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The lost vineyards of France

By Wink Lorch

Muscat grapes for Clairette de Die

Muscat grapes for Clairette de Die

In September, I visited the Diois (pronounced Dee-wah) for a harvest festival for Clairette de Die (pronounced Dee), which ended up being cancelled part-way through due to the torrential rain. I partly went there to see whether there was enough to write about for a mini-micro-region guide for Wine Travel Guides or should that be a mini-region guide? I ended up unsure, but wrote about my visit anyway for Wine Pages. Not really belonging in any major wine region, it’s one of a myriad of tiny, remote wine regions in France with spectacular scenery.

Produced near the town of Die in the mountains east of the Rhône Valley, Clairette de Die is a semi-sweet sparkling wine and about 90% is made by the very switched-on cooperative cellar Jaillance. Jaillance not only provides an excellent tour and tasting, but has over 10% of its members working using organic methods – most commendable. The star of the individual producers in the region is Achard-Vincent who are in the process of converting to biodynamic methods having been organic since the 1970s (when it was de rigeur for all organic growers to wear sandals – this family still does, by the way). They produce a range of delicate Muscat-based Clairette de Die that is just delicious. The festival was lovely, but there is a real dearth of good places to stay in the area. The little town of Die boasts a couple of decent restaurants – the wonderfully wacky organic restaurant Tchai Walla and a more traditional, but very good restaurant, the Vieux Sonneur – neither have websites.

Other obscure regions that could one day be included on Wine Travel Guides include Bugey, next to Savoie; various little regions on the foothills of the Massif Central near the source of the Loire River including St-Pourcain and Côtes de Forez; Vins de Moselle near Metz up towards Luxembourg and several others. In the meantime, at least we do include micro-region guides to Gascony, the Jura and part of Savoie, all of which are pretty obscure, but great fun to visit.

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