>> Friday, March 11, 2011
The AOC Vacqueyras is celebrating its 20th birthday. It was in 1990 that Vacqueyras was upgraded to an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. Before that it was “only” a Côtes du Rhône. A wine tasting in Paris recently of the 20 vintages made during these first twenty years as an appellation show that Vacqueyras indeed is a worthy AOC. The quality throughout was very good and the oldest wines well preserved. Most of the time it is wines that go very well with food. They are well structured with tannins and a fresh acidity.
Vacqueyras is in the region of southern Rhône, 30 kilometres northeast of Avignon and quite close to the beautiful mountains of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Some of its illustrious neighbours are Gigondas, Séguret, Sablet, Beaumes-de-Venise, Cairanne and Rasteau. The vineyards of AOC Vacqueyras cover an area of 1390 hectares and they are the most part situated around the small towns of Vacqueyras and Sarrians. The climate is Mediterranean with the northern Mistral wind blowing frequently and sometimes furiously. It is well liked though, because it keeps the vineyards dry and healthy. The garrigue is omnipresent in Vacqueyras. The perfume of wild herbes de provence is in the air and gives the wines a distinct spicy character. The soil is often extremely stony. A Vacqueyras must be made of at least 50 % Grenache and between 20 and 50 % of Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. Cinsault is also used, but sparingly.
We asked some of the producers who were present at the tasting in Paris about their impressions about the first 20 years as an appellation.
”It was a bit difficult in the beginning, the first 5-6 years”, says Frédéric Vache at Clos des Cazaux. ”We went from being one of the best Côtes-du-Rhône-wine to become an unknown AOC. But in the end of the 1990s there was the big boom for Châteauneuf-du-Pape which resulted in high prices which meant that we got our chance. Consumers that didn’t want to pay over prices for a Châteauneuf turned to Vacqueyras instead.”
And soon Vacqueyras was a well known name. Today Vacqueyras has its share of famous wine producers you can read about in all wine magazines, like Sang de Cailloux, Montirius och Monardière.
An important development during these 20 years is the increase in the number of private wine producers. In 1990 there were only 20, now there are 60-65. “There were a lot of young people who left the cooperatives in the 90s and started to make their own wine”, says Christian Vache at Domaine la Monardière.
Serge Ferigoule at Domaine Sang de Cailloux points out another important development:”We are better now at taking care of our land”, he says.” Organic and sustainable culture is growing.” His own Domaine Sang de Cailloux (which means the blood of the stones…) will be biodynamically certified next year. “My wines have gained in finesse since I started in biodynamics and the terroir and the vintage is more obvious.”