Archeological evidence shows that the first vines planted in the Rhône Valley date back to 2,500 years ago. The Rhône did not become a significant producer of wine until the latter part of the 20th century. This appellation accounts for 60% of wine produced in the Rhône region, an area whose production is second in volume only to Bordeaux generic. It extends over 125 miles from Vienna to Avignon.
The varietal that dominates the southern Cotes-du-Rhône is Grenache. Although all wines from this region are blends, it is this particular grape that distinguishes them from wines of other parts of the world. Because of its sensitivity to cooler climates, it is rarely found further north than here. Grenache is a grape with a high level of sugar, and therefore the wine never has trouble attaining a sufficient level of alcohol. It can sometimes be difficult to grow, as it needs eight straight days of nice weather when it is in flower to be properly pollinated. Wines made with the Grenache grape increase in quality when lighter and more aromatic wines from other grapes like Syrah, Cinsault or Mourvèdre are blended with it. Yields are limited to 3.5 tons per acre.
The spectrum of wines created in the Côtes-du-Rhône is broad due to the variation in soils and microclimates within the appelation. Light, fragrant and fruity wines in the Beaujolais style are made here. So are more traditional, powerful wines that are meant to be aged several years before the true harmony of their elements is revealed.