Fresh Ardèche | France's Best-Kept Secret
This central region, on the road less travelled by international tourists, boasts jaw-dropping landscapes, classic cuisine and delicious wines.
Adventure seekers will enjoy hiking or canoeing down the Ardèche River in the Gorges National Nature Reserve, while history lovers will enjoy the ancient caves containing the world’s earliest known cave paintings, dating back 30,000 years. Add to that more “recent” medieval castles and villages where you walk the ancient streets and be transported back in time.
Wine lovers will also find their thrill: vines have been growing in Ardèche for over 2000 years, well before the Roman conquest. Today there are 8500 hectares of vineyards and four Appellations on hilly terroirs (300 metres in altitude on average) growing lavender, olive trees, pine trees and chestnut trees in addition to vines. The grape varieties found in the Rhône Valley thrive here in Ardèche, producing rich and mineral wines, with the addition of one indigenous grape, Chatus. Indigenous to Ardèche, it is very rare, as only 60 hectares aare cultivated. Chatus is one of the oldest grape varieties in France, cultivated as far back as the 17th century, along with Pinot Noir (most of the grape varieties from that time have been hybridized or crossbred and no longer exist). Chatus is genetically close to its Italian cousin, Nebbiolo di Dronero.
Opimian’s new producer, Vignerons Ardéchois, is an award-winning wine cooperative founded in 1967 comprising twelve wineries. These producers represent 85% of the vines planted in Ardèche. Outside of the region, it is rare to find these exceptional wines. The cooperative is committed to biodiversity and is working to convert all its vineyards to organic farming.
Vignerons Ardéchois is the first producer of volcanic wines in France: 300 hectares are cultivated on the Coiron Mountain on basaltic soil. Syrah Basalte du Coiron, IGP Ardèche, Vignerons Ardéchois from this terroir, was named “Wine of the Week” by Julia Harding MW in 2021.
White wine lover? Viognier does particularly well in Ardèche, on the light sandstone soils of the Cévennes foothills. Vignerons Ardéchois produce over 450 hectares of the varietal, making it the largest producer of Viognier in the world. It is this producer’s flagship grape variety and is served at the best restaurants in France, like Paul Bocuse.
SEE: The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave which contains the earliest-known and best-preserved figurative prehistoric drawings in the world.
EAT: Le Carré d’Alethius, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Charmes-sur-Rhône.
DO: Kayak or canoe down the Gorges de l’Ardèche.
ACCESS WINES FROM VIGNERONS ARDÉCHOIS THROUGH MARCH 28, 2022