Wind, Rocks & Vines.
Often perched on dizzying gradients, granitic and schistous soils form foundations for the steeply sloped vineyards of Cote Rotie and Hermitage. Since the topsoil here is prone to erosion, the construction of terraces is common. The Northern Rhone is subject to greater seasonal temperature differences than the South (hot summers and severe winters), and the Mistral wind also influences viticulture. Blowing down from the Massif Central, it's both a blessing and a curse, reducing yields but also drying the vineyards, so preventing diseases such as mildew from taking hold.
Northern Rhone wine styles & regions.
Generally speaking, the Syrah (Shiraz) based wines are medium to full-bodied, with aromas and flavours of smoke, game, grilled meat, mineral and white pepper. Several appellations permit small percentages of white grapes to be blended into the reds, usually co-fermented. For example, in the Côte-Rôtie, up to 20% Viognier may be added. In Hermitage / Crozes-Hermitage, a total of 15% Marsanne & Roussanne is allowed. St-Joseph may include up to 10% Marsanne and Roussanne. The aim of co-fermenting and blending is to create more fragrant and delicate wines.
While Hermitage is home to the most prestigious sites, including climats such as le Méal, les Bessards, Gréffieux, Beaume and Péléat, Cote-Rotie is a close second. Here Guigal's special bottlings of La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque, (aka the 'La-La wines'), have become some of the most sought-after bottles in the wine-world. Behind the hill of Hermitage are the vineyards of Crozes-Hermitage producing generally lighter and less long-lived wines, although the best examples can approach Hermitage in quality (and be significantly more affordable). Smaller, and arguably under-rated appellations such as Cornas, St. Joseph and Saint-Péray produce full bodied, entry-level, early drinking reds offering a great introduction to the region's style.
Buy Hermitage & Cote-Rotie from Guigal, Chapoutier and more online.
When you purchase Rhone reds from Nicks Wine Merchants you can get them delivered to most areas of Australia. We also taste and rate much of the range and/or offer third party reviews to further guide you in your choice.