Textured Treasures: White Wines from Rhône Valley in France

Summer in the Rhône vineyards in southern France

© shutterstock

Summer in the Rhône vineyards in southern France

Summer in the Rhône vineyards in southern France

© shutterstock

You probably are familiar with the red wines of the Rhône Valley in France: its Grenache- and Syrah-based wines are both spicy and sumptuous. But there are white wines, too. The region seems so predestined for reds that its small proportion of white wines often gets overlooked. Indeed, just 6% of the production in the Côtes du Rhône appellation is white and, if we go a step up, to the appellation of Côtes du Rhône Villages, this amounts to just 3%.

But despite being overshadowed by their red counterparts, the whites are distinct and worth looking out for. Why? Because they are unique and authentic. They are made from grapes which are not that widely grown, and this is what gives them their edge.

Indigenous Varieties

Côtes du Rhône whites combine the attributes of these local, indigenous varieties: think Viognier with its exquisite apricot and peach perfume, think Marsanne and Roussanne with their florality and texture, think Grenache Blanc with its roundness and generosity. Then there are Clairette and Bourboulenc, two varieties that bring freshness and vivacity. In most cases, Côtes du Rhône white wines are blends, occasionally, they are made as single-varietal wines, but they all have one thing in common: body and texture.

Wines of Texture and Generosity

We usually look to white wines for refreshment, but these wines have generosity and richness. All these things destine them for the table – or the picnic blanket if you will. They are no easy, light-bodied thirst-quenchers but wines of substance that actually need food to shine. This also makes them ideal whites for those who struggle to enjoy red wine but want something more substantial – and they are also perfect whites for a cooler evening, as they always carry the southern French sun.

If they are to your liking, you can move to the famous white appellations of the Rhône Valley: Hermitage Blanc and Saint-Péray, based on Roussanne and Marsanne, and Condrieu and Château Grillet made from Viognier – and indeed the white blends of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Falstaff tasted seven white wines from the Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation, see the tasting notes here: