Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Rhône Valley Tour December 2017: From Lyon to Avignon - Wine, Food, Culture, History

Picture: At the Pont du Gard 

The Rhône Valley Tour 2018 by ombiasy WineTours will take place from October 15 to 24, 2018. It is already sold-out. It is almost the same group that went on the Bordeaux Tour 2013 and on the Bourgogne Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours.

Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy
Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: From Lyon to Reims - Wine, Food, Culture and History

Annette Schiller: Follow the Rhône river from Lyon to Avignon; visit top wine estates in the Northern and Southern Rhône; delve into medieval history in the former Christian capital Avignon; learn about the Roman times in the Rhône valley; understand the impressionist painters love of the region; do a sidekick to the Bandol region in Provence.

Annette and I toured the Rhône Valley Tour in the last week of 2017. We started in Lyon shortly after Christmas and ended the trip in Châteauneuf-du-Pape on New Year's Day after a phantastic Menu du Sylvestre at the Hostellerie du Château des Fines Roches with the exceptional food of Chef Hugo Loridan-Fombonnet and the great wines of Château Fines Roches.

In October, the tour will end similarly, with a night and a wine-pairing dinner at Château des Fines Roches. During the preceeding 10 days we will visit the wine regions of the Rhône Valley and go as far South as Arles, a commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône department of Provence. The city has a long history, and was of considerable importance in the Roman Empire. The Roman Monuments of Arles are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the impressive amphitheatre, which is still in use today for bull fights. The Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh lived in Arles and produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time there.

Picture: The Wines of the Rhône Valley

Classification of Rhône Valley Wines

Any wine produced in France (and in the Rhône Valley) is sold as an (1) AOC, (2) Vin de Pay/ IGP or as a (3) Vin de France wine. Whereas in Bordeaux or Bourgogne, essentially all wines are classified in the AOC system, this is not the case in the Rhône Valley.

Domaine du Pegau, widely regarded as one of the leading producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for example, produces wines in all three classification categories, including the NV Plan Pegau Vin de France that is available, for example, at Calvert and Woodley in Washington DC for about US$20.

The AOC Systems of the Rhône Valley: Rhône and Other AOCs

The Rhône Valley is dominated by wines produced in the Rhône AOC system. But there are many other AOC systems in the Rhône Valley: Grignan-lès-Adhémar AOC, Costières de Nîmes AOC, Côtes du Vivarais AOC, Duché D’Uzès AOC, Ventoux AOC and Côtes du Luberon AOC.

Wines produced under the Rhône AOC system account for 76% and wines produced under the other AOC systems account for 24% of total AOC wines in the Rhône Valley. The regional Côtes du Rhône AOC wines account for 48% of the total AOC wines in the Rhône Valley, Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC wines for 11%, Northern Crus wines for 4 % and Southern Crus wines for 11%.

Gererally, the premium and ultra-premium AOC wines in the Rhône Valley are produced under the Rhône AOC system, including Hermitage AOC, Côte-Rôtie AOC and Châteuneuf-du-Pape AOC.

Northern Rhône

The northern Rhône is characterised by a continental climate with harsh winters but warm summers. Its climate is influenced by the mistral wind, which brings colder air from the Massif Central. Northern Rhône is therefore cooler than southern Rhône, which means that the mix of planted grape varieties and wine styles are slightly different.

Syrah is the only red grape variety permitted in red AOC wines from the Northern Rhône. For Cornas AOC wines, Syrah must be used exclusively, whereas other reds from the Northern Rhône AOC wine region may be blended with white wine grapes, either Viognier or Marsanne and Roussanne, depending on the appellation. However, while this is allowed by the AOC rules, blending with white grapes is widely practiced only for Côte-Rôtie AOC.

White wines in the Northern Rhône AOC region are made with Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. The white wines of  Condrieu AOC, where only white wines are produced, and Château-Grillet AOC are 100% Viognier. The white wines of Crozes-Hermitage AOC, Hermitage AOC, St. Joseph AOC and Saint Péray AOC, which only produces white wines, are blends of  Marsanne and Roussanne.

