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Friday, 19 September 2014

Rhône visit - part 2, Vinsobres and Valréas

Valreas                                                                         Vinsobres

Monday 15 September.  When we arrived on holiday in Crest the proprietor of our gîte gave us a splendid guide to Rhône wines produced by Inter Rhône. Each appellation has a double page spread, and these pretty diagrams showing the geology of each area head each description.  They are not, as far as I can see, on the website so I photographed them for this blog.

Vinsobres has a rapidly growing reputation having upgraded its status from Côtes du Rhône villages to its own appellation controlée.  I found the Domaine de Deurre in a relatively old Fodor guide but it is still in good shape, and its proprietor Hubert Valayer welcomed us warmly.  This is a busy time of year with the harvest (vendanges) in full swing, but he had time for us and we really enjoyed tasting his red wines.  We particuarly enjoyed 2 reds: a Côtes du Rhône 'les Oliviers' and a Vinsobres 'les Rabasses' - the latter is named from the provençal word for truffles, another speciality of this domaine and others in the area.

On a previous visit to this area, perhaps 20 years ago, we had enjoyed the magic of the views as we climbed the winding road north of Vinsobres towards Valréas.  At each bend the perched village below apears against a more and more dominant backdrop of Mont Ventoux, and despite the misty conditions this time we were still delighted to find the route again.

While Vinsobres is a charming and picturesque village, Valréas is a bustling town of 10,000 people, historically capital of the Enclave des Papes which is a separate corner of Vaucluse in the south of the Drôme département.  But the hillside above the town to the south is still unspoiled truffle and wine country, pocketed with valleys and hidden corners where we found the Domaine du Val des Rois (the same name presumably as Valréas) run by Romain Bouchard and now his oenologue son.  Romain, who returned from his native Brugundy 40 years since to resume control of this domaine, in his family for 9 generations since the 18th century, greeted us charmingly and we tasted a range of reds and a good white in a picturesque caveau.  The red 'Enclave' (named for the area but without the word 'Papes' which is apparently jealously guarded by the prestigious Châteauneuf des Papes to the south - another example of oversensitivity in  French wine circles) was very good and we also took away a couple of bottles of méthode champenoise fizz made from bourboulenc to try later.  This was a really enjoyable visit and rounded out a good day in the Enclave des Papes.  We look forward to returning perhaps for one of their truffle days before too long.

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