Saint Péray, one of the first nine appellations granted AOC status in 1936, is situated on the right bank of the Rhône, to the west of Valence. The vineyards are situated on the granite and chalk foothills of the Colline de Crussol, at the foot of Crussol castle. This small appellation (+ 73 hectares in 2013) is the most southern appellation of the Northern Rhone. It owes its fame primarily to the sparkling wines (35% of total production) which have been produced here since 1862 on the basis of the champenoise method. The successful production of Saint-Péray Blanc de Blanc is attributable to the area’s cooler micro-climate. Legislation prescribes the exact same vinification process as in Champagne, including the use of yeast from the Champagne region. Although the marsanne plays a leading role here too, the roussanne has a more dominant presence (30% of the vines planted) in comparison with other northern appellations. Other grape varieties are not permitted, and so only white wines are produced. The production totaled 1850 hectoliter in 2013, with an average yield of only 25 hl/ha, only 9% of which is exported.
There have been important developments here too, which have mainly benefited the non-sparkling Saint-Péray wines. A strict pruning policy, rejuvenation of the vineyards, organic processing and modern cellar techniques have all contributed to an overall improvement in quality. Increasingly, the wine is being stored in wooden barrels. Preferably, barrique wine should be allowed some aging time on the bottle (for up to five years) to ensure a proper balance between fruit and oak. The non-sparkling Saint-Péray wines have hints of hawthorn and acacia blossom, green plums and fresh honey. As the wine ages, the riper scents of almonds, creamy dairy and beeswax are revealed. Roussanne-based wine has more minerality and is as a result slightly more complex. A good vintage Saint-Péray can age for 10 to 15 years, provided that the wine has enough acidity, such as those made from grapes grown in chalky soils. Nevertheless, a young non-oaked Saint-Péray makes an ideal aperitif.