Northern Rhône AOCs

From north to south the appellations in the northern Rhône are:

Côte-Rôtie AOC - Reds of Syrah and up to 20% Viognier.
Condrieu AOC - Whites of Viognier only.
Château-Grillet AOC - Whites of Viognier only.
Saint-Joseph AOC - Reds of Syrah and up to 10% Marsanne and Roussanne; whites of only Marsanne and Roussanne.
Crozes-Hermitage AOC - Reds of Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne; whites of only Marsanne and Roussanne.
Hermitage AOC - Reds of Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne; whites of only Marsanne and Roussanne.
Cornas AOC - Reds of Syrah only.
Saint-Péray AOC - Sparkling and still whites of only Marsanne and Roussanne.

Wine Region: Côte-Rôtie AOC

The vineyards are located in the communes of Saint-Cyr-sur-le-Rhône, Ampuis, and Tupin-et-Semons. The vineyards are unique because of the steep slopes facing the river and their stone walls. Côte-Rôtie can be rendered in English as "the roasted slope" and refers to the long hours of sunlight that these steep slopes receive.

The wines are red, made with Syrah grapes and up to 20% Viognier, a white grape used for its aroma. According to appellation rules, Syrah and Viognier must be fermented at the same time, a process known as cofermentation. Because of this combination, Côte-Rôtie wine typically exhibits an almost paradoxical pairing of meat aromas (including bacon) and floral aromas.

Winemaker: Eric Texier

Eric Texier is a passionate winemaker who spent much of his early adult years as a Nuclear Physicist. He is based about 30 minutes north of Lyon. He rediscovered nearly forgotten areas of ancient fame, like Brézème in the northern Côtes-du-Rhône. He has since acquired plots in Côte Rôtie and Condrieu in the northern Rhône, and replanted several hectares in Brézème, with Syrah and Roussanne. He now produces about 30 different wines, from 10 different origins.

Winemaker: Guigal

Guigal is a well-established, large world class producer, including négociant, in Ampuis.

Winemaker: Domaine Stephane Ogier

Michel Ogier is a relative newcomer to the top ranks of the wine-making world: up until 1980 he sold his entire crop, on the vine, to Messrs Chapoutier and Guigal. Since then, he has invested an enormous amount of time and capital in his well-situated 2½ hectare vineyard and now, handed over to his ambitious and likeable son, Stèphane.

Hotel: Le Beau Rivage

Le Beau Rivage is located just 25 minutes from Lyon at the foot of the Condrieu vineyards and on the banks of the River Rhône.

Dinner: At Hotel Le Beau Rivage

Formerly 1 star Michelin restaurant.

Lunch: At Relais de Provence in Ampuis

Lunch in Ampuis at Relais de Provence 6 boulevard des Allees, 69420 Ampuis

Wine Region: Hermitage AOC

Tain-l'Hermitage is located on the left bank of the Rhône River, opposite Tournon-sur-Rhône. The view from the vine-covered Hermitage hill above the town has attracted many tourists, including Thomas Jefferson.

The Hermitage produces mostly red wine from the Syrah grape; however, small quantities of white wine are also produced from Roussane and Marsanne grapes. The Hermitage hill is seen by some as the spiritual home of the Syrah grape variety.

Winemaker: Maison M. Chapoutier

Maison M. Chapoutier is a world class winery and négociant in Tain-l'Hermitage. Chapoutier produces wine from across the Rhône wine region and beyond, but it is typically their top Hermitage wines, both red and white, that receive the most attention and accolades. Chapoutier's wine labels are distinctive because of their inclusion of Braille writing on all labels since 1996.

Winemaker: Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné

Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné was created in 1834. Over the years, the Domaines Paul Jaboulet Aîné took ownership of the finest appellations of the northern Rhone Valley, including Hermitage and Crozes Hermitage, but also Saint-Joseph, Cornas and Saint-Péray, and later, Côte Rôtie and Condrieu.

In 2006, the Freys, a family of long standing in the Champagne region and owners of Château La Lagune in Bordeaux, took over Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné. Caroline, the eldest daughter of the family, who has a degree in oenology from Bordeaux, works with her teams using biodynamic methods. The VINEUM Paul Jaboulet Aîné in Tain-l'Hermitage creates a cosy and stylish ambiance to discover the wines of Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné.

