WINE AND TRAVEL EXPERT JULIEN YUNG MAMEAUX OF THE EXPERIENCE COMPANY, TAKES US ON A HEAVENLY, TASTEFUL JOURNEY.
Having lived part of my life in Rhône, I feel committed to bring you to this beautiful part of France. The way to the famous wines grown in the area has been paved over centuries by the Roman emperors and Christian popes. Rhône is actually better described not as one but an aggregation of iconic terroirs, along the Rhône River, one of Europe’s major waterways, which rises in Switzerland, runs through the southeast of France before flowing out into the Mediterranean Sea.
NORTHERN RHÔNE – FROM LYON TO HERMITAGE
Any journey to Rhône is bound to start or end in Lyon, one hour from the Burgundy wine county, or two hours from Evian-Les-Bains, the golf and spa mecca. Reputed the world over for its authentic gastronomy, architectural legacies and intriguing alleys and courtyards, Lyon hosts uncountable cellars and fantastic wines that are jealously kept within the French borders. Nearby is the most praised historical AOC: Tain l’Hermitage, which in French rhymes with “Héritage”. The vines, mostly Syrah and first planted on the hills by the Romans long time ago, were some of the first ones classified as World Heritage by UNESCO and are a must-see.
Familiar names are all derived from long-established families combining winemaking and wine trading: Chapoutier, producing some of the best Hermitage wines, also known for using traditional winemaking methods and inventing braille labels for blind people; Jaboulet Ainé, which includes famed wines from Condrieu, Saint-Joseph or Saint-Péray; Guigal known for its Côte-Rôtie and recently for releasing the most expensive Rhône wine, single vineyard “La La” 2003. Beyond the big names, there are hundreds of boutique wineries driven by passion such as Domaine Courbis (Cornas Champelrose is spicy and savoury) or Fayolle (Clos Les Cornirets, Vieilles Vignes, has chocolatey notes with fine tannins) to name a few.
SOUTHERN RHÔNE – FROM CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE TO PROVENCE
The journey goes on with the temperatures warming up as we reach stunning landscapes near the legendary town of Orange and bridge of Avignon, at the edge of Provence, with a greater variety of wines. On top of fruity and spicy Grenache-based reds produced in the vineyards of Gigondas, Vacqueyras or Rasteau, two delightful originalities stand out: appealing pinkish and refreshing rosé wines from the areas of Tavel, by Les Vignerons de Tavel for instance, or from Lirac; and goldish, fragrant and sweet Muscat wines from the pretty village of Beaumes-de-Venise such as Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin or Domaine des Bernardins.
A Rhône pilgrimage must include the iconic Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Spotted in 1308 by Pope Clement V, the area was so compelling that the Pope moved his headquarters from Rome to Avignon, renaming the neighborhood “the Pope’s new castle”, its French meaning. Since then religious leaders have been involved in great viticulture and wine growing progress. Today these wines are made up from up to 13 different grapes and are thus highly complex and delicious. Vieux Télégraphe is probably Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s most famous wine (notably its grandest cru, La Crau) but you can count on a wide range going from Clos des Papes Paul Avril which regularly tops rankings, to local jewels like Domaine Chante Cigale. Try Rhône wines at this year’s French May festival in Hong Kong – and of course get the most of it by visiting that part of France. Rhône Valley’s 6,000 friendly wine growing properties and its gorgeous landscapes are the new paradise of wine lovers and travelers alike.
Rhone is close to Provence, Evian and French Riviera, it makes a perfect holiday destination. Win a free bottle of wine by enquiring at The Experience Company (www.TheExCo.com), Asia’s travel concierge specialized on fine wine and gastronomy holidays, at +852 2179 3307 or Contact@TheExCo.com.
(published in HK Golfer – May 2014)