The Rhône Valley is divided into two parts in terms of wine making.
The Northern Rhône extends from Vienne in the north to Valence in the south. It includes the important appellations of Côte Rôtie, Hermitage and Cornas.
Syrah is the only red grape permitted in the Northern Rhône. The white grapes permitted are Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.
The Southern Rhône is centred around Avignon on both sides of the river.
Important appellations include Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Rasteau and Tavel.
Grenache is the most important red grape grown in the Southern Rhône. It is usually blended with other grapes including Syrah, Carignan, Cinsaut and Mourvèdre. White grapes grown include Marsarnne, Roussanne, White Grenache and Clairette. Two appellations in the Southern Rhône also produce sweet white wines.
There are four levels of classification in the Rhône:
Côtes du Rhône
The Côtes du Rhône appellation covers both the Southern Rhône and the Northern Rhône. Wines are often blended from different parts of the Rhône to make wines with this appellation. Most, but not, Côtes du Rhône wines are from the Southern Rhône and a dominated by Grenache in the case of red wines.
Côtes du Rhône Villages
Wines from the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation have stricter requirement than those from the Côtes du Rhône. In particular, for red wines there must be a minimum of 50% Grenache and must be blended with at least 20% of Syrah or Mourvèdre with the possibility of other grapes also being used in the blend.
Côtes du Rhône Villages with a Named Village
This appellation has even stricter requirements than Côtes du Rhône Villages. There are eighteen named villages that can use this appellation eg Côtes du Rhône Villages “Laudun”.
There are seventeen named appellations that have been granted the status of Cru. This is the highest status within the Rhône appellations and includes Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas.
The Cairanne appellation in the Southern Rhône was granted Cru status 2016.
There are eight Crus in the Northern Rhône and nine Crus in the Southern Rhône.