Winemaker: Chave

The Chaves have been growing vines on the famous Hermitage hill for over 500 years. Gérard Chave took over from his father in 1970 and rapidly achieved megastar status due to the extraordinary quality of his wines. The easte is currently under the helm of University of California Davis graduate Jean Louis Chave, although his father Gerard still plays an active role.

The Chaves own 15 hectares of vines on the Hermitage and crucially their Hermitage holding is spread across 9 of the 18 climates on the hill (incl. Les Bessards, the adjucent Le Méal, Les Roucoles, Maison Blanche and the monopoles L'Hermite and Peléat). This means that they can produce a blend which reflects the separate "terroirs" of the climates and is a perfect balance between aromatic complexity, power and finesse.

The grapes are partially de-stemmed and then fermented in a combination of open wooden vats and cement cuves. The wine is matured in a combination of large wooden foudres and small wooden casks (a proportion of which will be new) for 12-18 months. All Chave wines are bottled unfiltered.

J.L. Chave Sélection is the exclusive négociant label of Jean-Louis Chave, the doyen of Hermitage wine, and offers the perfect solution for those who adore the great wines from this appellation but not the price tag of Chave’s main label.

Southern Rhône

The southern Rhône sub-region has a more Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot summers. Drought can be a problem in the area, but limited irrigation is permitted. The differing terroirs, together with the rugged landscape which partly protects the valleys from the Mistral, produce microclimates which give rise to a wide diversity of wines.

A feature of the cultivation of the region is the use of large pebbles around the bases of the vines to absorb the heat of the sun during the day to keep the vines warm at night when, due to the cloudless skies, there is often a significant drop in temperature.

In the Southern Rhône AOC wine region, Grenache-based blends are the rule for red wines, mostly complemented with Syrah nd Mourvèdre. Generally for red and rosé wines, Grenache must constitute at least 40% of the blend.

For Vacqueras AOC wines, Grenache must constitue at least 50% of the blend and Syrah and or Mouvedre for not more than 20%.

For Gigondas AOC red wines, there is a maximum of 80% for Grenache and a minimum of 15% for Syrah nd Mourvèdre.

For white wines, 15 different grape varities can be used and 80% of the grapes must be made up of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, and Viognier.

The southern Rhône's most famous red wine is Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a blend containing up to 19 varieties of wine grapes (ten red and nine white) as permitted by the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC rules.

Southern Rhône AOCs

Souther Rhône AOCs:

Côtes du Rhône AOC
Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC
Côtes du Rhône Villages + village name AOC

Beaumes de Venise AOC
Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise AOC 
Gigondas AOC
Lirac AOC,
Rasteau AOC
Tavel AOC
Vacqueyras AOC
Vinsobres AOC
Cairanne AOC.
Coteaux du Tricastin AOC
Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC

Grignan-lès-Adhémar AOC
Costières de Nîmes AOC
Côtes du Vivarais AOC
Duché D’Uzès AOC
Ventoux AOC
Côtes du Luberon AOC

Wine Region: Roaix

Roaix is one of the 18 communes that is entitled to put Côtes du Rhône-Villages plus village name (Roaix) on the label.

Winemaker/ Hotel/ Restaurant: Domaine Cabasse

Surrounded by its vineyard, at the bottom of one of the loveliest villages in France, Séguret, Cabasse is a hotel/ restaurant/ domaine. The Hotel, 23 double rooms, has just been renovated. Each room enjoys a private bathroom, TV and telephone. All rooms on the first floor have a private terrace or a balcony, where you can enjoy the generous sun of the south and the cool evening air. A small path bordered by lavender and olive groves leads you down to the covered pool.

Wine Region: Séguret

Séguret is one of the 18 communes that is entitled to put Côtes du Rhône-Villages plus village name (Séguret ) on the label. It is a most beautiful village. It demands strong legs and a good pair of lungs. Narrow alleys, little stone houses, tiny sun-drenched squares… it is a place that has preserved all its ancient charm.

Wine Region: Sablet

Built on a sandy mound from which it derives its name (sable = sand), this village, like its close neighbour Séguret, invites you to take things easy, as you stroll from one little square to the next via winding lanes and curious stairways with unequal steps. Its gently sloping, drawn-out vineyards are planted in sandy soils, decalcified red clays and gravelly pebbles of various sizes. The Dentelles de Montmirail, at the foot of which the village lies, have been the silent witness to Sablet’s rise to fame over the centuries.

