Ventoux, making fresh wines in the Southern Rhône

Mont Ventoux is well known to cycle fans around the world as being a key (and rather brutal) stage in the Tour de France. At 1912 m Mount Ventoux is one of the biggest mountains in France, and it dominates the appellation of Ventoux. The wine region is in the east of the Rhône, and it has a big surface area. But much of this area is taken up by the mountain, so the potential viticultural areas are restricted.

But, still, 150 producers farm 5623 hectares, which makes it pretty sizeable. The wine produced is 54% red, 38% rose and 8% white. The AOC was born in 1973, and before this, it was all cooperative production. Private estates began with the creation of the AOC, and there was a big expansion in the 1990s.

Most of the vineyards are to the east of the mountain, on the flats and up the slopes. The cool air descends the mountain at night and cools the vineyards down. This gives a fairly wide diurnal range during the latter part of the growing season, which helps preserve freshness in the wines. But this is a warm Mediterranean climate overall, and the wines reflect this in the generosity of flavour.

Frédéric Chaudière, president of the Ventoux AOP

‘Ventoux takes its name from the Mountain, which is almost 2000 m high,’ says Frédéric Chaudière of Château Pesquié, who is currently president of the AOP. ‘If I had to make a simple equation it would be that Ventoux = influence of the mountain = cooler climate = fresher and balanced wines.’

Is there much heterogeneity within the appellation? ‘There is a great diversity, for sure,’ says Chaudière. ‘The DNA is our cooler climate, the fact that we pick later, and we have this good natural acidity. But then in the same way that we have a list of grape varieties, we do have a variety of geologies. The limestone component is still the dominant one. The limestone usually fosters freshness. But there are also pockets of sand, different kinds of clay, and clay-limestone, with blue marl sometimes.’

Are you quite excited about whites? ‘We are. There is of course a general trend in the Rhône towards more whites, but because of both the limestone and the cool climate, we have fresh whites, and also with quite different profiles, from Clairette to Grenache Blanc.

For reds? ‘Grenache is the lead but I see Cinsault and Mourvèdre going up slowly. Finally we are starting to make ripe Mourvèdre, which in the 1980s was almost impossible in the Ventoux. Cinsault brings more balance and lightness in the richness of our blends and this is also grown more.’

What about viticulture? This is quite a dry climate, and it is probably getting a bit drier. Is there much water available? Or is viticulture the way forward, to build resilience into the vineyards? ‘2022 was a crash test vintage in the sense that it was very dry. If it wasn’t for the rains around August 10th … we’d only had about 100 mm of rain when we’d normally have had 400 mm, so it was extremely dry. It is a vintage that is rather reassuring, because even though we were saved by the mid-August rains, they still arrived very late, and I feel we’ll do a close to normal crop – perhaps minus 10%. I thought we’d be much more affected. So far the resilience of the vines is showing in this crazy vintage. The Ventoux is a water reservoir in many ways, so we do have relatively easy access to water. But currently only 12-15% of the AOC can be irrigated. This may grow but I don’t know if it is really the solution. There is a big question mark.’

You are organic/biodynamic. How is that journey, and where are you heading? ‘There is a growing organic movement in the Ventoux. I would say close to a third of the independent wineries are organic, and very soon it will be above half of them. 16% of the total surface is organic, and this will soon be above 20%. At Pesqiué it is a bit of a longer story. The first blocks we certified were in 2007, and we started experimenting with biodynamic practices in 2015. It is only since 2018 that the farming practices of the estate have been certified by Demeter. There is much less biodynamic farming than organic farming in the Ventoux.’

As with all AOCs, there are quite a few rules. In terms of varietal breakdown, reds have to be a blend of at least two of the following: Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvèdre or Syrah, with some supporting varieties. Rosés similar. Whites must be a blend too.

Significantly, for the whites, the two leading varieties are both capable of delivering freshness in warm climates: Grenache Blanc (33% of white plantings) and Clairette (27%). For reds, Grenache Noir (55%) and Syrah (28%) dominate, with the next two most abundant varieties the eminently useful Carignan and Cinsault, giving winegrowers a nice palette of suitable grapes to play with.



Domaine des Hauts Traversiers La Foudonne Blanc 2020 Ventoux, France
14% alcohol. 40% Viognier, 35% Grenache Blanc, 20% Roussanne. Fresh and expressive with lovely pear and apricot and some nice balance. It’s ripe and expressive with lots of Viognier character and just a hint of oak in support. Very stylish and well balanced. 92/100

Chateau Pesquié Quintessance Blanc 2020 Ventoux, France
13.5% alcohol. 80% Roussanne, 20% Clairette from limestone soils. 600 litre barrels and concrete eggs. Textural with lovely freshness, and some pear and spice as well as white peach and citrus. Has good intensity and an appealing mineral edge. Very fine. 93/100

Chateau Pesquié Cuvée Juliette Blanc 2020 Ventoux, France
13% alcohol. 70% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc. Fresh and layered with a hint of honey, spice and some melon. Very stylish with lovely pear fruit and nice intensity, and a brisk finish. Lots of weight on the palate. 93/100

Château Juvenal Les Ribes du Vallat Blanc 2021 Ventoux, France
14% alcohol. This is a blend of Clairette and Viognier. Half in stainless steel and half in 600 litre barrels. Juicy and bright with a hint of apricot, and linear pear and citrus fruit. Bright with a touch of grapefruit and nice pure fruit. 92/100

