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The Elegant Flavours of Vacqueyras: On the Côte-Du-Rhône Wine Trail

In the heart of France’s lush and fertile Provence region, along the Routes des Vins des Côtes du Rhône (The Côtes du Rhône Wine Trail), nestled between its two more famous neighbours, Gigondas to the north and Beaumes de Venise to the southeast, is Vacqueyras, a simple French village surrounded by terraced vineyards. The terraces were formed over the millennia by the winding of the Ouvèze River, which left behind a bed of limestone fragments and smooth sandstone and flint pebbles. This is the terroir that produces the generous and elegant flavours of the appellation’s wines.

Vines were first planted here in the 16th century, but it was only in 1990 that Vacqueyras, a little brother of Châteauneuf du Pape, was awarded its own appellation status by the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée). This National Institute controls the designation of origin, rules over the cheese, butter and wine industries and grants certification to geographical regions of France. So only wines produced in Vacqueyras can be called Vacqueyras, in the same way that only wines produced in the Champagne wine region can be called Champagne. The INAO and the AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) trace their roots back to the 15th century, when Roquefort was regulated by a parliamentary decree.

Vacqueyras in some ways is an unremarkable town – most certainly pretty and charming, but typical; Provence is dotted with many such rural communities. There is, however, a unique excitement here related to the region’s relatively recent acquisition of its own appellation status. The winemakers of Vacqueyras are proud and enthusiastic about sharing the bounty of their land with their fellow countrymen and women, and also increasingly through export to other nations.

On the road out of Vacqueyras, heading in the direction of Gigondas, is the contemporary facility of Vignerons de Caractère (Winemakers of Character). The modern architecture of this cooperative of 80 wine-growing families from Vacqueyras and surrounding domains stands out against the traditional landscape. The winemakers here, who share an expertise that has been handed down through generations, understand that their collective long-term success is dependant on a respect for the land and the maintanance of environmentally friendly production methods that will create a sustainable industry for future generations.

At Vignerons de Caractère, they produce some of the best examples of Vacqueyras wines. The reds are deep ruby in colour and display aromas of black cherry, hints of candied fruit and fig. Their reds have good aging potential, and over time nuances of leather, game and smoke will emerge.

While the region produces mostly red wines, rosés are tremendously successful here – they’re often difficult to get as they sell out very quickly. They have an enticing fruity note and are aromatic with a touch of garrigue. The white wines are distinctively full-bodied, redolent of broom flower and acacia and the occasional crisp citrus note. These whites are finding their way onto wine lists across the country and are much talked about at dinner parties. Within France there is a growing appreciation for the wines of Vacqueyras.

There are many worthy stops along the Routes des Vins des Côtes du Rhône, as this part of France produces so many of the world’s most outstanding wines. Sometimes, however, the path less taken reveals unexpected beauty. Vacqueyras, like its wines, has a subtle elegance, and the folks at Vignerons de Caractère are happy to share their knowledge of the region and its vineyards, while offering tastings of the different vintages.

Vignerons de Caractère BP1, Route de Vaison la Romaine 84190 Vacqueyras - France Tél : 04 90 65 84 54

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