The rugged gateway to Provence
A world away from the northern Rhône in terms of topography, climate, weather patterns, soil types, and grape varieties, the appellations of the southern Rhône begin over 30 miles south of where those of the northern Rhône end. The southern Rhône is flatter in general yet still with notable slopes, and its climate is emphatically Mediterranean, as this area is really the gateway to Provence. The most famous appellation of the southern Rhône is certainly Châteauneuf-du-Pape, whose gutsy Grenache-based wines (although 13 total varieties are allowed in the blend) stem from a distinctive terroir marked by enormous alluvial stones, plenty of sunshine, and very little rainfall. Other villages of the zone are renowned for similar-minded wines: among them Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes-de-Venise, Rasteau, and Plan de Dieu. White wines comprise a small proportion of the southern Rhône’s output, most often comprising blends of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Ugni Blanc, Carignan Blanc, Viognier, and others in varying proportions.