Wine educators like nothing better than going back to school, so our session at the Ecole des Vins in Avignon on our first morning made for a fine start to our trip to the southern Rhône.

Oenologist Mathilde Ficty led us through a wealth of information about the region that we were to explore over the following three days. There were some quickfire numbers to take in – 48 appellations, 5,300 producers, 70,000 hectares etc. One figure that Mathilde was keen we retain is that 10.5% of Rhône wine production is organic.

The tasting which followed provided a snapshot of current trends in the region, which we were to find echoed in the vineyard visits to follow, namely :

  • organic, low-sulphur and biodynamic winemaking is increasing in the region and some of the most successful wines we tried were following these methods. The southern Rhône especially, with its warm climate and low humidity clearly make a good home for this less interventionist style of winemaking.
  • Rosé may not be what you associate most with the Rhône, but it is 13% of sales (more than white at 6%). And there are increasingly some really successful rosés to be found.
  • What a cracking vintage 2016 is – almost across the board, in all styles, the wines from this year impressed with their beautiful fruit expression and freshness.

We finished the session full of enthusiasm and intent – it was a good launchpad for our many visits to come.


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