Volcanic wines of The South of France

Domaine de Trévallon | Courtesy Domaine de Trévallon

Provence is clearly known in the wine world for light, ethereal Rosé and in the world of luxury travel for sunny villages and some of the world’s most lovely and sexy beaches. But like people, places have shadow sides and in Provence that is defined by big, dark and brooding Mont Ventoux, which is geologically part of the Alps.

While located in Provence, this mountain also looks down on the southern Rhone to the west and just like the Rosés from Provence the bold reds we will be looking at mainly utilize Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault and the like. They also carry the signature garrigue or Herbes de Provence, characteristics that to a great degree come from the molecules of those very herbs that are carried on the powerful mistral winds that grace both regions.

The X factor in this formula is our old friend Cabernet Sauvignon that is rarely seen in the Rhone but has a substantial presence in Provence and in its red blends.

Much of even the better fruit was sold to co-ops and made into bulk wines, but that past decade or so has seen a proliferation of individual producers on the market.

Here are a few recommendations that are sure-fire hits. Don’t be surprised if you find older vintages because this is one of the rare regions that releases wine when it feels they are ready to perform at their best.

Domaine de Trévallon will age for decades. This is a seriously excellent roast-beast or marinated and roasted vegetable match.

Toward the top end is Domaine de Trévallon, which as a Robert Parker discovery decades back was at one time quite pricey. Fortunately, this Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah gem has fallen off the radar with many and can be had for the relative song of about $45. As a bonus it will age for decades, which also means that for a pre-teen bottle you should decant vigorously. This is a seriously excellent roast-beast or marinated and roasted vegetable match. You’re welcome.

Read Lou’s columns on other volcanic wine regions:
Napa Valley wines
Italian wines

Other tasty choices that are in the $15 to $25 range are Château Pesquié, Domaine de Fondrèche and Domaine Vindemio.

There are also some gems in white wine made with typical grapes of the southern Rhone, but these are even rarer than the reds. These robust wines carry the Côtes du Ventoux appellation, but they often more prominently feature their village name and will have Ventoux somewhere on the front or back label. This, along with the rarity of these wines in most markets, makes them difficult to find on one’s own. If you have an adventurous local wine shop guru, he or she may carry a selection or two, but your chances are probably better at one of the larger wine stores. On the other hand, if these wines are your jam, they are well worth the effort.