Lyon, the third largest in France, has a long culinary history, beginning in the sixteenth century when Catherine de Medici’s Florentine cooks combined their knowhow with fresh, regional produce from around Lyon. Gastronomy still plays a large role in the city today; Lyon now boasts over 1,000 restaurants, the highest per capital in France, so it’s the perfect place to explore local cuisine. Situated close to two of France’s major wine regions, the Rhône Valley and Beaujolais, Lyon wine tasting tours will enable you to pair fabulous wines with Lyonnais gastronomy.
The France’s Capital of Lights, Lyon
Nicknamed France’s Capital of Lights after its light festival Fête des Lumiéres held each December, Lyon is a food and wine lover’s dream destination. Much of old Lyon, Vieux Lyon, and the peninsula, Presqu’île, formed by the convergence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, is protected as a UNESCO world heritage site, as is the Croix-Rousse – ‘the hill that works’, previously home to many silk workshops. Strolling its Medieval cobbled streets lined with elegant hotels particuliers, as the luxurious residences built by its banker merchants in the 15th and 16th century are known, is a wonderful way to discover the gastronomy and wines of Lyon and its environs. Lyon also has its fair share of architectural treasures to discover from the Gothic Cathedral of St Jean in Vieux Lyon to Roman ruins – baths, a theatre and an Odéon – up Fourvière Hill, known as ‘the hill that prays’ thanks to its Basilica which hosts the Fête des Lumières. You can marvel at the Tour Métallique, built to rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris. In fact, its higher than the Eiffel Tower at its top as it sits on a hill. You can also ride the world’s first urban funicular railway in the world.
Discover Rhône wines on Lyon wine tasting tours
If you tire of wandering the elegant streets of one of Europe’s most extensive Renaissance neighbourhoods and darting through its secret passageways, traboules, built to connect one street with another, you can relax in one of the city’s many traditional restaurants, bouchons, for some Lyon wine tasting, paired of course with some delicious local cuisine. Discover the region’s variety of charcuterie and cheeses. Taste the rosette Lyonnaise and saucisson de Lyon or delicious cheeses such as Saint-Felicien and Saint Marcellin. Try local specialities such as Lyonnais potatoes or quenelle – a mixture of creamed fish or chicken, poached and served with cream sauce. Peruse the excellent wine list of the city’s restaurants in search of the perfect wine. Enjoy elegant Syrah and fragrant Viognier from the northern Rhône’s great appellations such as Hermitage, Côte Rôtie or Condrieu. Sip powerful southern Rhône blends from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas or Vacqueyras. Sample refreshing rosé from Tavel, one of France’s few all rosé appellations.
Journey up the Rhône Valley on Lyon wine tasting tours
Lyon is perfectly located for you to explore the Rhône Valley appellations. Venture out into wine country and marvel at the pudding stones of the hot Châteauneuf-du-Pape region in the southern Rhône or voyage up the winding River Rhône itself, through the spectacular vineyards clinging to the steep sides of the hills hemming in the river as it flows down from Switzerland to the Mediterranean.
The wine tourism agency Les Vins Dévoilés invites you to a workshop with a playful dimension to allow you to learn more about the history of the northern Rhône and the southern Rhône. You will handle five rare wines representative of the grape varieties or blends and star of the Tables of the region. The tasting of these wines is, of course, planned.
Follow the Rhône wine region map and discover its appellations and varieties
The Rhône, however, is not exactly one wine region, although wines from the regional appellation Côtes du Rhône may come from both the north and the south. The Rhône wine region map is clearly split into two with the north producing more prestigious wines mainly based on the Syrah variety and the south producing serious quantities of Grenache-based blends. Both subregions also produce white wine, but about 80% of wines produced here are red.
Cradle of Syrah
The steep northern reaches of the Rhône are home to the noble Syrah. The river twists and turns past Côte Rôtie, the so-called ‘roasted slope’, which produces some of the most exciting reds in France. The river turns here and vineyards face directly south-east; catching the maximum amount of sunlight and sheltered from sometimes blisteringly cold north winds, grapes can ripen effectively in what would otherwise be cool conditions. The slopes are so steep in places that winches have to be employed to work the vineyards. Syrah from here may contain up to 20% Viognier, yielding wines with haunting, savoury perfume. The river continues past Condrieu, the spiritual home of the fashionable, perfumed Viognier. Its steep, indented slope encompasses Château Grillet, one of France’s smallest appellations, one of the very few with just one owner. Here a virtual granite amphitheatre provides Viognier with shelter from the northern winds. Continuing south, you pass St-Joseph before reaching the northern Rhône’s other legendary appellation, Hermitage, located on the opposite, left bank of the river. The appellation produces very limited quantities of extremely long-lived Syrah, one of France’s most famous wines in the 18th and 19th centuries. The appellation claims to be the cradle of Syrah, but is also the home of Vin de Paille, an extremely rare sweet white wine produced from Marsanne and Roussanne in very ripe years. The town of Tain l’Hermitage clings on to the side of the steep, terraced hill as the river turns sharply left before continuing south past Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and St-Péray. St-Péray is the other white wine appellation of the north, producing still and traditional method sparkling wines of real finesse from Marsanne and Roussanne.
Scorched Mediterranean landscapes and galets
The Rhône wine region map takes a break before recommencing in the southern part of the valley, which has little in common with north except the river and the cold winds that sometimes blow along it. The vines here are mostly gobelet trained and Grenache – noir, gris and blanche – is the dominant constituent of wines, although numerous other varieties, such as Mourvèdre and Cinsault are permitted in red blends here. Although not considered as noble as their northern cousins, the vineyards here produce the majority of Rhône valley wines, either in the guise of Côtes du Rhône or Côtes du Rhône Villages or more prestigious appellations such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas or Vacqueras. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is famed for its pudding stones, or galets, which are said to retain the heat and reflect it back into the vineyard at night, helping wines here to achieve their high levels of alcohol.
The southern Rhône wine region map also boasts one of France’s all rosé appellations and the fragrant Vin Doux Naturel of Beaumes-de-Venise.
Whether you’d prefer to explore the gastronomy and wine of the Rhône on Lyon wine tasting tours or uncover the treasures of its wines for yourself at its many prestigious wineries, the Winalist team is at hand to design your perfect Rhône experience.
What are the best known grapes of Rhône?
Popular grapes grown in Lyon, in the wine region of Rhône include Syrah, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, as well as Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
How long to stay in Lyon?
If you’re here for a quick visit, then two full days will be enough to see the sights. However, if you want to experience the city in a leisurely pace, then 3 to 4 days is advisable. As mentioned, there are quite a few half-day and full-day tours you can book that can show you the best of what Lyon has to offer, including the gorgeous wineries and vineyards surrounding it.
What’s the best time to book wine holidays to Lyon?
The best time to book your wine holidays to Lyon is during the autumn months (October and September) and the spring months (March to May) for many reasons. One of them being the quieter streets, free from the hordes of tourists, and another reason is the weather. Lyon during the autumn brings cooler temperatures in addition to the significant vibrant foliage and the spring months brings perfect weather to engage in all activities with ease.
How to get in Lyon?
The best airport for those arriving in Lyon is Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport. It’s the international airport of Lyon, located in Colombier-Saugnieu and 25 km east from Lyon’s city centre.