The Rhone Valley is a key wine-producing region in the southeast of France. It follows the north–south course of the Rhone river for almost 150 miles (240km) from Lyon to the Rhone Delta (the Bouches-du-Rhône), near the Mediterranean coast.
The length of the valley means that Rhone wines are the product of a wide variety of soil types and mesoclimates.
This division is reflected not only in geography and preferred grape varieties, but also in the quality and quantity of wines produced. The smaller, more quality-driven northern section focuses almost entirely on Syrah for red wines and Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne for whites, while the larger and more prolific south employs a much longer list of varieties. The most notable of these are the red varieties Grenache and Mourvedre, which are combined with Syrah to produce the 'GSM' blend so characteristic of the southern Rhone. While the granite-blessed slopes of the north are paired with a continental climate, the rocky, sandy soils of the flatter south enjoy the warmer winters of a Mediterranean climate.
Prestige is also a key differentiator between the northern and southern areas of the Rhone. The north boasts old and highly respected names, such as Hermitage and Cote Rotie, but it accounts for only 5 percent of the valley's total wine production. The remaining 95 percent is made in the south under less-prestigious, less-specific names. The south is not entirely lacking in prestige, however, as it is here that the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation is located.