Wine and food touring in France with Peter Scudamore-Smith »
A day in the touring life of an Uncorked wine traveller
Contributed articles and stories
Would you like a drive along the Rhône river, one of France’s longest and largest, for a distant peep at terrace-hugging vineyards, stopping along the way to taste the fruits of those vines?
Peter Scudamore-Smith of Uncorked and Cultivated hosts tours of France and Italy each year. In this article he gives us a taste of what a day is like on a wine and food tour in France:
Our coach driver, a French local, closes on the large Rhône river, dreadfully in flood with swirling waters 50 centimetres below its banks. The next stop is the western side, crossing the brown torrent sweeping downstream from spring rains in the Jura and Switzerland.
Our host, a red-headed Rhône man named Bruno Gonnet, smiles as he patiently waits the arriving bus outside the Delas Brothers cellar in Tournon-sur-Rhône.
Bruno produces a row of bottles. They are all syrah (Australians say shiraz), the natural home of this well-travelled grape since the Crusaders defended the Holy Land.
The progressive tasting goes: Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, Cornas, Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage wines, all differing parcels (sub-regions), differing qualities, and thankfully one year, 2014.
These are the expansive northern Rhône Valley’s dependable production sites, some more preferred by customers than others. Delas vineyard holdings are found in each one.
My tasting visitors discover the local vexing label system called Appellation. The front label does not mention shiraz so many travellers need guidance to navigate this river of French bottle signs.
Irrigating the dry, desolate, rocky and terraced Saint-Joseph slopes above and around us is not legal. The water flows past withering vines to the Mediterranean, 300 kilometres south and is not harvested into turkey-nest dams as Australian farmers would do.
We arrive at a four star hotel on a lake high above the Rhône Valley in Ardeche province. After drives through forests, hillsides of white dairy cattle grazing and fields of red poppies, lunch is near.
The lake is a pine tree-lined dam built long ago and the main road bisects the cliff-lined hotel with its open-air lakeside dining.
Auberge du Lac chef David Chomette prepares a designer lunch.
Amuse bouche (a titbit to stimulate the palate) never fails to encourage table sighs; a little, tangy, carefully moulded citrus and goat curd, smoked trout sliver, then fresh wild asparagus, fricasseed, garnish of corrugated black-topped stock-soaked morilles, poached eggs; a main of tiny pink lamb loin, dashes of pale, delectable and succulent savoury jus (the green herb sometimes called donkey pepper), then cheese from the nearby Rhône Alps where cows and sheep graze.
Wines are paired to the courses: a nearby chardonnay, Grande Ardeche from the Burgundian innovator Louis Latour, then great syrah-Hermitage from Delas and Côte-Rôtie from Brunel de la Gardine. All perfectly matched of course.
And so, dear reader, that was a taste of a day as an Uncorked wine traveller.
About the tours
Uncorked and Cultivated spends ten days conducting winery tour visits. Up to 12 persons taste, drive and eat together. However, about a third of the time is free (shop, see museums, buy bottles, walk, scooter or sleep).
Get to taste fizzy pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay in Champagne, still pinot noir and chardonnay in Burgundy, then here in the Rhône, syrah, grenache, mourvedre, viognier and marsanne.
Travels across the French countryside, from autoroutes to national roads to just dirt tracks are taken to reach wineries. The sites can be spectacular, cautioning for driving on steep or narrow roads and always capable of developing wine thirst.
- France - all (FR)
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