6 Wine Villages in the Rhône Valley Near Mont Ventoux
If you like French wine, there is a good chance that you have sampled some vintages from the Rhône Valley. Some vineyards in the southern Rhône are near the famous Mont Ventoux – Provence’s giant mountain. This article focuses on six (6) villages in the Côtes du Rhône wine region. These six (6) towns are only some of the 51 villages surrounding Mont Ventoux, each with a distinctive character. While these villages share the same geography and historical background, each town is unique and worth visiting.
Mont Ventoux rises from the Provencal agricultural lands to its stark limestone summit at 1909 metres (6,263 ft). There can be snow at the top of Mont Ventoux in the winter months, and there is a small ski hill. The white limestone is visible at its peak during the rest of the year. The mountain has an almost mystical status, or maybe more like magnetic, amongst cyclists wanting to conquer “the Giant of Provence.” While only some bikers can best a Tour de France professional’s time, three route options to the mountain summit exist. Alternatively, drive to the top and enjoy the view.
Bonne route through these six (6) Rhône Valley wine villages!
It’s a short drive north of Carpentras to the ancient wine village of Beaumes-de-Venise, nestling below the limestone slabs of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Named after its caves (*balmas* in Provençal), the town is protected from the Mistral wind, which creates an ideal microclimate for grape growing.
The produce here was enjoyed by the Romans, who knew a thing or two about wine and its delicious Muscat wine was supplied to St Louis in 1248 to fortify him during the long journey to the Crusades. Popes during the Middle Ages also rather liked this beverage. The village is famed for its robust Côtes-du-Rhône red wines, which were upgraded to AOC status in 2005.
There are several wine caves in Beaumes-de-Venise. Make sure to sample the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, a vin doux naturel (VDN, naturally sweet wine).
Market day: Tuesdays, 08:00-13:00 at Cours Jean Jaures
Must-see: Chapels, views, and ancient settlements.
- Notre Dame d’Aubune, an 11th- and 12th-century Romanesque chapel, was classified as a historical monument in 1910 and restored in 2007. They offer guided visits on Tuesday mornings, and the garden is open to the public.
- Visit the old village with the remains of a feudal castle at the top.
- Walk to the Courens plateau to view the Dentelles de Montmirail.
- Continue along the plateau to the Ambrosi caves used as shelters in prehistoric times. You’ll find the remains of an oppidum believed to cover seven (7) hectares, with archaeological traces from the Greeks (6th-century BC) and Romans (1st and 2nd centuries BC). There is also a Christian cemetery where archaeological digs have unearthed traces of some 50 burials.
Previously known for white wines, Gigondas now has a reputation for excellent red wines. Many consider this perched village with the rugged Dentelles de Montmirail as a backdrop, one of the prettiest of all Côtes du Rhône wine villages. The town, more of a hamlet, is adorable, so plan a visit to Gigondas, especially if you love red wine. The city feels like a hamlet, home to 478 people (2021), with the ruins of an old château above the town centre and the soaring mountain peaks above. However, the small town packs a punch for its wine production reputation with an AOC designation. The wines from Gigondas are often compared to Châteauneuf-du-Papes but are more affordable.
Market day: Mondays (seasonal only), 18:00-19:30 at Gigondas la Cave
Must-see: Sculpture Path, Sensory Circuit, Wine Tasting
- When you turn off for Gigondas, follow the road up through the lower village, passing a succession of cafés and tasting rooms (caves) before arriving at Place Gabriel Andéol. The Mairie (town hall) and Caveau du Gigondas (winegrowers cooperative) are located in this plaza. If you like red wine, plan to stop at the Caveau du Gigondas, where you can taste more than 100 wines from 80 local vineyards.
- The town of Gigondas and the association of wine producers in the region sponsor the Sculpture Path. It is an exhibition of contemporary sculptures by French artists displayed throughout the village. Most of the exhibits change from year to year, but some stay for much longer.
- During a few weeks in the summer, the wine growers of Gigondas open the Sensory Circuit (Atelier Sensoriel). Test your smell and learn about wines and winemaking from an aromatic perspective. Admission is free, and there are special circuits for children.
In the heart of Côte du Rhône wine country, at the base of the Dentelles de Montmirail, you will find the village of Sablet. Although small, the town has many amenities, including a grocery store, pharmacy, salons, restaurants, and health care (medical, dental) services.
In the 12th century, the bishops of Avignon founded this community which sits on a hill overlooking the fertile soils on the plains of the Ouvèze River. The bell tower of the St. Nazaire church can be seen from a fair distance, and when illuminated at night, it is like a beacon to villagers heading home.
Market day: Fridays, 08:00-12:30
Must-see: Etang des Jardins fishing, book festival, bakeries, and olive oil
- On the outskirts of Sablet, you’ll find a small lake known as the Etang des Jardins. Purchase a fishing licence at the Vaison-la-Romaine Tourist Office and spend an enjoyable day fishing for bass, perch, and trout.
- Sablet hosts an annual book festival, “Journée du Livre,” in July (usually the third weekend). Authors are available to sell and sign their books. They also do book dedications, lectures, and readings. But it’s not only a literary event; it’s a chance for visitors to experience the delicious wines produced in local Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards.
- The French enjoy – and often insist on – quality bread and pastries. Sablet has two bakeries with a large selection of fresh baked goods. For quality olive oil and products, it’s worth visiting Les 3 Souquets workshop.
