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The soil in the Southern Rhone contains large stones that soak
up the sun during the day and act like storage heaters at night
keeping the vines feet warm!Of all the great wine regions of France, the Rhone valley, split into its two distinct parts, provides the greatest choice of styles and budgets. The north is dedicated to the monoculture of Syrah which, the odd splash of Viognier notwithstanding, does here what Pinot Noir does for Burgundy. Dark and fascinating, Syrah reaches its pinnacle here creating great, brooding wines capable of long ageing. Move south and a spread of different grapes comes into play. The hotter conditions are enjoyed by Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and a handful of others as well as Syrah, which combine into variants from agreeably peppery, simple Cotes du Rhone all the way to richly flavoured, powerful Chateauneuf-du-Pape. There are plenty of gems studded into the southern landscape which, also earn special recognition. Lirac, Cairanne and Rasteau are great examples and Domaine de la Mordoree deserves a fanfare all of its own. Chateau l'Ermitage provides a trio of excellent - and excellent value - wines of a quality above their price. White Rhones behave like an esoteric sense of humour; you either get it or you don't. Cuilleron's Viognier brings you the feel of Condrieu without the price.