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Wines of the Rhone Valley

June 2014
The Cellar at Beaucastel

From Chateauneuf du Pape to Condrieu we spent 4 sunny days in the Rhone Valley.  Arriving into Marseilles we went straight to the Roman city of Orange. Our first grand tasting was at Beaucastel, courtesy of Berry Bros. before lunching at the family restaurant in the square at Gigondas.  After checking out the castle and steep streets, our lunch in the shade of the plane trees, en plein air, started with a light fresh turbot, before delicious pink veal almost buried under thick slices of white summer truffles accompanied by a memorable Perrin

L’Argnee Vieilles Vignes Gigondas 2010.  

Moving north Rene Rostaing introduced us to his  Cote Rotie La Landonne 2011, which James Price, our wine guru, described as “An instant step up from the Ampodium. Same house style but with oodles more depth to the fruit and bigger structure.” 

Lunch was at the local vignerons’ restaurant in Ampuis where we rubbed shoulders with the locals and tucked into a glorious white Condrieu Les Terrases du Palat Francois Villard 2012.  The warm sunny evening was spent amongst the the medieval streets of Valence where some of us had space for more food!

Next morning we started the day at Maison Chapoutier where we strolled the vineyards just outside the village, before a sensational tutored tasting watched over by some interesting Australian art demonstrating the breadth of the Chapoutier empire. Lunch included the luscious Ermitage de L’Oree 2010: “Superb nose, could smell this for hours.” James enthused.

With time for a walk in the afternoon, in the evening, with much anticipation, we entered the hallowed halls of the 3 star MAISON PIC where Sophie, France’s only 3 star female chef came to greet us.  We were all entranced and staggered by our dinner; one of the great meals of all time, we all agreed. The dishes burst with flavour and were simply sensational, whilst the presentation amazed us all with its beauty and precision, and the wines were not bad either!  James and the sommelier ‘bonded’ over the bottles and again luscious local wines flowed.

Finally we joined Natacha Chave at her diminutive cave before moving into the nearby vineyards.  Natacha had organised a delightful picnic under the shade of the oak trees.  Looking across vineyards whilst we feasted on local pate and cheese and tasted her small production wines was a charming rural end to our memorable tour of the lower Rhone Value. 

In all it was a varied and eye-opening few days for all, as well as being an enjoyable short break!