Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Southern Ardeche: Chateaus, Churches, Chevre, and Chatus

      On our second full day in the Ardeche, Monday April 2, there were no outdoor markets, so we decided to just drive to a couple of villages in the morning to do some sightseeing.  We started in Banne, a small village in the Cevenne hills about ½ hour from where we were staying.  We walked up to the top of the ruins of the old chateau, from where you can see the center of the village and the church that dominates the town.

             We then drove to Les Vans, a much larger town that is the regional center of this part of the southern Ardeche, and strolled around and bought some bread and pastries from two of the many bakeries in town.  We then made our way back to our gite for lunch.

            In the afternoon we took a drive to Rochecolombe, a village not far from our gite which has a medieval part that had been a ruin but has been restored over the years, and walked through that part of the town.

             At the end of the day we visited Domaine Jerome Mazel, a wine producer that we had spent a lot of time at 2 years before and wrote several posts about.  As we approached the winery Jerome's mother was walking by and recognized us, and opened the caveau and gave us a tasting of the entire range of wines (Jerome was out in the fields replanting a vineyard).  As was the case on our last visit, the wines were simply outstanding, especially the 2 Viogniers (both the dry version and a late harvest) and the all-Syrah Magie Noire (Black Magic).  She also poured us a wine Jerome called Nature, made from the banned Jacquez grape variety, a phyloxerra-era American grape.  We bought a bottle of the 2011 rosé and one bottle each of the 2 Viogniers.

       The next morning was market day in Largentiere, which has a chateau overlooking the lower part of the town, and we spent a couple of hours strolling through the market and the old part of town. We bought another Provencal cloth from a vendor at the market, a couple more fromages de chevre, and a few other culinary provisions, including olive oil from a local producer. With lunch we had the 2010 Pouilly-Fuissé we had bought in Vinzelles.

            In the late afternoon we drove to the town of Rosieres to visit two producers of Chatus wines that we had stopped at on prior trips to the region: the Cave Cooperative La Cevenole, and Domaine de Grangeon.  Three years ago we had first visited this part of the Ardeche after reading Robert Camuto's book Corkscrewed, which included a chapter on the obscure Chatus grape.  Chatus wines are made by fewer than 10 producers in the foothills of the Cevennes mountains in the Ardeche (the Cevennes Ardechois region), and apparently nowhere else in the world.  Wines made from Chatus are quite tannic, must be aged in oak for at least 12 months (Domaine de Grangeon's is aged for 2 years), and need several years to be ready to drink.  We bought bottles of Chatus from the 2008 and 2009 vintages from both La Cevenole and Domaine de Grangeon, and a bottle of 2011 rose from La Cevenole.


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