Ventoux is one of the most exciting and dynamic appellations in the Rhône Valley. Later this month, Ventoux AOC comes to the UK with a trade and press tasting in Moorgate, London. Hosted by the AOC president, Frédéric Chaudière, it will also include a masterclass by Matt Walls, author of the book “Wines of the Rhône” as he presents his thoughts behind what has made Ventoux such a success story in recent years and for those to come. In the lead up to the event, we asked Mike Turner to explore this unique Southern Rhône appellation.
“The altitude not only makes it unique right now, but also gives a lot of options for viticulture in the future. It’s an exciting place,” says Matt Walls about Ventoux AOC.
The Southern Rhône is blessed with many fantastic appellations, but few come more unique to taste or more spectacular to visit than Ventoux AOC.
The appellation sits towards the south-east of the Southern Rhône area, just to the east of the famed city of Avignon and has long been home to a thriving wine industry.
The wines of Ventoux
Just over half the wines produced are red, made from a combination of Southern Rhône favourites such as Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsault. Interestingly, given that this is the Southern Rhône, are the growing numbers of both rosé and white wines produced to a high standard; the whites coming from blends including Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, Viognier and Vermentino.
Red sedimentary soils over a limestone base allow the vine roots to penetrate deep into the earth, allowing sufficient nutrients and water to grow healthy, high quality grapes. The resulting wines consistently ‘punch above their weight’, especially given the attractive ex-cellar prices on offer when compared to similar wines of this standard and this region.
High altitude vines
The vineyards are planted on the southern and western slopes of Mont Ventoux, with its 1912 metre peak that dominates the local area. Sometimes known as “The Giant of Provence” (as it dominates neighbouring Provence too), it’s the altitude and aspect range that gives the wines of Ventoux an unique, cool climate character.
With vines at altitudes of up to 550m, the cool air flow and high diurnal range at these heights help cool the vineyards, extend the growing seasons, and promote freshness to the wines. The slow development of flavours and tannins under the warm Mediterranean sun, whilst retaining acidity, make the high-quality wines of Ventoux concentrated, approachable, yet also incredibly age worthy.
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Ventoux also has some strong natural distinctions. Not only is the only appellation in France with vineyards spreading over two Regional Natural Parks (in Ventoux and Luberon), it is also recognised by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. It’s home to more than 1500 identified plant species, more than 20 bat species, 14 reptile species, and 2500 insects (including 1425 butterfly species), not to mention deer, mountain sheep, and wild boars which roam across the territory littered by chattering cicadas and perfumed lavender.
Sustainability ethos through shared culture
With such a tremendous ecosphere to enjoy, protect and maintain, it’s gratifying to see wineries come together to recognise that shared responsibility. In addition to the important co-operative wineries, a growth in new-wave winemakers has boosted winery numbers to 150 in recent years, with over 20 nationalities now creating the wines of Ventoux. These wineries have now come together to commit to the AOC’s raison d’être under a common purpose to preserve, protect, and cultivate a sense of close links with the nature around them.
There are initiatives to replace natural forests with tree planting and a large increase in cover crops to protect biodiversity. These join further initiatives to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the wine industry in Ventoux, with lighter bottles and a commitment to reuse over 300,000 of those bottles every year.
A key message is the sustainability of the community. The wine industry knows it can be a big draw for tourism, so promoting the farmers, the chefs, and the gourmet artisans across the region through a host of local festivals each year is a key part of promoting the shared culture of such a beautiful region of France.
Wines of Ventoux coming to London
The Wines of Ventoux will be on display for a special self-pouring press and trade tasting in London on Wednesday 26th October. This will be a great chance to taste through the reds, whites, and rosés being produced in this uniquely ‘cool climate’ region of the Southern Rhône.
Also on hand will be Matt Walls, who quite literally wrote the book on the appellations and wines of the Rhône Valley for the Classic Wine Library series. He’ll be presenting a masterclass on why he thinks Ventoux is the ‘Rising Star of the Rhône Valley’, sharing his invaluable insights into the region as a whole. If previous masterclasses of Walls’ that I’ve attended are anything to go by, this will be a session not to miss!
I was lucky to catch up with Walls earlier this week and he was quick to praise the high quality of Ventoux AOC wines.
“Of course, it’s a big appellation so it’s tough to generalise,” explained Walls. “But the quality really does range all the way up to some of the best in the Southern Rhône, so you’ve really got to come and taste them yourselves.”
Walls also looked towards the bright future that Ventoux can expect if it continues down its commitment to sustainability.
“In just the last few years we’ve seen so many exciting private estates being established, yet there is still great terroir available for relatively cheap prices given the appellation’s location,” noted Walls. “The altitude not only makes it unique right now, but also gives a lot of options for viticulture in the future. It’s an exciting place.”
Ventoux AOC’s London press and trade tasting is on Wednesday 26th October 2022, between 11am and 5pm at Fare Restaurant
To register your place please contact Gersende Pommery on firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 24th October 2022.