Flourishing island-like in the Drôme Provençale, the enclave of Valréas has an environment that produces delicate, caressing wines with a discreetly sensual yet persistent charm.Christophe Tassan
After his election to the papacy in Lyon in 1317, John XXII, very sick at the time, tasted a wine from Valréas while on his way to Avignon. It seemed to give him a new lease of life and he was soon restored to health. To secure his supply of this wine, he purchased the town from the Dauphin du Viennois. This acquisition also gave him a strong position between his own territories of Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin, and the lands held by the Dauphins of Viennois and the Counts of Provence, vindictive and touchy neighbours in those troubled times. Later, he also acquired the towns of Richerenches and Visan, carving out a papal enclave. For this reason, Valréas still bears the title of capital of the “Enclave des Papes”, and remains a canton of the Vaucluse département, though completely surrounded by the Drôme.
Its vineyards owe their special distinction, which so charmed Pope John, to the exposure of the local hillsides, which are north and west-facing and lie at altitude. The predominantly clayey soils therefore retain their coolness and humidity and are less prone to drought than those which experience the full force of the sun. Another factor which gives the wine its special quality is the stream of cold air descending from the Alpine foothills, which cools the vines. The result is that Valréas red wines delight the palate with flavours of red berry fruits, raspberry, gooseberry and blackcurrant, are silky smooth, elegant and fresh, and have good keeping properties. The whites are full-bodied and aromatic; the rosés pleasantly fruity.
The grape blends used for making AOC red wines must contain a minimum of 50% Grenache, together with at least 20% Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. These wines keep well and can be aged for more than ten years.
Where rosés are concerned, the main constituent must be Grenache, supplemented by at least 20% Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. White grape varieties (Grenache, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier) may not account for more than 20% of the mix. These are very pleasant “vins de table”, best drunk in their first year.
The appellation’s white wines must contain at least 80% of the following varieties: Grenache blanc, Clairette blanche, Marsanne blanche, Roussanne blanche, Bourboulenc blanc, Viognier blanc. They, too, are fresh, fruity wines, to be drunk young.
The minimum alcohol content for the red wines of the appellation is 12.5%, while for the rosés and whites it is 12%.
The area has undoubtedly been settled since the Gallo-Roman period, as evidenced by fragments of sculpture and tombs found in the vicinity.
Valréas was founded in the 9th century, at the beginning of Charlemagne’s reign. A certain Valère established an estate on the banks of the Coronne, where the town now stands. Over time, this large estate was joined with the neighbouring priory of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of viticulture, giving rise to the first settlement on this site.
Pope John XXII then acquired the estate from Humbert de Montauban in 1317. Legend has it that, returning from Lyon after his election to the papacy, the Pope was restored to health on drinking some wine from Valréas. He therefore decided to annexe this territory, which had wrought the miracle. Thus Valréas became the capital of the Enclave des Papes, a title which it retained until the French Revolution.
The Valréas vineyards were accorded Côtes du Rhône Villages status in 1967.
View the decrees granting appellation status (INAO)1967Birth of AOC Valréas
The wine-growing area lies in the commune of Valréas, in the département of Vaucluse.
Mediterranean type, influenced by winds off Alps.
Terraced hillsides of red clay, more or less stony.
surface area444 hectares
Total production17 435 hl
- 97% Red
- 2% White
- 1% rosé
Average yield achieved39 hl/ha
*Export figures according to the most recent research
Source : Harvest statement 2016