The Rhône is divided into two principal wine growing areas - the Northern Rhône and the Southern Rhône. Up until the beginning of the 14th century the Rhône was considered the frontier between France and the Holy Roman Empire. The Rhône River was a massive inland shipping route before the invention of the rail system and the trade route extended to the port city of Marseille. Lyon, which was also known for its production of silk and its historic square, is now a UNESCO World heritage site. Lyon is a famous gastronomy spot and is said to have the highest rate of cafés per head in the whole of Europe. Lyon and Rhône's cuisine is simple and authetic, inspired by ancient tradition and nowadays refined modern French cooking.
The wines of the Rhône are internationally known and at one time were considered some of the very best in the world. They are still very highly ranked and are not to be missed including such names as Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie, Crozes-Hermitage in the Northern region and Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the South. The legendary Syrah which is used to produce many wines in the Northern Rhône was brought to the region by the Romans, whilst the exact date is not precise, certain sources on one hand indicate that it was sometime around 250 AD and others say that the Greeks brought the vines with them from the Persian city of Shiraz. Other historians on the other hand say that the first vines were planted in the area around 600 BC.
The Rhône Valley is enormous - over 200 kilometres in length! If you want to discover the entire valley then you will need to come for at least five days. If you want to discover only one region, either North or South, then you can come for three days. However you must anticipate a very full itinerary as there is so much to see and experience. In regards to the best times to go, there is so much to see and do that you can go throughout the year. The winters are harsh and the summers are very hot.
Rhône Valley is a region of two halves and distinctive viticultural regions that are worth exploring by any wine lover.