Wanna Get into Northern Rhone Wines? Here's What You Need to Know

Posted February 26, 2015

Ian Dorin


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One of rising areas for collectability is the Northern Rhone. Separated by a greater distance than you might think from the Southern Rhone, this very vertical growing area makes wines of all kinds, each one as unique as the next. Sometimes it's the direction that it faces that creates a cool subzone (St. Joseph), or it's a matter of rapid terroir deviation where wines can quickly be declassified (Condrieu). Many of the prime vineyards are near the top of the hillsides, which are quite often incredible rocky, and have to be terraced, lending a very distinct look to the vineyards of the region.


Cornas has quickly become a hot bed for collectability. As a new generation has begun to replace retiring winemakers, the winemaking style has, paradoxically, remained the same as it has for years. The only real difference comes in the vineyards, where the farming practices are more rigorous, and more care is taken with the fruit, ultimately resulting in better wines. Many of the “old timers” had some funk in their juice, and the new generation is paying closer attention to this. Cornas always has an iron, rust quality to the wines, as well as rich red fruit character.


Hermitage has long been one of the great areas of the Northern Rhone. With a multitude of incredible single vineyards, each with their own terroir, Collecting Hermitage can feel very similar to collecting Burgundy. The Chave family has long been known for blending great terroirs to make a singular, amazing wine. Meanwhile, the Chapoutiers have gone the opposite direction, making wines expressive of a single terroir. No matter how you do it, both are making some of the best Hermitage in the long history of this great area. Let the arguments rage on, as long as we get to taste all of these wines!

Cote Rotie

Unlike the previous to areas, Cote Rotie can utilize a percentage of Viognier, a white grape, to give the wines more aromatic lift and depth. Guigal has long practiced this, using as much as 15% Viognier in his wines. It's not a forgone conclusion that a vintner will use Viognier, though, as there are plenty of great wines made from 100% Syrah in Cote Rotie. It's long been argued that the best wines stick to one terroir type, and it's an argument that is pretty easily won as well. Single vineyard selections seem to reign supreme in Cote Rotie.


With over 15 years of experience (and counting), Ian has risen to become Wine Director for the Wine Library. He also been featured in the Wall St. Journal, and has regularly been quoted in a variety of wine articles.

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Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chappelle

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$164.97 per btl

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Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne

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$54.98 per btl