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For Friday I had booked a day with Olivier Hickman, a wine importer who also runs wine tours for English-speaking visitors. Olivier is half French-half British, has been in the wine business in various positions, and has an informative website Wine Uncovered. He is also married to Janet who gave us the Vaison walking tour, and like her, is knowledgeable and has a wicked sense of humor.

We met up with Olivier and the two other couples in the group in Sablet. After getting a bit of an info and some written materials, then sorting out who would ride with who, we set off. Our first stop was a winery in Vacqueyras, one of the named Rhone wine villages. We spent some time in a vineyard, learning about Rhone wines, specifically why with these wines its all about the terroir–the specific patch of land the grapes are grown–the soil and mineral content, how deep the roots grow, the effects of mistral, temperature and water. This area does no irrigation at all, which encourages deeply rooted vines and so superior grapes. As Olivier constantly reminded us, poor soil equals good wine. The wines are generally blends of Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, and some less well known varieties. As compared to wines made in the US, there is very little manipulation–no additives, just a few wines are aged in oak, and then for very short times.

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We tasted at four wineries in Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and lastly Chateauneuf-de-Pape, though one of the tastings was done during our delicious lunch at a restaurant where the owner’s father owns the winery. Some fabulous wines, largely silky and rich, with soft tannins. Miles and miles of vineyards, with the leaves now golden and turning red.The area mostly produces reds, though there are a few whites. And largely at amazingly low prices as compared to similar quality in California. We bought some excellent value wine at 12-15 euros a bottle, and one higher end one in Chateauneuf-de-Pape for 30 euros.

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Our lunch was at Les Florets, a restaurant-hotel in Gigondas with a beautiful terrace and view. Because it’s no longer considerd terrace weather, we sat inside the pleasant dining room. We had four small courses, each paired with a different wine. The food was elegant and creative, and sometime I’d like to return for the regular menu.

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A very enjoyable day. I highly recommend some time with Olivier when you’re in the area.

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We were invited over for an aperitif with our charming landlords, which turned into an hour and a half of more wine, and me frantically trying to follow French conversation. I learned some new words, go me!

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By 9 we were ready for dinner, so had the lentils and sausage, yum.

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3 thoughts on “They Grow a Lot of Grapes Here

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