Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is a popular wine-growing region whose many famous wines include Côtes du Rhône and Beaujolais but also less well-known ones like Côtes du Vivarais and Côtes d’Auvergne. The grapes that produce red, white and rosé wines grow on vines placed among medieval villages, forests and mountains, each vineyard having its own characteristics.

    Knock on a wine-grower's door and let them tell you about the family tradition behind the art of wine-making. You can taste the region's wines in cellars along the Rhône and the Loire rivers, in the foothills of the Alps and along the Puys mountains (la chaîne des Puys). Discover 10 vineyards in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes to sample the flavours of the region.

    1

    Beaujolais Geopark

    A UNESCO geopark between Lyon and the Alps

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    The Beaujolais Geopark is a geographically diverse wine-growing region in southeastern France. Located about 30 minutes north of Lyon, squeezed between pastures and forests, vines grow on steep slopes that give it its character. It is the many and varied soils here that made the area special enough to become a Geopark. 12 different AOCs (appellations d'origine contrôlées) are grown here, all from one grape variety, Gamay.

    You can visit lots of the local wine growers and try the local wines which are mostly red but with a few whites and rosés. Or you could treat yourself to a mâchon, a local breakfast of everything pork accompanied by a glass of Beaujolais. Why not share the Beaujolais nouveau festivities and try a long weekend at the end of November?

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    Coteaux du Lyonnais

    A vineyard lying on the slopes of the Monts du Lyonnais

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    Coteaux du Lyonnais is Lyon's main vineyard between the Rhone valley and Beaujolais. Only a few kilometres to the west of Lyon, the wine makers here produce a fruity red, but also some whites and rosés. In the middle of the hilly landscape, the vineyards snake between orchards and fields.

    There are signposted vineyard paths in Savigny, Millery and Taluyers, giving you the chance to spend time in the heart of the vineyards. Information panels that tell you about the basics of wine making. Or you could visit a local wine maker's cellars to taste their product and learn what makes this area special.

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    Côtes du Rhône

    The vineyards of the Rhone valley

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    Côtes du Rhône is an enormous area known for AOCs (appellations d'origine contrôlée). Located along the banks of the River Rhone, between Vienne and Avignon, the Côtes-du-Rhône AOC produces slightly different wines or uses different production methods than other regions. On the northern slopes, the vineyards of Côte-Rôtie and Saint-Joseph are grown on terraces separated by little stone walls.

    On the southern slopes the vineyards producing the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Beaumes-de-Venise lie next to olive trees and scrub land. The climate influences over this rich area create a variety of red wines with a range of colours and different notes, but also some rosés and dry whites. As well as the vineyards there are pretty villages with the characteristic wrought iron bell towers lying under the clear blue skies blown by the Mistral wind.

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    Le Pays Diois

    The other vineyard in the Rhone valley

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    Le Pays Diois is home to around 50 villages surrounding Die in the Drôme. Lying between Provence and Vercors, this is sharply sloping countryside with a slight Mediterranean feel and the vineyards are grown on terraces known as "serres". The mountain vines are squeezed between the forests and the fields of lavender. And the best known of its wines is the sparking Clairette de Die AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée).

    However, this fairly low alcohol (about 8%) and fruity, sparking white is not the only wine grown in the area. So why not try some of the lesser known wines, like the dry white Coteaux-de-Die or the Châtillon-en-Bois which is made in red, white and rosé.

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    Vivarais

    Côtes du Vivarais wines

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    Côtes-du-Vivarais is home to about 30 growers who make the wines along the south east of the Massif Central in Ardèche and Gard. This AOC shares its ground with oak and olive trees. It enjoys a sunny Mediterranean climate that is modified by the neighbouring hills.

    Above the Ardèche gorge the stony and chalky soils of the Gras plateau produce spicy red wines with strong tannins that go really well with meat and especially with Ardèche guinea fowl. While the local rosé wines have intense colour and a freshness that goes well with the region's more Mediterranean style dishes.

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    Saint-Pourçain wine

    Wines produced around Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule

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    Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule is a charming village between Vichy and Moulins that lends its name to a local wine produced in 19 surrounding villages. It's one of the oldest vineyards in France, and although it's not a big area, it has its own unique grape variety, the Tressallier.

    The Tressallier is only cultivated here and is responsible for the special character of Saint-Pourçain white wines. Once served to the Kings of France, nowadays it's drunk as an aperitif, with a local speciality called "la pompe aux grattons", a kind of savoury brioche cooked with bacon bits. If you'd rather drink red then try "La Ficelle" a local wine that is drunk young and cold.

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    Côtes d’Auvergne

    Vineyards clinging to the slopes of the Puys mountains

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    Côtes d’Auvergne lies on the volcanic earth that stretches from Riom to Issoire, via Clermont-Ferrand. In this Loire wine producing area, grapes are grown in fairly extreme conditions, with hot, stormy summers and cold, dry winters.

    There are 4 named red wines: Madargue and Châteaugay in the north, Chanturgue around Clermont-Ferrand, and Boudes in the far south. The fifth local wine, Corent, is pink. It is a real exception because most of the local wines are meaty reds, designed to taste good with the local cheeses like Cantal, Saint-Nectaire or Fourme d'Ambert.

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    Côtes du Forez

    Vineyard in the foothills of the Forez mountains

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    Côtes-du-Forez is a region responsible for the red and rosé wines of AOC . Sitting in the Loire, not far from Saint-Étienne, these vines are grown on the granite and basalt soils of Forez, in a temperate climate that is protected from extremes by the hills. These little vineyards are sandwiched on the lower slopes of the green Forez mountains.

    The vast majority of the production of this appellation is red wine which is gradually becoming better known. It is a deep coloured, dry wine that is drunk fairly young and ideal with la fourme de Montbrison, the highly-prized local blue cheese.

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    The Chartreuse cellar

    The liqueur that comes from the Chartreuse mountains

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    The Chartreuse cellar (Les caves de la Chartreuse) boasts the most famous liqueur in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, a delicious distilled drink made from a variety of herbs and flowers. In Voiron, only half an hour from Grenoble, you can visit what is reputed to be the longest wine cellar in the world.

    And you can learn the secrets of making Green Chartreuse, a liqueur that is 100% natural. Find out about the many plants and herbs used to make it, but also about the history of the monks of Chartreuse who created it. At the end of your tour, of course, you can try it. Although it was traditionally drunk after the meal as a digestive, nowadays Chartreuse is also used in cocktails. Which is why there are workshops offering you the first steps in mixology (the art of mixing cocktails) and learning how to combine Chartreuse with other quite surprising ingredients.

    Location: 10 Bd Edgar Kofler, 38500 Voiron, France

    Open: Tuesday—Saturday from 10 am to 12.30 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm.

    Phone: +33 (0)4 76 05 90 34

    Map
    10

    The wines of Savoy

    A limited production of light white wines

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    Savoy wines are nearly all whites, although there are a few sparkling whites as well as some reds, and rosés. The Vin-de-Savoie wine region consists of the 4 French departments, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Ain and Isère.

    Between mountains and valleys, northern or southern slopes, or because of the proximity of a lake or a river, there are about 15 different crus that are influenced by the patchwork of different soils, the way the vineyards face and the types of grapes grown. These mountain white wines are not high in alcohol and characteristically have a slightly acidic taste. They are used in lots of local dishes, especially fondue and berthoud, which is made with a local cheese, Abondance, which is cooked in the oven.

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