Cave de Lumières Aubépine Blanc 2021 Ventoux, France
12.5% alcohol. Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne from clay and limestone soils. Taut, bright and focused with nice citrus fruit and a hint of pear drop. Some green apple notes, too. Lovely fruit here. 89/100

Domaine de Fondrèche Blanc 2021 Ventoux, France
13% alcohol. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette and Vermentino (the Italians have claimed this name so now we have to call it Rolle). Sand and limestone soils, fermented and matured in foudres (950 litres) Juicy, tart and precise with nice acidity. Crisp and focused with citrus, pear and some mineral notes. Very focused with good fruit intensity. 93/100


Cave de Lumières Terrus Rosé 2021 Ventoux, France
12% alcohol. Grenache and Syrah. This is a lovely, taut, focused pink wine with cranberry and lime notes, and good acidity. Has nice precision with a touch of grapefruit. 89/100

Marrenon Rosace Rosé 2021 Ventoux, France
13% alcohol. 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah. Taut, fresh and lively with a touch of mandarin and cranberry. Juicy and fine with nice freshness. 88/100


Château Unang La Croix 2019 Ventoux, France
15% alcohol. Limestone soils, 100% Grenache, aged in barrels and demi-muids (600 litres). Floral, sweet black cherry fruit nose. The palate is generous and ripe with bold, sweet blackberry and black cherry fruit, showing some meaty richness. Great concentration: inky, slightly salty and with a twist of liquorice. 93/100

Cave de Lumières Luminense 2019 Ventoux, France
15% alcohol. Grenache and Syrah. Ripe, broad and sweet with nice black cherry and blackberry fruit. Has a slight saline quality with lush fruit and notes of liquorice, tar, meat and spice. Lovely fruit. 93/100

Vintur Le Gentleman 2017 Ventoux, France
15% alcohol. 65% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre and 5% Carignan, from the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux, limestone-clay soils, old vines. Olive, meat, sour cherry and some animal sheds on the nose. The palate is lush and meaty with nice black fruits and notes of olive and cured meats. Spicy and a bit wild, with lots of flavour. 93/100

Château Juvenal Les Ribes du Vallat 2019 Ventoux, France
15% alcohol. 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah. Clay-limestone soils. Supple with sweet raspberry and cherry fruit and some salty hints. Silky, fine, ripe and balanced with a sweet edge to the palate. 92/100

Château Pesquié Silica 2020 Ventoux, France
Light extraction with cap wetting only. Aged in 600 litre barrels (75%) and concrete egg (25%). 90% Grenache and 10% Cinsault. Supple, fine and really elegant with a bit of spicy grip as well as sweet, elegant red cherry and plum fruit. So expressive with a liquorice edge to the fruit. Rounded and elegant. 94/100

Marrenon Capela 2019 Ventoux, France
14.5% alcohol. 90% Syrah, 10% Grenache Noir. 10% oak. Open, supple and sweetly fruited with lovely red cherry fruit and a touch of raspberry crunch. Shows some dried herbs and a juicy finish with a touch of pepper. 89/100

Domaine Caroline Bonnefoy ‘Caroline Bonnefoy’ 2020 Ventoux, France
14.5% alcohol. Organic. Grenache, Syrah, Carignan. Fresh, supple and juicy with lovely red fruits. It’s pure with nice ripe fruit, but also lovely focus and some floral character. Vinified in concrete, this is really lovely in a pure, relatively light style. Very stylish. 92/100

Chateau Saint Pons Volupte de Cinsault 2020 Ventoux, France
13.5% alcohol. 80% 50 year old Cinsault, 20% Syrah. Lovely texture here with fresh red cherry and strawberry fruit with a nice sweet core of fruit. This is delicious with lovely weight and balance. Has a little crunch on the finish with a nice twist of bitterness. Lovely stuff. 94/100

Via Caritatis Tota Pulchra Es 2020 Ventoux, France
99% Syrah, 1% Grenache. 14.5% alcohol. Clay limestone souls near Le Barroux at 350-600 m. Very rich and textural with generous cherry and berry fruits. Concentrated and pure, meaty and spicy, with some pepper under the lush fruit. Very generous and open but showing lovely purity. Impressive in a ripe style. 93/100

Domaine Marsaleix Tradition 2019 Ventoux, France
14.5% alcohol. Sandy clay soils, organic, 50% Syrah, 40% Marselan and 10% Carignan. Fresh and expressive with lovely vibrant berry fruits. It’s juicy and intense with a hint of blackcurrant, mint and some dried herbs. Some green notes on the finish from the Marselan, but it works. 92/100

Domaine Vindemio Amadeus 2020 Ventoux, France
15% alcohol. Grenache with Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Open, ripe and sweet with lots of lush pepper-framed cherry and strawberry fruit with some ripe plum. Lots of fruit here, with a touch of apple, too. Unoaked with some liquorice on the finish, and there’s a sense of freshness. 92/100

Domaine de Fondreche L’Etait Une Fois 2020 Ventoux, France
14.5% alcohol, 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah. Complex nose is brooding and meaty with some spicy reduction, and powerful, dense fruit flavours. Ripe, peppery and grippy with nice intensity – powerful but well balanced. 94/100

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