The Rhône, which is over 800 kilometres long, is one of the most important wine rivers in the world. Like all watercourses, it has a positive effect on viticulture or creates the conditions for it by forming sometimes very steep valley slopes. The river has its source at the Furka Pass as a glacial stream in the Swiss Alps of Uri, flows through the canton of Valais and Lake Geneva under the name Rotten, crosses the French border, turns south from Lyon and flows into the Mediterranean Sea south of Arles-sur-Rhône. The Greeks founded the city of Marseille (Massilia) on the mouth of the Rhone in the 6th century BC and brought the vine into the valley. Also the Celts (Gauls) already practiced viticulture in the two appellations Côte Rôtie and Hermitage (Crozes-Hermitage). Allegedly they taught the Romans the art of grafting the vines.
The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (23-79) reports about a grape variety Allobrogica, which was allegedly cultivated here by the Celtic tribe of the Allobroger. At the beginning of the second century the area became part of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis. Roman viticulture is testified by many finds of amphorae, statues of the wine god Bacchus and mosaics with wine motifs. Many exhibits are on display in the "Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine" in Lyon. At the beginning of the 14th century, the papal court was moved to Avignon, where seven recognised popes reigned from 1309 to 1377. This resulted in a strong impulse for viticulture, because most of the wine at the papal table came from the Rhône valley. The name Châteauneuf-du-Pape was derived from the castle of Pope John XXII (1245-1334), which he had built as a summer residence north of Avignon.
The Rhône wine growing region or "La Vallée du Rhône" refers to the approximately 200 kilometre stretch from Lyon in the south to Avignon in south-east France. On both sides of the Rhône and its tributaries there are about 80,000 hectares of vineyards spread over the six départements of Ardèche, Drôme, Gard, Loire, Rhône and Vaucluse. But only a small area in the far north is in the Rhône and, surprisingly, 70% of the production of its northern neighbour Burgundy comes from this area. For more than 150 kilometres, the Rhône runs parallel to the Loire, which gave its name to the eastern region. The two rivers are only about 50 kilometres apart on this stretch, but flow in opposite directions.
The elongated wine-growing region is divided into "Rhône Septentrional"...