Best Destination Specialist Tour Operator (winner)
Best Coach Holidays Tour Operator (winner)
Best Short Break Tour Operator (runner-up)
See THE FRENCH TRAVEL AWARDS 2012
The magnificent Rhône River has its source in the glacial Massif of St Gothard in Switzerland and pours into Lake Geneva, before making its way through to France through a narrow ravine at Fort d’Ecluse between the Jura mountains to the North and the Savoy Alps to the South. From here the River Rhone works its way down via wide valleys, narrow gorges and marshy flats to Anthon 30 kms from Lyon, where it is joined by a major tributary, the Ain. In the heart of Lyon the Rhone is joined by the River Saone, flowing south from Burgundy, and from here wends its way more calmly for the next 340 kms to the Mediterranean.
The Rhône is France’s largest quality wine region after Bordeaux, so wine touring in the Rhone is a wonderful experience. The Northern Rhône vineyards start just around Vienne and then the Southern Rhône starts again at Avignon. In the Northern Rhone the red grape is Syrah and the main white Viognier. In the Southern Rhone, a veritable hodge-podge of varieties is planted. Reds include Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedve, Syrah, Carignan and Cabernet.
The Northern Rhône includes the world-class vineyards of Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Crozes Hermitages, Condrieu, St Joseph and Cornas whilst the Southern Rhône is dominated by the famous appellation of Chateauneuf du Pape as well as the regions that over the past few years have really shot to stardom, of Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Beaumes de Venise.
Of course there are numerous beautiful towns to visit steeped in history, as the Rhône was once the most important economic and political route in the development of Western Europe. The Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans all used the river as their route into the country and beyond, preferring to navigate the river, as far as Lyons, then continue across Gaulle by horse and cart or on foot rather than face the seas beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. The long succession of traders built the first elegant cities of the West and many of the most significant events in French history took place in the Rhone. Towns to visit include Avignon (for its half-built bridge and Palais des Papes), Orange and Nimes (for the Roman amphitheatres), Les Baux-de-Provence, Vienne and Tournon. You should also not miss a visit to the magnificent Roman Pont du Gard in the Southern Rhone.
For the wine and food tourist, Lyon is a gastronomic capital with many great Michelin starred restaurants and traditional wine bars called “bouchons” to be found in the labyrinth of streets in the fascinating Medieval quarter. Indeed this is the home of Triple Michelin chef Paul Bocuse, the father of Nouvelle Cuisine.When visiting the Northern Rhone make sure you have a taste of local specialities such a s a plate of Charcuterie, game page, Saddle of Hare in Cream Sauce, Quenelles of Pike, Bresse chicken, wild mushrooms, truffles …
In the Southern Rhone, the cuisine is pronencal and based on olive oil. You’ll find traditional strong stews such as Daubes, classic fish dishes such as Bouillabaise and Red Mullet and the signature olive spread, Tapenarde. These dishes are sensational with the local wines: The massive Vacqueyras with a Daube for instance perfect!
In 2011 we are delighted that Andrew Jefford, one of the leading wine writers on French wines is escorting our spring Rhone Wine Tour, there is a superb Rhone Vineyard walk in the autumn and our luxury wine cruise calls in for a day’s wine touring in the Rhone too. In 2012 Steven Spurrier is leading our Reserve Collection Wine Tour in September – this is likely to simply be the best wine tour to the Rhone that has ever taken place!
Aix en Provence Opera & Wine
19 - 23 July 2013
Rhone Vineyard Walk
29 September - 5 October 2013
Lyon Wine & City
24 - 27 October 2013
3 - 8 November 2013
17 - 22 March 2013