Tue 30 Sep 2014

Cycling Around The Rhône Crus


Top of VentouxI have just returned from a cycling trip with a friend and fellow Wine Society employee, David Marsh (head of Information Systems). The main objective was to see if we could cycle up the classic hills of Alpe d’Huez in the Alps and the so-called ‘Giant of Provence’, Mont Ventoux, both of which are well-known routes for the Tour de France. However, we put aside a day in the Rhône for cycling through the vineyards and sought out a few of our growers to pop in and see how the vintage was going, and a little ‘degustation’ at the same time.

Most growers are always pleased to welcome Wine Society members, though harvest time is obviously a little busier for them. We managed to visit three growers in Seguret, Gigondas and Rasteau. We were planning on cycling up to Vinsobres to visit the Jaumes too but the mistral wind (and a little wrong turning I made) put this out of our reach in the time we had.

Domaine PourraFirstly in Seguret, we visited Domaine Pourra who make Séguret Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Mont Bayon (£14.50) for us. There they said that they will be starting the harvests this week – it would normally be earlier but after the rain of the last couple of weeks, needed the mistral wind to dry the grapes. The harvest is, however, looking good.

Some estates have started harvesting already, particularly those lower down on the plain below Seguret and Gigondas. Indeed we saw a lot of the small narrow tractors on the roads taking trailers full of grapes from the vineyards to the wineries, and we could smell the winemaking as we cycled through the villages. In Rasteau (more later), we also saw the local co-operative working flat out emptying and weighing trailer-loads of grapes from their farmer-members. Domaine Pourra’s vineyards are higher up on the slopes above the village, and above Gigondas so mature and are picked a couple of weeks later. They will start the harvest with their syrah (‘bien mur’). The 2010 of the wine we buy (2009 is on sale now) will be bottled shortly to make space for this year’s harvest – the pallet of bottles arrived the day before we visited, and the corks were due the next day (fingers crossed).



Next a few kilometres on to Gigondas and Château de Saint Cosme, who make our Exhibition Gigondas (we are currently selling the 2011 at £14.95) and whose wines we sell in our Rhône opening offer. They are just north of the village (well signposted) and have vineyards right up to the ‘Dentelles de Montmirail’ ridge.

Saint CosmeThey make one white wine and the grapes for this are all harvested. They are now starting on the reds, and all the guys were out at harvest. Again, they were glad of the mistral wind and were optimistic about the harvest. They offered us a tasting suite of their white blend, then their 100% syrah Côtes-du-Rhône called Les Deux Albions (after Louis Barruol’s English wife and the vineyard on the Plan d’Albion near Sault on the slopes of Mont Ventoux) and their Gigondas 2012 which is the closest to the Exhibition blend they do for us. They also do a Châteauneuf though this is with bought-in grapes and so does not carry the ‘Château’ prefix on the label.

SoumadeLast but not least was Domaine La Soumade on the Route d’Orange just outside Rasteau. This involved a cycle against the wind made worse by the aforementioned wrong turning doubling the distance. But it was worth it, we were welcomed by the nephew of the owner, and he showed us the old winery and the vineyards. We sell their Rasteau Côtes-du-Rhône Villages 2011 (£12.50). There we had a flight of wines to taste as shown in the adjacent photo.

One general point about the tastings: we found that we were generally tasting the latest vintage, occasionally the preceding one, and with the exception of the cheaper wines, the wines needed more time to age (hence The Society will often have bought and kept earlier vintages which will be sold when ready). But this does give a good experience of trying to discern what the wines will be like in a few years, and it is still a great way to compare and contrast different wines side by side.

Matthew Kirk
Head of Marketing

And as a PS, I’m glad to say that we did make it successfully up Mont Ventoux, not in a record time and a lot of younger (and thinner?) cyclists passed us.

Or maybe they just had better bikes?

Categories : France, Rhône


  1. JerryW says:

    Anyone who can cycle to the top of Mont Ventoux without getting off the bike deserves respect: well done!
    No mention of how you got on with Alpe d’Huez though?!

    As a gross overgeneralisation, I have found that the French drink their wines younger than we do. Many times at a vineyard I have found that the vintage I like best is now selling at a discount rather than a premium, because they think it’s past it!

  2. Matthew Kirk says:

    Thanks Jerry,
    Yes, we did make it up Alpe d’Huez and a few other ‘Cols’ in the Alps – very few vineyards around here and the chalet we stayed in actually had a Ventoux wine as their house red coincidentally!
    I agree your point about the French often liking younger wines, more sappy and grip. And great if this gives savings on the older ones as you say.
    Cheers, Matthew

  3. Ian Shepherd says:

    I remember once visiting Domaine de la Soumade. We bought a case of red and the guy threw in a bottle of their sweet red pudding wine which was delicious. I was working in Arles at the time. Great days.

  4. Ken Ivin says:

    I have had a mistress for over 35 years – wines of the Rhone. Met Gerard Jaboulet for a tasting and M Guigal as well as Chapoutier and with his Rolls Royce in the background.

    Then a bit south to Cornas knocked on the door of Clape sorry sold out then to Voge talked Rugby and not a problem.

    Then to Rayas in the south and which is missing from the WS? Whilst now run by the nephew then by Jacques. Stayed there all day for he would not sell me any.

    In the evening he gave in and six bottles materialised with his sister applying the capsule and recolte label. Very soon afterwards he went shopping in Avignon and Parker will have us believe for shoes his weakness and he died.

    Have bought all the opening offers from sources other than WS and from Beaucastel to Telegraphe plus many others. Love the Rhone but CDP is too commercialised for my thinking. in Gigondas there was and is a lovely restaurant in the square it was fantastic. Now owned by Beaucastel not so good. Finally across the other side of the Rhone to St Gervais lots of syrah there.

  5. Peter says:

    Great to hear about your trip Mathew. Soumade is a much underrated producer I believe. The have a great range as your picture shows and their Vin Doux are quite special too. Coincidentally I was visiting en famille in the area at the same time. It is hard to avoid if you are like cycling or wine or both. We stayed at Clos de Caveau in Vacqueyras (the Society surely owe a visit) and took a trip on Sunday 28 September to Beaume de Venise to the Col de Suzette (Domaine de Saint Amant) and Col de la Chaine before an ascent of the Ventoux from Malaucene. A trip on Tuesday 28th was a bit trickier. Heading into the Dentelles from Lafare past La Boussierre onto some short sharp switchbacks was great fun but the overnight rain made the off road section on Col du Cayron thick with gloopy mud. A bit of bike carrying cyclo cross style then a fast descent to the dovecot at St Cosme before the turn for home and yes a hum of activity and the smell of mashed grapes the whole way round. Love it.

  6. Peter says:

    apologies, the dates are wrong. Should read Tuesday 30th.

  7. Fred B says:

    Just had a pourra wine this evening. Excellent. But no longer on the list?

    • Martin Brown says:

      Delighted you enjoyed it! This is a temporary state of affairs, thankfully – indeed, our buyer Marcel Orford-Williams is seeing them next week to rectify!
      Martin Brown
      The Wine Society

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