After Montélimar, the Rhône flows towards the south. It gently winds its way to the city of the Popes. The Dentelles de Montmirail sculpt the horizon and Mont Ventoux dominates in the distance. From the hills to the steeper slopes, the vineyard paths are full of wild herbs, olives and truffles. Mythical domains and a new generation of winegrowers, they are the ones who speak best about it.
by Pascale Cassagnes
Botany and beautiful lace. Rhonea develops educational walks around the Dentelles de Montmirail, a real geological curiosity. Here, a winegrower guides the visitor from Vacqueyras to Beaumes-de-Venise, Visan and Rasteau, on the very paths where the vine meets the laurel trees, the oaks and the Aleppo pines. The + : Biodiversity awareness for the whole family.
Rhonea at Beaumes-de-Venise. Rhonea.fr
Gigondas at the top. It is said to be the “Prince of the Dentelles”. Gigondas has been the emblematic appellation of this southern Rhône producer for 80 years. Workshops, tastings and walks to understand these terroirs of limestone scree and alluvial terraces where Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre flourish organically. The + : In a 4×4 with an oenologist to the plots located at 480 meters of altitude, wild and majestic landscape.
Caveau Gabriel Meffre in Gigondas. +33 (0)4 90 12 30 21. gabriel-meffre.fr
Towards the south. It is the jewel of a great Northern Rhône. Owners since 2017, for the first time in the south, Philippe and Eve Guigal give their full attention to the cultivation of the thirteen grape varieties perpetuated here since the 16th century. And also a museum of tools, a family passion. The + : A commented tasting of the great red and white vintages to understand the Guigal style in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Château de Nalys in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. + 33 (0)4 90 83 72 52. nalys.com
The cult of the vine. Marcel Richaud started everything at the age of 17. He took over the family estate, signed his own cuvées, and turned the spotlight on the appellation. This precursor of organic and plot-based wine making is still perfecting his art. You can meet him on the slopes or in the cellar with a view of the Garrigues plain. The + : The walk to the place called Ebrescade which bears the very old Mourvèdres giving birth to the star cuvée of the same name.
Domaine Richaud in Cairanne. +33 (0)4 90 30 85 25
Habemus papam. The Lançon family counts among its ancestors an authentic pope in Rome, Urban VIII. Florent, the eighth generation, makes wines from his 37 hectares of La Crau and the Solitude valley with its rolled pebbles. The + : Go back in time around the Solitude wine, a unique beverage with a Counoise flavour, made as it was in the 18th century, with whole grapes, co-fermentation and long maceration.
Domaine de la Solitude in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. +33 (0)4 90 83 71 45 domaine-solitude.com
At the gateway to the Provencal Colorado. Between Apt and Banon, a valley on the edge of the Luberon. Here, 120 hectares are farmed organically, including 20 hectares of vines. This year, a new cellar, in osmosis with the landscape. You can take a break there with the various vintages and products of the house. The + : Stay in one of the four restored hamlets, swimming pools and terraces with immense views, from the Alps to the great Luberon
Domaine Les Davids in Viens. +33 (0)4 90 04 97 48 lesdavids.fr
In the footsteps of Mistral. The terrace of this 18th century house overlooks historic vineyards. In the cellars, 16th century stone vats with walls 1.20 metres thick, a collection of old vintages from 1929 to the present day. “When the must of La Nerthe vibrates and laughs in the glass” (Frédéric Mistral). The +: Guided tour of the cellars and tasting of seven wines accompanied by gourmet snacks.
Château La Nerthe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. +33 (0)4 90 83 59 04 chateaulanerthe.fr
Architect’s cellar. In his estate designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Paul Dubrule (Accor group, Conseil supérieur de l’œnotourisme), has brilliantly moved from theory to practice. A cellar where you can “enter without being invited”. Cellar with a view, shop with local products, wines from around the world, olfactory bar, tea room, workshops. The +: In fine weather, enjoy a drink on the terrace, accompanied by local specialities.
Domaine La Cavale in Cucuron. +33 (0)4 90 08 31 92 domaine-lacavale.com
The cradle of a dynasty. High place since 1549 and its creation by Pierre de Beaucastel, this estate is one of the three to vinify the thirteen grape varieties. A new impetus was given in the last century by the Perrin family, who have been making their mark in the Rhône for five generations. Visits to the vineyard and cellar. The + : Tasting of white and red Château de Beaucastel with friends, over several vintages.
Château de Beaucastel in Courthézon. +33 (0)4 90 70 41 15 beaucastel.com
Private collection. A 14th century chestnut cask, a 15th century crusher, hundreds of old tools, a scenography created by Jacques Fanet, former deputy director of the Inao, to understand what makes Rhône wines (soils, grape varieties, vinification, etc.) and a zoom on the AOC Châteauneuf du Pape. The +: A 45-minute audio tour followed by a tasting of the reds and whites of the Brotte house.
Brotte Museum in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. +33 (0)4 90 83 70 07 museeduvinbrotte.com
François Dauvergne and Jean-François Ranvier call themselves “creators of wines outside the box” and work with their partner winegrowers in the Southern Rhône. A new vision of the wine merchant’s job that they explain in their new premises open to the vineyards. Bonus: Visit the barrel cellar, the laboratory where the blends are made, and taste some of the vintages.
Dauvergne-Ranvier in Tavel. +33 (0)4 48 24 00 41 dauvergne-ranvier.com
Around a giant pebble. From the castle’s terrace at an altitude of 500 metres, the view goes far. You can also admire the largest rolled pebble ever discovered on the plateau: 502 kilos and 240 million years old. Visit the cellars dug into the rock, in the basement of the bastide, which house nearly 500 oak barrels, and taste the wine. The + : The vertical tasting, to practice distinguishing a young wine from a more mature one.
Château de la Gardine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. +33 (0)4 90 83 73 20 gardine.com
Gourmet culture Visit of the village nestled in its medieval ramparts, walk in the hillsides, discovery of the soils marked by the formation of the Dentelles, grape varieties and cellars of Romane and Machotte. All this with a guide. Next departure Saturday 25 September, 9.30 am. The +: The “50 years of the Gigondas AOC” workshop, with a tour of the village and tasting of old vintages and local dishes.
Pierre Amadieu in Gigondas. +33 (0)4 90 65 84 08 pierre-amadieu.com
Zen at Sannes. To set foot on the blonde dirt path leading to this château, owned by Pierre Gattaz, former boss of bosses, will not be enough. Educational trails, walks with a sylvotherapist, discovering beekeeping, a restored windmill, singing lessons and, of course, a visit to the new winery. The + : Yoga session in the woods. To taste with full awareness.
Château de Sannes in Sannes. +33 (0)4 90 07 78 04 chateaudesannes.fr
The sun sets in the river. With sommeliers as guides, each “Knowledge”, “History” and “Picnic Chic” route takes you through the vineyards bordered by olive trees and truffle oaks – 58 hectares of organically grown Syrah and Grenache – and the cellar with the discovery of a rare barrel-ageing cellar. Master class and wine truck. The + : The vineyards at sunset. Three “Sunset vigneron” evenings in September.
Château La Verrerie in Puget-sur-Durance. +33 (0)4 90 08 97 97 chateau-la-verrerie.com