Séguret and Sablet are both breath-taking hilltop villages.

Wine Region: Gigondas

Gigondas AOC , at the most demanding level of distinction, is one of the 17 crus that are allowed to be recognized by their village name without requiring the mention of Côtes du Rhône on the label.

Winemaker: Château de Saint Cosme

Château de Saint Cosme is the leading estate of Gigondas and produces the appellation’s benchmark wines. Wine has been produced on the site of Saint Cosme since Roman times, evident by the ancient Gallo-Roman vats carved into the limestone below the château. The property has been in the hands of Louis Barruol’s family since 1570. Henri and Claude Barruol took over in 1957 and gradually moved Saint Cosme away from the bulk wine business. Henri was one of the first in the region to work organically beginning in the 1970s. Louis Barruol took over from his father in 1992, making a dramatic shift to quality, adding a négociant arm to the business in 1997, and converting to biodynamics in 2010.

Wine Region: Vacqueyras

Vacqueyras became AOC Côtes du Rhône in 1937 and as late as 1990, Vacqueyras was granted its own AOC, the first in the region since Gigondas in 1971. Located only a few kilometers south of Gigondas, Vacqueyras shares much of the same terroir. The bulk (97%) of the wine is red.

Winemaker: Bulk Wine in Vacqueyras

Wine Region: Tavel AOC

Tavel wines are all rosé wines and must have a minimum alcohol content of 11%. The 933 hectares are located west of Avignon, across the Rhône River.

Wine Region: Lirac AOC

Lirac is located in the low hills along the right bank of the Rhône river, bordering on the neighbouring cru of Tavel AOC, a rosé-only cru in the next village. Lirac is one of the 13 crus of the Rhône AOC system. On the opposite river bank is the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape region.

Winemaker: Domaine Martinelle

The German Corinne Faraval is the other half of husband Thierry who makes great Gigondas at Domaine la Bouissière. She runs her own estate, which is one of the leading micro-estates in the Ventoux. “Corinna Faravel has established herself among the young talents of the region, with her wines that are both savory and generous. The vines, in AOC Beaumes de Venise and AOC Ventoux, are situated in the communes of Barroux and Suzette amid beautiful surroundings. The 2009 vintage saw the first vinification in Corinna’s new cellar, an excellent cave that will allow her to work in the way she has always wanted. The wines are very rich and concentrated, with an extremely expressive bouquet and a rich, intensely creamy texture.” Bettane & Desseauve, Grand Guide des Vins de France 2012

The Romans in the Rhône Valley

From the 1st-century for 500 years France, like much of western Europe, was ruled by Rome. Their kingdom was powerful and the Romans left a lasting legacy of their civilization in the cities of France, or Gaul, as it was then. Throughout France you find a wealth of Roman ruins and sites, of amphitheaters which once resounded to the roars of the crowds watching the games, of aqueducts that carried precious water, of temples, forums, arches and baths. Most of the Roman remains are in the south of France, in the Provence which lay so close to the Roman Empire and Rome itself.
The Rhône corridor was the main trade route from Mediterranean lands into Gaul.

Arles, Nîmes and Orange form a tight group of cities at the southern end of the valley, all of them Roman coloniae (privileged cities) with exceptional series of monuments. Nîmes houses perhaps two of the best-preserved structures in the Roman world: the ‘Maison Carrée,’ a classical temple built under the first Roman emperor Augustus, and a late 1st-century ad amphitheatre. Most famously, Nîmes was supplied by a long aqueduct which included the world-famous, triple-tiered Pont du Gard aqueduct. Arles rivalled Nîmes, with an amphitheatre of similar dimensions, a theatre and a great circus for chariot-racing. Orange is famous for its theatre with a huge 37m-high stage wall and the exceptionally complete, early 1st-century ad triumphal arch.

In the late Roman period Arles became one of the most important cities of Roman Europe and a fine set of baths built under the first Christian emperor Constantine I (306–37) survives along with evidence for the growth of Christianity in its churches and cemeteries.

