Spicy wines, with aromas of thyme, rosemary, herbs and with plenty of fruit and warmth. Almost the same things can be said about the food, plus sun-drenched vegetables, grilled meat, seafood and cheeses. We’re talking about a wine tour to the Southern Rhône Valley!
The Rhone Valley has long been one of our favourite districts. Not least the southern part, around Avignon, on both sides of the river Rhone. Avignon is also one of my favourite cities in France. It is just the right size with many good and excellent restaurants. And of course the imposing papal palace that sits in the middle of Avignon and adds a captivating historic character.
Avignon is surrounded by vineyards, in all directions. Towards the mountains in the east you have Gigondas and Vacqueyras, two charming wine villages, where dynamic and talented producers today make wines of top quality, at very reasonable prices. There are many interesting villages to visit, or try the wines from, on a wine tour.
Just half an hour north of Avignon we find Châteauneuf-du-Pape, one of the great classics of France. And today it is a classic that does not feel faded but full of dynamic winemakers. From the terrace on the Grand Hostellerie du Château des Fines Roches one can sit and have lunch and look out over the gnarled grenache vines struggling in the poor, rocky soil. It is so rocky that you can almost not walk in the vineyard. The stones, les galets, are warmed up by the sun during the day and the heat is then given to the grapes at night and to the wine. The warmth often feels like a soft spiciness.
It’s nice and warm in the summer down in the Rhone Valley and temperatures are often very comfortable well into the autumn. So it is perhaps not surprising that there are numerous organic and biodynamic growers down here. Fungal diseases are not as common as in the north. But despite the heat manage to make wines with a lovely freshness and acidity, a testament to their talent, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Côtes-du-Rhône – a simple bistro wine? Not any more!
Autumn-time is a great period to go on a wine tour here. It can be just after harvest or maybe they are still picking the grapes. At least you have a fairly good chance to experience warm days and balmy evenings on a wine trip here, even in October.
We organise wine and food tours to the Southern Rhone Valley and Châteauneuf-du-Pape where you get the chance to experience the best of both food and wine (and hopefully the weather)!