A short guide to southern French white grape varieties
Southern Rhone white varieties: the whites of Provence, Languedoc, the Rhone
Despite lending its name to Clairette de Die, AOC rules limit it there to 25% of the blend, and it’s relatively rare elsewhere as well, with only a few hundred hectares. It is relatively common in Bandol, or at least as much as a white variety can be, but is otherwise mostly found in its native Languedoc and southern Cotes du Rhone.
Acquiese Clairette Blanche 2019
Domaine de la Bégude St Louis 2020
Julien Castell Blanc de blanc 2019 For My Dad
A Rhone variety par-excellence, probably from the Drome, between the southern and northern Rhone viticultural areas. Rarely seen as a single-varietal, usually blended with Roussanne.
A Rhone variety par-excellence, probably from the Drome, between the southern and northern Rhone viticultural areas. Rarely seen as a single-varietal, usually blended with Marsanne
A few years ago, Viognier was on the verge of extinction, a northern-Rhone oddity limited to Condrieu and Chateau Grillet. Today it’s hard to avoid, but quality has gone through the roof in just the past three or four years.
Domaine Gayda Viognier 2020
Domaine Pichat Collines Rhodaniennes Viognier 2019
Relatively unheard of in the Cotes de Provence area, but fairly common in the Luberon, southern Rhone and Languedoc, and allowed as a majority in blends in La Clape.
Chateau Hospitalet Grand Vin 2019
Cavalliere, Bourboulenc 2019
Pretty much exclusively found in Languedoc. Also makes a "Gris de Gris" pale rosé in the western Camargue.
Slightly more commonly found, as it extends well into the southern Rhone
Macabeu or Viura is rarely seen far from the Spanish border, and is primarily found in Roussillon.
Muscat isn’t really local to anywhere - but there’s plenty of interesting wines made from it in the South, whether sweet Vins Doux Naturels or, increasingly, as floral dry whites.
Mauzac is not really found outside of Limoux, where it produces some really outstanding wines, often blended with Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.
This one isn’t strictly a southern variety, but is very widespread (by white standards) in Cotes de Provence, as one of the allowed AOP grapes.
Rolle or Vermentino is a Ligurian and Corsican grape that has been spilling into Provence from Bellet for thirty+ years now, and it’s starting to creep into Languedoc too.
Often excluded from statistics due to its mass-volume planting and yields for cognac, it often feels like a blank-slate variety that allows for winemaking, terroir, and blending partners to shine.
"We’ve hit the southern limit of Ugni Blanc in La Londe, we’ve pulled all of ours up, the acidity just isn’t there" - Jean-Francois Ott
Rare autochtonous varieties
A relatively uncommon one, and only ever really found in Roussillon.
The Bandol blend is Clairette and Ugni Blanc.
The Provence blend is Ugni Blanc, Semillon, Rolle.
The southern Rhone blend is Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne