France: Rhône Valley

East and South of Orange

Gigondas, Vacqueyras and beyond
By Liz Berry MW

This Guide was last updated on 22 February 2010
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Wine Travel Guide: France, Rhone-Valley, East-and-South-of-Orange

Gigondas Vineyards high up on the slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail. © Mick Rock/Cephas.

Wine Travel Guide: France, Rhone-Valley, East-and-South-of-Orange
Wine Travel Guide: France, Rhone-Valley, East-and-South-of-Orange
The map above does not cover the complete extent of this micro-region. On the left its position is indicated within the main wine region.

To see the locations for recommendations in this Guide, use the on-line maps. These fully clickable Google maps allow you to plot routes and print locations.
 

The Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux

The region to the east of Orange includes some excellent vineyard land, and some up-and-coming wine regions. There were more olive groves, and fewer vines, before the devastating 1956 frosts decimated the olive trees. Since then many of the villages changed over more or less entirely to vines, which are more frost resistant. This micro-region includes some of the most exciting appellations in the southern Rhône; Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Rasteau and Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, with some top quality wines produced at the southern end of the Côtes du Rhône too. Rasteau is the only appellation for sweet fortified red wine in the Rhône, with a production of port-like dessert wines from the Grenache grape variety.

The most prominent landmark in this region is the Dentelles de Montmirail, a range of peaks which rise up behind the vineyards of Gigondas, Sablet, and Séguret, forming a backdrop for the vines. Further across to the east you can see the impressive bulk of Mont Ventoux, capped with snow for much of the year, and with some very beautiful vineyard valleys growing grapes on its lower south-facing slopes both for Côtes de Ventoux wines and for the table. These run down to the plain of Carpentras. The north face of the mountain is more abrupt and stony, savagely beautiful. Where the Rhône Valley wine area meets Provence, the beautiful national park of the Luberon is home to the rather more modest Côtes de Luberon wines.

Geography

This region has a dry, hot Mediterranean climate with around 2,800 hours of sunshine per year. Although the Mistral is the prevailing wind from the north, its effect is moderated by the Dentelles de Montmirail range of mountains. The vineyards stretch over the south facing slopes of this range with sandy loam soils to the south and clay-limestone to the north. Traditional vineyards here are mainly planted with gobelet trained vines – low bushes to withstand the northern winds, often with cypress tree wind breaks. Towards Mont Ventoux and the Luberon, vineyards are often trellised.

Gigondas vineyards are planted on wide terraces of stony red clay alluvium slopes. The Rasteau appellation has its own particular calcerous and marly soils. Further east the vineyards situated on the lower slopes of the limestone-based Mont de Ventoux have a slightly cooler climate. Finally to the south, towards Aix en Provence are the rolling hills of the Luberon National Park, where the Côtes de Luberon vineyards are on a mixture of limestone, marl and sandy soils.



Basic information

How to get there

Located east of Orange this micro-region can by reached by road from Paris by taking the A6 to Lyon then continuing southerly along the A7 to Orange. Carpentras can be reached driving southeast on the N7 and then taking the D950. Most of the key vineyard areas are a few kilometres to the north of here. By train The TGV goes direct from Paris to Avignon with the journey time being around 2 hours 40 minutes, and there are onward local trains. The nearest airports are at Nîmes and Avignon both with flights to the UK. To fly to a larger international airport, Marseille is the closest.

Useful information

Inter-Rhône,
6 Rue des 3 Faucons, 84000 Avignon

Tel: 04 90 27 24 00 Fax: 04 90 27 24 38
Website: www.vins-rhone.com

Orange Tourist Office,
5 Cours Aristide Briand, 84100 Orange

Tel: 04 90 34 70 88
Email: officetourismeorange@wanadoo.fr
Website: www.otorange.fr

Carpentras Tourist Office,
Hôtel-Dieu, Place Aristide Briand, 84200 Carpentras

Tel: 04 90 63 00 78 Fax: 04 90 60 41 02
Email: tourisme@carpentras-ventoux.com
Website: www.carpentras-ventoux.com

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