With the fall of the western Roman empire in the fifth century interest in the wine of the region disappeared.

The Rhône wine region re-appeared in the 13th century when the Popes and their considerable purchasing power moved to Avignon, at which time the production of wine expanded greatly. The wines were traded to such a degree that the Duke of Burgundy banned import and export of non-Burgundian wines.

In 1486 Provence was legally incorporated into France.


Vaison-la-Romaine is famous for its rich Roman ruins, medieval town and cathedral. The historic section is in two parts, the Colline du Château on a height on one side of the Ouvèze, the "upper city" and on the opposite bank, the "lower city" centered on the Colline de la Villasse. What makes Vaison-la-Romaine so unique is the possibility to see the antique, medieval and modern towns within the same environment, 2,000 years of history. With four theaters, numerous exhibitions and galeries, Vaison-la-Romaine is also renown for its art scene. Many writers, painters and actors live in the area.


Orange, a few miles north of Châteuneuf-du-Pape at the gates to Provence, is famous for its theatre with a huge 37m-high stage wall and the exceptionally complete, early 1st-century ad triumphal arch.


Nîmes houses perhaps two of the best-preserved structures in the Roman world: the ‘Maison Carrée,’ a classical temple built under the first Roman emperor Augustus, and a late 1st-century ad amphitheatre.

Pont du Gard

Most famously, Nîmes was supplied by a long aqueduct which included the world-famous, triple-tiered Pont du Gard aqueduct.

Wine Region: IGP Wine Pont du Gard

The vineyards of the Pont du Gard region are classified as IGP Coteaux du Pont du Gard.


Arles rivals Nîmes, with an amphitheatre of similar dimensions, a theatre and a great circus for chariot-racing. In the late Roman period Arles became one of the most important cities of Roman Europe and a fine set of baths built under the first Christian emperor Constantine I (306–37) survives along with evidence for the growth of Christianity in its churches and cemeteries.

The Popes in the Rhône Valley


Between 1309 and 1377, during the Avignon Papacy, seven successive popes resided in Avignon and in 1348 Pope Clement VI bought the town from Joanna I of Naples. Papal control persisted until 1791 when, during the French Revolution, it became part of France.

The historic centre, which includes the Palais des Papes, the cathedral, and the Pont d'Avignon, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The town is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts.

Wine Region: Enclave des Papes

The Enclave was founded in 1317 when Pope John XXII bought Valreas for the papacy of Avignon. Over the next 150 years or so his successors added to the Enclave by the addition of the small towns of Visan, Richerenches and Grillon.

The Comtat Venaissin

The Comtat Venaissin is the former name of the region around the city of Avignon. The Comtat was an enclave within the Kingdom of France, meaning it was independent from the Kingdom until the French Revolution. The Comtat was bequeathed by the Count of Poitiers to the Pope in 1271. The name comes from Venasque, the former capital, until it was replaced by Carpentras in 1320.

The city of Avignon, until then a distinct Comtat was sold by Jeanne de Provence to the Pope in 1348. At that date, the two comtats were joined to form one Papal enclave.

It is also worth mentioning that the Comtat became an haven for French Jews, who received better treatment under papal rule than in the rest of France. The oldest synagogue in France, built in the 14th century, is in Carpentras.

Although the Comtat was many times invaded by French troops in the 17th and 18th centuries, only the French Revolution brought the Comtat into the Vaucluse départment on August 18, 1791.

The enclave’s inhabitants did not pay taxes and were not subject to military service. This explains that living in this area was definitely more attractive than the rest of France.

The Synagogue de Carpentras is located Place Maurice Charretier, 84200 Carpentras.

