The Rhone Valley is the official elected land of gastronomy. In this area where the endless beauty of the landscape seems to reflect itself in the composition of its dishes, the generous alliance of nature and agriculture brings out some of the finest dishes of French gastronomy. And because a meal is never complete without wine, the Rhone Valley is also home to some of the greatest wines. Isn’t nature well done? En route to one of France’s greatest gastro-vino region!
Even though the Rhone Valley geographically starts a few kilometers south, in Vienne, Lyon is a must see for food and wine lovers ! The historic capital of the Rhone – Alpes, has been, and is always, considered as the French capital of gastronomy. Pioneer of the cuisine des mères (the mother’s cooking), the regional specialities oscillate between family tradition, conviviality and quality.
The city will be a real paradise for charcuterie lovers: platters of rosette de Lyon, a pure pork slicing sausage, cervelais Lyonnais, a brioche stuffed with a mix of sausages, truffles and pistachios and andouillette. Lyon lies between the Beaujolais and the Cotes du Rhone area, home to fresh, light and fruity red wines that pairs marvelously well with the regional food. After enjoying a selection of charcuterie, try the quenelles Lyonnaises, a mixture of creamed fish or meat. It is said that it was king Louis XV’s favourite dish… after tasting it you will surely understand why!
Further south, in Valence, a city surrounded by Crozes-Hermitage (here, Syrah is the main grape variety used for red wine production. White wine from Marsanne and Roussanne is also produced giving fresh and structured wines with citrus fruit aromas), Cornas (producing powerful tannic red wines developing notes of truffles with age) and St Joseph (elegant reds from Syrah with raspberry, blackcurrant and liquorice aromas. White St Joseph develop honey, acacia and apricot aromas. A delight with white fish!).
Food in Valence ranges from poultry, truffles, small handmade ravioli, cheese and chocolate for dessert. La pintade de la Drome ( the Drome guinea fowl) is one of the rare AOC (a French designation of origin) allowed for poultry. A fête du poulet (literally ‘a chicken party’) is held every year in July near Valence in honor of the pintade! Try a guinea fowl served with delicate truffles and a glass of red Crozes Hermitage, delicious!
If you continue your journey further south towards Montelimar, you will enter the beautiful area of the Southern Rhone, home to Grenache. The local speciality here is nougat, a hard and crunchy sweet made with sugar, honey and grilled almonds. It is often enjoyed iced with a poached vine peach and a glass of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, a sweet and luscious golden wine displaying notes of exotic fruits, dried apricots and honey.
Since the arrival of the popes in Avignon during the Middle Ages,grape growing activities quickly developed throughout the Rhone Valley. Cote du Rhone reds are elegant and tannic in the mouth with delicate red fruit aromas. Why not go and try a glass of Chateau Neuf du Pape while you’re there? It’s only a few kilometers away from Avignon! And on the way, you will find dozens of small shops offering a wide selection of AOC olive oil, honey, nougat and other local specialities. Don’t forget to taste the papelines, a delicacy made of chocolate, sugar and oregano liqueur!
Check out our guide to visiting the Rhone Valley and some of our favourite Food & Wine Tours!