The Rhone Valley officially begins in Vienne which is just about 25 miles south of Lyon on the A7. The Rhone Valley is divided between the Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone which are quite different in climate and soils, but they have a few important things in common. They both share the moderating effects of the Rhone River, varying degrees of the cool wind from the North, the Mistral, and certain grape varieties used to different extent such as Syrah and the whites Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne.
Within the Rhone Valley, there are the “Cotes du Rhone” (the “slopes” of the Rhone) appellations which basically flank the Rhone River, and the “new wave” and relatively young wine regions adjacent to the Cotes du Rhone such as Coteaux du Tricastin, Costieres de Nimes, Cotes du Luberon, Cotes du Ventoux and Cotes du Vivarais.
Within the Cotes du Rhone, there are the generic Cotes du Rhone wines which can be made from authorized grape varieties within the larger Cotes du Rhone region of about 100,000 acres, most of which come from the Southern Rhone area. Quality wines come from the sub-regional Cotes du Rhone-Villages appellation (~13,000 acres) and higher quality still from 18 specifically names villages (~7,000 acres) such as Cotes du Rhone- Cairanne, Sabelet and Seguret. The most distinguished appellations due to superior sites and winemaking traditions are referred to as the “Crus” aka growths. There are 15 of them: Chateau Grillet, Cote Rotie, Condrieu, Cornas, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, Saint-Peray, Beaumes de Venise, Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Lirac, Tavel, Vacqueyras and Vinsobres. The Crus also include two fortified sweet
wines from Beaumes de Venise and Rasteau.