On the face of it, the Northern Rhone valley looks like a place where only crazy people would try to cultivate vines and make wine. The hills are impossibly steep, with a stony soil that makes grape production problematic at least. On top of that, the producers have to deal with a harsh wind known as the mistral which whistles through the vineyards damaging the grapes and occasionally ruining the entire crop.

The payoff is that this is where the best Syrah grapes in the world are grown. A bold statement, I know…but you just have to look at the quality and longevity of such classics as Cote Rotie, Hermitage and Cornas to see the benefits of the region.

The Northern Rhone famously produces small quantities of high quality wines, whereas the south is responsible for 95% of the region’s production with a few wee gems and a fair amount of dross. The gems are definitely worth seeking out, and I’ll mention some in a subsequent column, but this week is all about the north.

Cote Rotie is the lighter, more fragrant northern star of the region and is usually a combination of Syrah and Viognier. The Viognier (a white grape) lightens the spicy Syrah and makes the wine more approachable sooner.

Cote-Rotie Les Essartailles Les Vins de Vienne 2016 (Inverarity One to One, £40.99). This beautiful wine can be enjoyed right now with a simple roast, or squirreled away for a decade or more if you have the cellar space…and the willpower. This one is 100% Syrah and is a touch more muscular in the glass as a result.

Hermitage is all about the structure and the oomph of the wine. Oomph being a very technical wine term. This is the pinnacle of Syrah production, and is often emulated but rarely matched in terms of quality in the rest of the wine world.

Hermitage les Chirats de Saint-Christophe Les Vins de Vienne 2014 (Inverarity One to One, £53.99). Sixteen months in good French oak provides the backbone to this blockbuster. Match with a leg of lamb or a game bird.

Possibly even bigger and more tannic than the Hermitage is the Cornas. This is a proper beast of a wine, and really needs to sit alongside an impressive slab of beef.

Jean-Luc Colombo Terres Brulees Cornas 2015 (Waitrose, limited availability at £37.99). This hails from one of the best estates in the Northern Rhone, just make sure you decant before serving. Enjoy!