Having been to the southern Ardeche twice in the prior 3 years, we didn't feel the need to visit every single village again, so our days were a little lazy. On Wednesday morning, April 4, we went to the town of Joyeuse, which has a very lively outdoor market, and we bought more fromage de chevre, as well as saucisson from a local producer who was giving out samples of his salamis and cheeses. And since asparagus season is underway in this part of France, we bought a bunch to have with dinner.
Like so many towns in France, Joyeuse has a church spire high above the center of town. Also like so many towns, the main road runs right through the center of town where most of the shops are located, but in Joyeuse there is also a quiet center with a few shops and some museums, and we took a walk through that part of the town.
The next day, Patrice Reverger, the owner of the gite we were staying at and a grape grower who sells his grapes to the local cooperative, arranged a tour of his cooperative in the morning. Actually, he arranged tours of two different parts of the cooperative. First of all, we went with him to the local branch of the cooperative, called the Vignerons Sud Ardeche, in the nearby town of Ruoms. We met the Director of the cooperative, and then Patrice gave us a tour of the facility. All of the growers who sell their grapes to the Ruoms cooperative bring their grapes there, where they are crushed and vinified and then bottled. There is a small tasting room, where wines are also sold.
We then went to the facility of the large umbrella organization, the Vignerons Ardechois, or UVICA, housed in a large modern facility on the outskirts of Ruoms. UVICA is the result of the agglomeration of 21 cooperatives in the Southern Ardeche. No wine is vinified there, but juice is apparently trucked in from all of the cooperatives and filtered and bottled there, much of it in bulk, but also a good deal of it in bottles. The Director of Production gave us a whirlwind tour of the facility, which was incredibly mechanized with a huge production. Despite Patrice's explanation, I was never able to quite figure out the exact relationship between the Vignerons Ardechois and the Vignerons Sud Ardeche (and indeed the other cooperatives that made up UVICA).
That afternoon we drove into the mountainous part of the southern Ardeche and stopped in the villages of Meyras and Thueyts. I went to the little all-purpose shop in Meyras to get a “Meyras – Village Medieval” T-shirt to replace the one I had bought there 2 years ago, and we stumbled upon 3 curious cats.
In Thueyts we ran across a friendly white cat, and walked to the edge of town to get a view of the Pont Diable (Devil's Bridge) in the valley below.
At the end of the day we returned to Domaine Jerome Mazel to pick up some more of his wine.