La Drôme is the region that links Northern wine producers and Southern wine producers together, which means that when you come and stay with us at Les Beaux Chênes you will have an astounding array of French regional wines to taste and fall in love with! It also happens to be one of the oldest wine producing regions in Europe with evidence of vineyards throughout the Rhône valley dating back to the 5th century B.C.
Did you know?
AOC means Appellation d’Origine Controlée and AOP means Applellation d’Origine Protégée. Both acronyms are used to signal that a wine is from an officially certified wine region. The certifying body is called the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO) and is an important part of the French Ministry of Agriculture.
Here are a few wines that we definitely suggest trying on your holiday with us at Les Beaux Chênes:
Grignan Les Adhémar (AOC-AOP)
These wines are produced in 21 communes in the northern part of La Drôme by 307 gorwers and 49 private wineries. The vineyards are spread in a triangle between three beautiful towns- Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, Montélimar and Grignan. These are three of the most pitturesque towns in the region, all chock full of history and gorgeous French architecture. So we highly recommend taking a trip to visit both a vineyard for some wine tasting and as many of the three villages as possible!
As the Grignan Les Adhémar wines are grown in a really interesting transitional region, with a range of different soil types and climates, so they are truly a delicious combination of continental French wine and Mediterranean wines. The AOC and AOP wines produced under this name are mostly red wines (95%) and are incredibly varied as a result of the diverse landscape. The reds combine the easy-drinking smoothness of the Grenach grape with a little punch from the Syrah grapes. You can also find a lovely range of white and rosé wines from this region.
A great vineyard to visit for a lovely example of these wines is, Domaine de Montine just next to Grignan. The Domain will give you a tour of the winery, including the ‘caves’, followed by a wonderful wine tasting. They also offer brilliant carriage tours that take you around their domain, with stunning views of Grignan and the château. As well as special tours based around truffles, which are a local speciality and which they also grow!
Of course you’ve heard of Côtes du Rhône. It’s one of the most popular French wines and for good reason. But did you know that there are regional Côtes du Rhône? And down here, near us in Pont-de-Barret you can find some stupendous producers of Côtes du Rhône Provençal.
Brézème Côtes du Rhone
Where the Grignan Les Adhémar wines are broad and diverse, Brézème wines are only produced in a very small area around the town of Livron-sur-Drôme by small private producers. This makes Brézème Côtes du Rhône wines very rare and a real treat!
The wines, which are mostly reds, are distinctive because of the unusual combination of soil and climate in this tiny spot around Livron. The Brézème vineyards are unique in that they have all been placed in an amphitheatre-like hollow that gives them optimal sunshine year round. And they also benefit from being close to the Rhone and Drôme rivers so the soil is very rich.
Château la Rolière is a great, independent winery that you can visit to taste these very special local wines. Or you could try Le Caviste in Livron, which holds wine tasting sessions every Saturday for locals and visitors. We think you’ll really enjoy how spicy and full the red wines are with a slight smokey taste which is the trademark of Brézème wines. Or, in the summer, try one of the few white wines from this region, perfect as a fresh, citrusy apéritif or paired with a strong comté and some baguette!
Hermitage Côtes du Rhône
This Côtes du Rhône is legendary, in the both the culinary and literal sense. Hermitage is an iconic strong, memorable red wine with distinctive, earthy flavours and hints of berries and coffee. The high level of tannins, which give Hermitage it’s powerful flavour, also mean that it is often aged for a long time, often cellared for up to 40 years. An unaged Hermitage would taste too raw; it’s only after it’s matured that it gains a smooth, warm texture and finish.
Hermitage wines also have a remarkable history attached to them. Legend has it that in 1224, a knight- Gaspard de Stérimberg- returned wounded from a crusade and was given permission by the Queen of France to build a small refuge where he could recover. Gaspard chose a hill overlooking the Rhône, across from what is now the village of Tournon-sur-Rhone. Here he built a home (and a chapel to Saint Christopher, which still exists today) and retreated from the world, becoming a hermit, hence the origin of the name ‘Hermitage’. To keep him occupied, he turned the rocky, sun drenched hillsides into vineyards, which, some say, are the birth place of Syrah grapes. The incredible southern exposure is what makes Hermitage wines so remarkable.
Today the Hermitage wine region extends out to the town of Tain L’Hermitage and produces over 750,000 bottles of wine a year!
The Diois wines
We couldn’t write about local wine without mentioning the Diois wines- one of the few varieties of sparkling white wines in France.
The most famous example of Diois sparkling wines is the Clairette and Crémant de Die, produced in the small town of Die about an hour’s drive away from Les Beaux Chênes.
We suggest visiting the Jaillance winery for an excellent tour of their wine caves and an excellent explanation of the history of the wine production in the area. Then you can spend a happy hour in their Bubbles bar tasting the range of Diois sparkling wines!
Don’t forget to also try out some of our lovely, and very affordable ‘Vin de Pays’, which means ‘country wine’ in French. The ‘Vin de Pays’ are simply the wines produced with blends of different wines produced in the area, so while they are delicious they can’t be given the AOC and AOP designations. The advantage is that this makes them cheaper!
Book a holiday or long weekend with us on the weekend of the 20th-22nd October and you will get to visit the ‘Fascinant Weekend des Vignobles et Découvertes’, when most of the local wineries put on events like a Blues night with wine tasting!