In the Old World, grape varieties evolved alongside the regions from which they were grown which is why many European wines are known by their region, rather than grape variety. The Rhône, a major river in France, lends its name to the southern French wine region on its banks, the Rhône Valley. Different varieties of grapes that grow in this region – Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, and Roussanne – are often referred to as Rhône grapes, thus wines made from these grapes (regardless of their place of origin) are said to be Rhône-style wines.
In the world of wine, there is a distinction between the Northern Rhône (claiming Syrah as its main grape) and the Southern Rhône (using grapes like Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and others to make red blends). Northern Rhône reds made with Syrah are big, bold, spicy wines with a firm tannic structure in their youth. These wines can be rustic or supremely elegant with floral overtones depending on the appellation. Southern Rhône red blends are based mainly on Grenache and have rounded warm red fruit flavors. They also tend to have elevated alcohol levels and beautiful ripe fruit.