In 2023 I ran a tour to the Southern Rhone valley, based in Avignon.
We enjoyed two amazing visits in Châteauneuf du Pape.
Château La Nerthe is one of the longest established wine properties in the region with a fascinating history. We enjoyed a succinct history of the estate, saw the water source that surrounds the property and visited the beautiful old cellar where we saw hidden rooms that were only discovered in the 1990’s.
We then experienced a fabulous tasting in a private room in the château. Three whites and four reds, comprising a couple of Côtes du Rhône and the rest Châteauneuf du Papes.
We had visited Domaine Grand Veneur in 2013 so it was a huge pleasure to spend a day there. We were greeted by owner Christophe Jaume who hosted our visit with characteristic aplomb. We took a quick tour through the winery, but then headed out to the vineyards where Christophe gave us a masterclass in understanding the terroir; the soil, the impact of water stress; the influences on neighbouring Lirac and the cultural influences on that appellation have affected its approach to quality and so much more! This was a riveting morning.
La Table d’Alain Jaume gave us an opportunity to taste nine different wines with a four course lunch. A wonderful afternoon unfolded as we tucked into a salmon soufflé, slow cooked beef, Comte and St Nectaire cheese and Café Gourmande. Paired with an absolutely fabulous array of whites, rosé and reds from the estate.
Tavel is an AOC dedicated to dry rosés and renowned around the world for its quality. Our destination was Domaine de la Mordorée, an estate we first visited in 2013. Family owned, this is a highly regarded organic and biodynamic estate. We took a walk through their vineyards, discussed the biodynamic approach and got a great insight into their philosophy. Back at the estate we settled into a comprehensive tasting of white and red Lirac, two contrasting Tavel rosés and a Châteauneuf du Pape. The wines were wonderfully balanced despite maintaining our 15% rolling alcohol average – this was a tour for people who like their wines full bodied!
The village of Séguret is the heart of Côtes du Rhône Villages territory, here we visited Domaine de Mourchon. Owned by the McKinlay family, we had the pleasure of visiting here back in 2013. This estate has a wonderful location situated up a hill above the village of Séguret.
Second generation Kate McKinlay showed us round and it was great to see some of the changes and new developments over the past ten years. We took a walk up the hill to take in some simply stunning views and discuss the newly planted vineyard, climate change, hydric stress and many other viticultural matters.
After a quick tour of the cellar, we crowded round the tasting bar and embarked on a whirlwind tasting of their entire range. As ever, the Mourchon wines are terrific. See the blog for more on what we drank.
Up the road is the AOC Beaumes de Venise where we visited Domaine de Coyeux. Beneath the famous Dentelles de Montmirail, the jagged rock features that dominates the local skyline, Coyeux has recently been taken over and there was plenty of evidence of building work: an exciting winery was emerging. We strolled around the vines, took in the winery with their Belgian winemaker and learnt about the intricacies of making Muscat de Beaumes de Venise before a terrific tasting incorporating both dry Muscat and sweet Beaumes de Venise dating back to 2009, reds back to 2007 and a delicious Gigondas.
Our final visit, en route to Marseille Airport was in the Luberon. At Château La Verrerie we took a wonderful walk into their vineyards which nestle in the beautiful Luberon national park. Surrounded by hills and forests, we were entranced by the passion, humour and energy of export manager Vincent as he took us through the family history and philosophy of the estate.
The Luberon is the last AOC within the Rhône Valley before you hit Provence and it benefits from its proximity to the sea and Mediterranean climate. Similar to many other estates we visited on the tour, La Verrerie are certified organic and produce a superb array of wines.
After the walk in the vineyard we took in the winery and barrel cellar before heading into the tasting room. The wines were a revelation. Utterly delicious whites made from Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Roussanne and Viognier in various permutations, they were beautifully balanced with crisp acidity and great weight and length. Two contrasting – oaked and unoaked – rosés followed and a couple of reds rounded off the tasting. A very pleasant picnic box lunch followed in their courtyard as we absorbed some glorious sunshine before heading home.
L’Essentiel restaurant in the heart of town provided a first night dinner that set the scene for the quality of wine and good we would enjoy, while Le26 restaurant hosted our final night dinner. Our restaurant lunches between visits were at the Comptoir de la Mère Germaine in Châteauneuf du Pape, and the beautiful Bastide Bleu, overlooking the Côtes du Rhone from the village of Séguret
Read more about this tour in the blogs we wrote.