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Complete Guide to the Northern Rhone Wine Region

Welcome to our complete guide to the Northern Rhone! 

The Northern Rhone is a favorite region among many wine-lovers, so we thought it was time to create a comprehensive guide. If you're interested in continuing your wine education, subscribe to our newsletter. Reading our emails is the easiest way to consistently taste and learn about the wines we can't stop thinking about, without breaking the bank. 

How to use this guide: 

1. Read the previews of each blog post.

2. Click the title links to read the entire post. 

3. Become an expert in the Northern Rhone. 

4. Follow the links in each post to purchase some NR wines. 

5. Become a lover of the Northern Rhone.

(It's that easy!)


Overview of the Northern Rhone

We love it, and based on our sales, we’re pretty sure you do too. It’s also a personal interest of mine: this is a region that provides quite a lot of the wine that I drink and cellar. I’m definitely not special in this regard. I don’t think of myself as a trend-follower, but the Northern Rhone is definitely a trend. As a region it ranks up there with Burgundy and Piedmont as one of the wine regions that gets us wine folk most excited these days. If you haven’t paid attention to the region yet, it’s time to start.


Syrah Q&A

Syrah is one of the greatest grape varieties that produces wine.
Here are all your questions about the grape answered.

Guide to the Hermitage Wine Region

Hermitage produces the greatest Syrah-based wines from anywhere. Cote Rotie, maybe even Cornas, might be hipper than Hermitage these days. But, in my mind, it's similar to the way that the wines of the Jura are hipper than, say, Chambertin from Burgundy. Sure, the cool kids drink more Jura, but they never turn down a taste of Chambertin. Because Chambertin is better. And likewise, Hermitage is better than Cornas. It’s probably also better than Cote Rotie.
Hermitage also happens to be the easiest Northern Rhone AOC to understand.

Guide to the Cote-Rotie Wine Region

Allen Meadows, more familiarly known as Burghound, was once asked what wines he likes to drink most from outside of Burgundy. His answer was Cote Rotie. No other region can produce wines that are closer to Burgundy in terms of weight, texture and elegance. If you like Burgundy, you almost certainly like Cote Rotie. 

If you want just one way of explaining this – and Cote Rotie more generally – it is this:  Cotie Rotie is the Northern Rhone in extemis.  Take everything you know about the Northern Rhone, exaggerate it a little bit, and you end up with Cote Rotie. This will be a constant theme as we go about unpacking the AOC for you.


Guide to the Cornas Wine Region

For years, Cornas was just another “value” village of the Northern Rhone, with a reputation more like St. Joseph, say, than Cote Rotie or Hermitage. It was deemed “rustic” and a source for “country” wine. Things have changed! 

 This is a story of a vicious cycle finally flipping a switch to become virtuous. The vicious was the usual story of decline. If people think you make “country wine” they’re not going to pay you very much for it. That makes it hard to invest in improved wine-making or to lower yields. So the wines you end up making really are “country” and the vicious circle continues.

But then somebody flipped a switch, and his name was Noel Verset. He did make country wines. But they were amazing. Soulful and honest, yes, and occasionally even a touch rustic. But, they were magic. A few people started to figure that out, starting with his importer Kermit Lynch, and Lynch’s many followers in the U.S. 


Guide to the Saint-Joseph Wine Region

Every wine needs a purpose. So what is the “purpose” of St. Joseph? 

Is it just some kind of “alternative” to the more famous AOCs of CornasCote Rotie and Hermitage

A Northern Rhone for someone who just can’t afford the big names?

Actually, in part at least, why not? I certainly have found myself studying a restaurant wine list and ending up wandering down to the St. Josephs after deciding that the Cote Roties are too expensive. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But of course St. Joseph – good St. Joseph – offers much more than that. 
Its greatest wines are special in their own right. They come from terroirs that are distinct, though similar, to the great terroirs of the famous AOCs.

Some of them reach heights equal to the greatest wines in the Northern Rhone. This has even been recognized by the market, and there is now one St. Joseph that sells for more than Lafite Rothschild!

Even putting aside those special wines, St. Joseph is able to offer something unique: a Northern Rhone Syrah that typically offers more drinkability, more vibrancy and more liveliness than its famous cousins. 







NYT Wine School: The Northern Rhône

In his latest Wine School, New York Times' Eric Asimov encourages an in-depth study of three distinct Northern Rhône terroirs: Crozes Hermitage, St. Joseph and Cornas. He sheds light on how amazing it can be to see how even the slight differences in climates or soil type can drastically change the character of a wine made with a single grape variety. Luckily, we have all three of his recommendations in stock!