Wine Region: Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is about 12 kilomeres north of Avignon. Almost all the cultivable land is planted with grapevines. A ruined medieval castle sits above the village and dominates the landscape to the south. It was built in the 14th century for Pope John XXII, the second of the popes to reside in Avignon.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most renowned appellations of the southern part of the Rhône Valley. Vineyards are located around Châteauneuf-du-Pape and in the neighboring villages Bédarrides, Courthézon and Sorgues between Avignon and Orange and cover slightly more than 3,200 hectares.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape exists as red and white wine, with the large majority of the wines produced being red. The appellation rules do not allow rosé wines to be made.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is traditionally cited as allowing thirteen grape varieties to be used, but the 2009 version of the AOC rules in fact list eighteen varieties. Red varieties allowed are Cinsaut, Counoise, Grenache noir, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Piquepoul noir, Syrah, Terret noir, and Vaccarèse (Brun Argenté). White and pink varieties are Bourboulenc, Clairette blanche, Clairette rose, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Picardan, Piquepoul blanc, Piquepoul gris, and Roussanne.

Both red and white varieties are allowed in both red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are no restrictions as to the proportion of grape varieties to be used. Most Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are blends dominated by Grenache, which accounts for about 3/4 of the total vinyard surface, followed by Syrah (10.5%) and Mourvèdre (7%).

Hotel/ Restaurant/ Winemaker: Château des Fines Roches

Château des Fines Roches is not just a winery but also a luxery hotel in a castle that was built in the 1800's. We will stay there during our last night and will have a wine tasting dinner there, prepared by Chef Hugo Loridan-Fombonne. The hotel, owned by the Mouset family, is leased to Laurent and Martine Zennaro, who run the hotel and restaurant. They are lovely hosts. 

A Fairy Tale Castle: You will enjoy a unique stay in this atypical castle. Both fantasy and medieval neo Provencal style, built high on a hill surrounded by vineyards. Our **** hotel enjoys exceptional views of the Papal Palace and the Alpilles, offering timeless moments to rest and relax.

The founder of the Mousset "empire" was Louis Mousset. In the 1930's he bought Chateau des Fines Roches and made it the centre of his wide spread activities.

After the death of Louis Mousset his possessions were inherited by his three children, Jacques, Guy and Catherine. The Château is owned by all the descendents of Louis Mousset.

Catherine who inherited the vineyards of Fines Roches and her heirs have the right to use the name as a wine brand.

Catherine Mousset married Robert Barrot and their part of the inheritage was named Vignobles Mousset-Barrot. Today it's the two daughters of Catherinne and Robert who run the firm.

The vineyards of Château des Fine Roches cover 53 ha. of Chateauneuf du Pape of which 48 ha. are with red varieties.

In AOC Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages, Vignobles Mousset-Barrot owns Chateau du Bois de la Garde with 65 ha.

In 2003 a property of 5,5 ha, Jas de Bressy, was purchased from the Trintignant family. From here a Chateauneuf du Pape quite different from Fines Roches is made..

Winemaker: Château de Beaucastel

Château de Beaucastel is primarily noted for its Châteauneuf du Pape wines produced in a long-lived style. For its red Châteauneuf du Pape, Beaucastel includes all 13 grape varieties that are traditionally part of the blend, and uses a higher-than-usual proportion of Mourvèdre. Château de Beaucastel holds a total of 130 hectares of land, of which 100 hectares is planted with vineyards, three-quarters of which is within the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation.

In 1909, the property was bought by Pierre Tramier. After him, his son-in-law Pierre Perrin took over, and expanded Château de Beaucastel's vineyard holdings considerably. The property has stayed in the Perrin family since. After Pierre Perrin, Becaustel was managed by Jacques Perrin until 1978, and after that Jacques' sons Jean Pierre Perrin and François Perrin.

In 1990 Jean-Pierre and François Perrin in collaboration with wine importer Robert Haas founded Tablas Creek Vineyard within the California viticultural area of Paso Robles.

Beaucastel generally vinfies the components for its wines in large, old barrels (foudres), with only Syrah exposed to some new oak. The different grape varieties are vinified separately and later blended.

A somewhat contentious aspect of Beaucastel winemaking is that the wines often show Brettanomyces character, which in most cases are considered a defect, but which is also typical for wines high in Mourvèdre.

The Perrin family is also running a négociant business for other southern Rhône wines, Perrin & Fils. This business is separate from Château de Beaucastel.

