The wines produced in the Vaucluse are some of the best-known wines around the world, wines such as Gigondas, Châteauneuf du Pape, Beaumes de Venise, and Vacqueyras are just some of the most famous names from this region that are enjoyed the world over. Vaucluse lies in the heart of the Rhone Valley and produces the great wines mentioned above and the areas of Cotes du Rhone Villages and Ventoux. The climate of the Vaucluse is Mediterranean but because of the diversity of the landscape, there are variations of cooler parts near the mountains such as Mont Ventoux.
There are many hours of sunlight, but the heat of the sun is tempered by the cool Mistral winds which ripen the grapes slower and add to the complexity of the finished wine. Vaucluse makes predominately still wines, and Grenache and Syrah are dominant together with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that produce the red wines of the region. The white wines are mostly made up of a blend of Chardonnay.
The Rhone Valley
Vaucluse lies in the Rhone Valley, which has been one of the most important hubs of wine production since ancient times. Wine making or viticulture started in Southern France with the Greeks back sometime in the 4th century BC. Then the Romans really developed the culture for wine and established large vineyards dotted about the Rhone Valley.
Rhone Valley Levels
The Rhone Valley is divided into four distinct levels:
- Cotes du Rhone AOC – this level makes up half the production of the valley, and is thought of as the basic level wine. The reds are mostly blends of Syrah and Grenache from a variety of vineyards and the wine production is not strict but only 21 grape varieties may be used. These wines are excellent for everyday drinking and generally described as table wines.
- Cotes du Rhone Villages AOC – these wines are a little more complex with slightly higher levels of alcohol, good for putting down.
- Cotes du Rhone named Villages AOC – there are eighteen selected villages that are permitted to put their name on the label, these include – Valreas, Laudun, Chusclan, Visan and Sablet
- The Crus – the elite of the four levels consists of 18 regions, eight in the north and 10 in the south, these wines are really expressive of their terroir, and are only responsible for around twenty percent of production. These wines are the top of the class when it comes to Rhone Valley wines, they are complex and really in demand by wine lovers and traders alike.
Wines from The Crus are represented by Beaumes de Venise AOC, Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC, Vacqueyras AOC, Gigondas AOC, Crozes-Hermitage AOC, Saint-Joseph and Chateau-Grillet AOC. These grand wines are to be found in restaurants and homes not just in France but all over the world, they conclude the first part of our blog on the wines of the Vaucluse. In part two of our wine tasting we delve further into the individual types of wines and their different characteristics and complexities.