One of France’s foremost wine regions, the Côtes du Rhône boasts diverse natural landscapes shaped by the mighty River Rhône, and a rich winemaking history dating back over 2,000 years. These sun-kissed vineyards in the Department of Vaucluse, in the Southern Rhône Valley, are ripe to be discovered on foot, by bike, in a 2CV or even in a vintage VW Campervan…
The Côtes du Rhône’s capital, Avignon, is known for being the seat of the papacy during the schism, and seven successive popes found time alongside their religious duties to champion local wines. Today, Avignon remains a must-see for any wine enthusiast. Head along to the Wine School at the Carré du Palais to learn all about the Rhône Valley terroir and grape varieties, and whilst you’re there, dine at the restaurant. Here, wine takes centre stage, with the Chef creating gourmet dishes to complement the Chef Sommelier’s monthly wine selections.
Then it’s time to leave the city and delve into the beautiful Vaucluse countryside, where wide expanses of leafy vines stretch as far as the eye can see. Your first stop must surely be the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, home to perhaps the most internationally renowned of all the Côtes du Rhône appellations. If you’re dedicated to fine-tuning your palate, discover the appellation’s many wine cellars with seasoned sommelier and Châteauneuf-du-Pape native Pierre Fernandez. Or if you’d prefer to combine wine-tastings with other activities, hop on a Segway at the Domaine Condorcet, or head off on a 16km bike ride amongst the vines at the Cellier des Princes. Then, it’s time to put your know-how to the test. At Château Maucoil, become a winemaker for the day and concoct your own cuvée.
Vaucluse is also home to two other AOCs: Luberon and Ventoux. The Luberon AOC is the Rhône Valley’s southernmost wine region, set within the stunning Luberon Regional Nature Park. Drawing inspiration from the full-bodied reds of the Côtes du Rhône, the Luberon’s elegant, fresh rosés, flavoured with red berry, make up 47% of production. At the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin (Truffle and Wine Centre) in the charming Provence village of Ménerbes, you can discover two of the Luberon’s most luxurious delicacies at once, with a private tasting or a truffle-infused meal paired with Luberon wines. Another Luberon dining spot is Maison Prévôt in Cavaillon, whose Michelin-starred cuisine is accompanied by an impressive wine list packed with local AOPs including Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Luberon, Ventoux and Gigondas.
The Ventoux AOC, meanwhile, lies at the foot of the 1,909m-high, white-capped Mont Ventoux. Its diverse production ranges from exuberant reds to fruity rosés and golden-shaded white wines. At the Château de la Croix des Pins in Mazan, which produces a range of organic wines across the Ventoux, Gigondas and Beaumes-de-Venise appellations, explore the vineyards in a novel way – on horseback!
Once you’ve entered the magical world of Vaucluse’s vineyards, you won’t be eager to leave – so why not stay the night? With hotels, guesthouses, villas and more set within the vineyards, you can live out every wine-lover’s dream by waking up amongst the grape vines!