Winemaker: Domaine Bosquet Des Papes

Domaine Bosquet Des Papes has been in the same family for five generations. In 1860, the first owner, Emmanuel Boiron, bought Châteauneuf vineyards. The parents of the current owner, Maurice and Josette, considerably increased the estate and the father created in 1965 the “BOSQUET DES PAPES” domain, extending then over 25 hectares of Châteauneuf du Pape vineyards. In 1995 the current owner joined the family business while acquiring 3 hectares of Côte du Rhône and 4.5 hectares of Châteauneuf du Pape vineyards.

Winemaker: Domaine du Pegau

The Feraud family of Domaine du Pegau, including daughter Laurence and the father Paul, are fervent proponents of the most traditional wine-making style of Provence and Rhone. It is widely regarded as one of the leading producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Paul Feraud brought Domaine Pegau into the modern age when he began to bottle his own wine from the production of a small 5 hectare parcel in Châteauneuf du Pape. Prior to that date, the production was sold to negociants.

The current Châteauneuf du Pape vineyards of Domaine du Pegau total 18.5 hectares of red wine grapes and 1 hectare for white wine. The vineyards are located in different areas of Châteauneuf du Pape in a total 11 different parcels. Their best vines are located on the plateau pf La Crau. They also own 6 hectares of Vin de France vineyards. This traditionally managed, Domaine du Pegau estate produces 3 red Châteauneuf du Pape wines and one white wine, as well as vin de table wines.

Pegau’s wine production also includes 2 negociant labels.

Winemaker: Domaine Grand Veneur

Domaine Grand Veneur is owned by the Jaume family. The Jaume family first planted vines, under the label Grand Veneur, in 1826. Five generations later, in 1979, Alain and Odile Jaume took over. Today, the vineyard area of Domaine Grand Veneur totals 16 hectares. The Jaume family holds five brands. The acquisition of Domaine de la Grangette Saint Joseph in 2015 took the total area owned by Alain Jaume in the southern Côtes du Rhône to over 200 hectares:

Domaine Grand Veneur in Châteauneuf du Pape
Domaine du Clos de Sixte in Lirac
Chateau Mazane Vacqueyras
Domaine de la Grangette Saint Joseph at Jonquières in the Vaucluse (Côte du Rhône Appellation)
Alain Jaume

Winemaker: Vieux Télégraphe

Vieux Télégraphe is one of the most renowned estates of the Southern Rhône. Vieux Télégraphe is a large estate and there are about 45 hectares of red grapevines planted. The estate’s vineyards, 60 years old on average, are planted on the celebrated Plateau of La Crau, a site renowned for grape-growing in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Blessed with one of the finest locations in the area, the particularly hot microclimate is such that the Bruniers, owners of the estate for almost a century, are able to harvest as much as a week ahead of their neighbours. Vieux Télégraphe's blend is a typical one, with Grenache accounting for around two thirds, the rest being made up of Syrah and Mourvèdre in roughly equal proportions, and a tiny bit of Cinsault.


While the tour later this year will focus on the Northern and Southern Rhône Region wines, we will also break out into the Provence. Ever since Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence" made it into the international best-sellers list, Provence, the south-eastern region of continental France, has held a special fascination for travellers from all over the world.

The Provence extends from the left bank of the lower Rhône River to the west to the Italian border to the east, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It largely corresponds with the modern administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur,

The Romans made the region into the first Roman province beyond the Alps and called it Provincia Romana, which evolved into the present name.

It was ruled by the Counts of Provence from their capital in Aix-en-Provence until 1481, when it became a province of the Kings of France. While it has been part of France for more than five hundred years, it still retains a distinct cultural and linguistic identity, particularly in the interior of the region.


It has been immortalised by Cezanne and Van Gogh and is one of the most typical elements of the Provençal landscape and culture.

Patience is required to cultivate this symbol of peace, wisdom and perseverance (it can withstand anything or almost anything, it can grow in arid soil, and is vulnerable only to extreme freezing conditions).

It is also one of the most powerful symbols of the South and of Provencal gastronomy.

Les Baux de Provence

Les Baux-de-Provence is a commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône. It has a spectacular position in the Alpilles mountains, set atop a rocky outcrop that is crowned with a ruined castle overlooking the plains to the south. Its name refers to its site: in Provençal, a bauç is a rocky spur. The name bauxite (Aluminium ore) is derived from the village name when it was first discovered there.

It has been named one of the most beautiful villages in France.

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