LUBERON & VENTOUX
Decanter|July 2020
LUBERON & VENTOUX
Captivating mountain views, welcoming châteaux and wines that match perfectly with the classic local cuisine. Look ahead to future holidays by planning a road trip through the beautiful countryside that straddles the regions of the Rhône Valley and Provence in southeast France, says Carolyn Boyd
Carolyn Boyd

As I gaze down the avenue of plane trees towards Château Pesquié, I’m surrounded by much of what the diverse Vaucluse department in France’s southeastern country has to offer: verdant vineyards encircle the elegant château, and the white-peaked Mont Ventoux towers above a landscape that cradles the Luberon and Ventoux appellations. Nearby, sleepy Mormoiron is one of the many characterful villages to explore both here and to the south in the Luberon regional nature park. And, as if this wasn’t enough to spoil me, the vineyards in the prestigious smaller appellations of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and Vacqueyras are within a 40-minute drive.

At Château Pesquié (www.chateaupesquie. com), brothers Frédéric and Alexandre Chaudière are the third generation of their family to make wine. They adore the location, with Mont Ventoux lying just to the northeast. ‘Here on the Rhône, we’re in a corridor between the mountains, but also close to the Mediterranean,’ explains Frédéric as he shows me around the vineyard. ‘Meanwhile, Mont Ventoux creates a kind of amphitheatre and, although the temperature is around 30°C in the day, it is much cooler at night, which allows for longer maturation – we’re one of the last to harvest in the whole area.’

We walk around the organically farmed vineyards, planted with parcels of 50-year-old Carignan vines, along with Cinsault, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, Clairette, Roussanne and Viognier, and admire the nine-year-old Syrah vineyards planted with bright yellow blooms of broom and gypsum to improve soil quality.

In the winery, soil samples and detailed three-dimensional maps demonstrate the unique geography and terroir. The Ventoux appellation (see map on p84) is quickly growing in popularity and this is one producer ready to offer guests a truly Provençale experience, with hampers for picnics in the gardens, vineyard walks and harvest days.

Nearby, other family-run vineyards such as Domaine du Tix (www.domaine-du-tix.com) share the same 350m elevation, with its hot days and cool nights, and they also welcome visitors for tastings.

Enchanting exploration

To make the most of those hot days, I spend a couple of them in the Parc naturel régional du Luberon, which enjoys a similar climate to the Ventoux appellation just to its north. It’s also one of the most enchanting areas in this

The domaine’s Musée du Tire-Bouchon holds 1,200 bottle openers of every age, provenance, shape, and size. As I gaze into the many cabinets, it strikes me that getting into one’s bottle of wine as easily as possible has long been an art form. There is everything from corkscrews that double as shaving brushes, swords or pistols, to some salacious ones – brass legs akimbo, forming a ‘T’ shape.

On the hill behind the winery and museum, the domaine’s botanic garden overlooks the vineyards and Ménerbes perched on a ridge nearby, with raised beds that each contain a different herb or medicinal plant. Inhaling them is as much a treat for the senses as the tasting I take part in when I return to the winery, sipping different blends of the 17 different grapes grown across the vineyard’s 50ha.

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July 2020