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Like its neighbour Beaumes-de-Venise, beautiful Sèguret is at the foot of a steep hill. Also, like its neighbour, it is a wine village and part of the Comtat Venaisson. However, it has the additional cachet of being one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France, and it certainly deserves to be so-called. Laid out below the ruins of a feudal château, you enter the village by the Porte Reynier. The charming old streets, like the rue des Poternes, are lined with ancient stone houses sporting splendid facades. In the main square, you will find the 17th-century Fontaine des Mascarons and a charming bell tower. Discover charming Sèguret in the Côtes du Rhône.
Market day: Thursdays, 17:00-20:00 at Parking du village. May through August only.
Must-see: church, chapel, lavoirs
- Église Saint-Denis was built on the south end of Séguret village in the 10th century. It was rebuilt and improved over the centuries. Outside the church, you will find beautiful views of the countryside, vineyards and Dentelles-de-Montmirail. A panorama panel (table d’orientation) will help you identify the sites in the distance. Visits to the church interior are possible but by appointment only.
- Chapelle Sainte-Thècle was built in the 18th century near the belfry. But it didn’t remain a house of worship for very long as it was turned into a meeting place after the Revolution. Finally, in the 1960s, it was restored by the Friends of Séguret and now hosts art exhibitions from April to October and Christmas and nativity exhibitions in December.
- Long before the days of washing machines, villagers – mostly women– gathered at local public wash basins (lavoirs) to do their laundry. It was a very physically demanding, time-consuming task, but it was also a chance to socialize. Visit the lavoir in Séguret to see what life was like for the women of that era.
Vaison-la-Romaine is a unique town. It is split into two sections by the Ouvèze River, with the Colline du Château on a hill on one side (upper city) and the Colline de la Villasse (lower city) on the opposite bank. It is a moderately-sized town for the region with many amenities, including bakeries, banks, butchers, cafés, restaurants, groceries, wine shops, hairdressers and even a cinema – all within walking distance. This makes it a favoured location for ex-pats and a popular tourist destination. A visit to Vaison-la-Romaine is a tour through 2000 years of history – from the stone bridge built by the Romans in the 1st century to the buildings constructed in the medieval period to today’s delights like the modern restaurant and wine shop of L’Arbre à Vins.
Market day: Tuesdays, 08:30-13:00, with more than 400 stands on various streets throughout the village.
Must-see: Roman bridge, the most significant archaeological site in France, cathedral, Dance Festival
- Connecting the two sides of the city is a stone bridge constructed by Romans in the 1st century and was the only bridge in the town until 1858. In 1992, a devastating flood destroyed the new bridge and several houses, and more than 30 people died. Amazingly the Roman Bridge withstood the surge and is still in use today.
- Vaison-la-Romaine is the home of the most significant archaeological site in France. Learn about people who lived in the area during the Neolithic period and the Celtic-Ligurians who occupied the region long before the Romans. You can also explore the Roman theatre and the remains of an aqueduct and public baths.
- Known as the Cathedral of the Upper Town, the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-de-l’Assomption de Vaison-la-Romaine, was built in 1464 on the site where a 12th-century church once stood. It is built on the cliff, and its base is part of the town’s ramparts.
- Every July, the ancient Roman theatre becomes the magical backdrop for the international dance festival, Vaison Danses. Audiences will enjoy classical and contemporary dance performances by some of the greatest choreographers and dancers worldwide.
Renowned wine and a famous troubadour are among the many reasons to visit the walled village of Vacqueras. This wine-producing commune in the Côtes-du-Rhône region where they have made wine since the 15th century. The town is circular, with an old gateway, a 12th-century bell tower and a ruined Medieval Château. This area rewards both the outdoor enthusiast and wine lover with fabulous hiking in the Dentelles de Montmirail and the potential to sample famous “cru” wines from the heart of the Southern Rhone Valley and nearby Châteauneuf du Pape.
Market day: Thursdays, 09:00-12:00 at cours Stassart
Must-see: Wine festival, bust of Raimbaut de Vacqueyras, hiking and cycling
- Oenophiles will enjoy the “Fête des vins” held annually on July 13-14. During this period, almost the entire village participates in the festivities. Local vineyards showcase their wines, and there are gastronomic delights to satisfy nearly every palate.
- Just outside the local church Église Saint-Barthélémy, you’ll find the bust of Raimbaut de Vacqueyras. He was a famous troubadour in the Middle Ages. Although born in the Vacqueryas area in 1180, he spent most of his life in the Italian courts. His works include a multilingual poem and many songs.
- Because it is generally an agricultural community, life in Vacqueryas is slower-paced than in other villages nearby. This makes it an excellent location for those wanting to relax and enjoy cycling and hiking trails through the nearby Dentelles de Montmirail and local farmland.
More Vines from Mont Ventoux
The flanks of Provence’s highest mountain – Mont Ventoux – have a fantastic diversity of terrain. In 1990, UNESCO granted the massif and surrounding area status as a Biosphere Reserve.
The diversity of climate, soil and elevations also translates into prime agricultural land. Below Mont Ventoux’s summit are cherry and stone fruit orchards, olive groves and thousands of grapevines.
Côtes du Ventoux vineyards achieved AOC status in 1973 for their winemaking expertise. Thus, an excellent place to start your education about these wines is at the cooperative.