. The aging period varies quite abut, with ranges from 6 months to 18 months. However, the majority of producers prefer to age Condrieu for 6 to 9 months before bottling.
Condrieu is available as both dry and sweet wines, and of course at some place in the midway point depending on the desires of the producer and the vintage.
Sweet Condrieu can be very sugary, and almost cloying at times. The wines of Condrieu offer notes of ripe, sweet peaches, orange, honey, pears, apricot, flowers and honeydew melon. They are dry, but often taste and feel of sweet fruits.
The wines can provide luscious, and at times, oily textures. For many wine lovers, Condrieu is not a wine for long term aging. The best examples taste better on release or in their first few years after bottling than they do with age. Although, I must admit, I have friends that like them with age. Oh well… more for them.
Everything about Chateau Grillet The appellation of Chateau Grillet, which was created in 1940, is interesting for several reasons. First, only one grape is allowed by law to be planted in the vineyards, Viognier.
Next, and most importantly, only one producer occupies the entire region and perforce, owns the only vineyard and makes the only wine in the appellation, Chateau Grillet.
The appellation, vineyard and winery was sold by Isabelle Baratin in 2011. Chateau Grillet had been in her family since 1825, when it was first owned by the Neyret-Gachet family. The property was purchased by Francois Pinault, the owner of Chateau Latour in Pauillac in 2011, through his Artemis holding company.
Chateau Grillet has quite a long history, as it was cultivated first by the Ancient Romans. There are old ruins of the Romain community within walking distance. The terroir of Chateau Grillet has steep, rocky soils with inclines and terraces to hold in its soils and vines.
Chateau Grillet bears another distinction, it was one of the first wineries in the rhone Valley to produce, bottle and sell their own wines starting in 1830.
The Chateau Grillet appellation is 3.8 hectares of vines. If you think 3.8 hectares is small, prior to 1971, only 1.7 hectares were under vine, making Chateau Grillet the smallest appellation in France at the time.
Chateau Grillet is planted to 100% Viognier. Chateau Grillet, unlike its cousin in Condrieu, has the unique ability to age for decades.
Even though Chateau Grillet and Condrieu are both planted to 100% Viognier, the styles of wine are quite different. You find more sweetness with fatter textures in Condrieu and perhaps more minerality, elegance and the ability to age in the wines of Chateau Grillet.
Chateau Grillet also produces an entry level wine made from 100% Viognier, Pontcin, which comes from vines they own that are planted in the Cotes du Rhone appellation.
All About St. Peray, Wines, Wineries, Winemakers The appellation of St. Peray was created in 1936. There are 64 hectares planted with vines, give or take a few.
The only wines produced in St. Peray are dry white wine and sparkling wine. That is split with about 60% of the wine being made is still, dry, white wine, and the remaining 40% is sparkling wine.
Roussanne and Marsanne are the only grapes allowed by AOC law to be planted in the appellation. The hillside terroirs are mostly granite, limestone and clay soils that face the city of Valance.
That places Saint Peray at the southern end of the Northern Rhone Valley, just below Cornas. St. Peray and Cremant de Die in the Southern Rhone are the only two appellations in the Rhone Valley that allow the production of sparkling wine. Even though Saint Peray is not the smallest region in the Northern Rhone, it’s clearly the most obscure.
As far as being little known, it was not always that way. In fact, during the 1800’s, the top bottles from St. Peray sold for as much, or even more money than many of the best wines from Champagne. In time, the region fell from favor.
A few producers continued working in the region, mostly at the bottom of the slopes, which is moderately easy to farm. But the high costs of cultivating a vineyard, on the steep, terraced, hillside vineyards, which is where you want to be, makes it difficult for St. Peray to become more established in the consumer marketplace.
On the positive side, due to the high cost of establishing a vineyard here, there is room for expansion for growers willing to take the chance and make the necessary investments. But things are changing here as we get closer to 2020. A few well known, experienced producers have started buying land, and making investments in the region.
In 2009, Chapoutier became the first producer in the appellation to produce single vineyard cuvees from the lieu dit of Payrolles and Hongrie.
The Chapoutier Payrolles wine was produced in a partnership with the Pic family that own the famed 3 star Michelin restaurant and hotel of the same name. The wines are both produced from 100% Marsanne that was biodynamically farmed.
The production of the region is almost evenly divided as 40% of the wines from Saint Peray are sparkling and the remaining 60% of the wines are dry white, Rhone wine. AOC laws demand that the sparkling wine of St. Peray be produced using the Champagne methode.
Most of wine made in St. Peray is sold in France. Look for wines from Chapoutier, Jean-Luc Colombo, Tardieu Laurent, Alain Voge, Francois Villard, Yves Cuilleron and Domaine Clape.