Ventoux AOC – The rising star of the Rhône

Ventoux AOC in The Southern Rhône, France
Ventoux AOC in The Southern Rhône, France

There’s something poetic and magnetic about the sight of Mont Ventoux, with its white peak towering over the expanse of the eponymous appellation. Its limestone summit gleams all year round, whether snow-capped or not, sitting beneath the clouds or emerging above them, creating an atmospheric tension of drama and suspense.

This iconic mountain, rising nearly 2,000 metres above sea level, is more than just a topographical feature; it is the embodiment of what makes Ventoux AOC special and unique – an alluring, dramatic reminder of the geological, climatic and ecological characteristics that shape the identity of one of the Rhône’s most exciting and dynamic appellations.

The area has long attracted winemakers and entrepreneurs from different geographies and walks of life, drawn to the mystique of the Ventoux, the singularity of the landscape and the opportunity to produce Rhône wines with an identity very much of their own. Outsiders have, for decades, joined a local community – itself diverse – of growers and producers passionate about both Ventoux AOC as a whole and the idiosyncrasies of their own special corners within it. Producers range from small family-owned boutique estates to large, quality-led cooperatives that support a network of growers, big and small, without whom the local economy and landscape would be all the poorer.

Natural diversity

One of the most striking features of Ventoux AOC is the way the landscape changes as one travels across it. Differently coloured soils hint at the underlying geological variation. Different crops coexist interspersed by sections of woods, creating a rich patchwork that allows diverse flora and fauna to thrive. The appellation spreads across two natural parks (Ventoux and Luberon) and two UNESCO biosphere reserves, meaning that biodiversity is structural to the local ecosystem. This in turn creates a fruitful interplay between different species, promoting natural pest management and more balanced ripening of grapes on the vines, as temperature and humidity levels are naturally kept in check.

Due to the range of altitudes at which vines can be found (100-550 metres) and the geological diversity across the appellation, different terroirs and microclimates shape an intricate pattern that yields wines of nuanced variety. Ventoux is home to, broadly speaking, four types of soils: limestone, clay, sand and marl. These, however, can be found in multiple layering and combined variations, further adding to geological complexity.

Ventoux AOC attracts winemakers and entrepreneurs from different geographies and walks of life

Ventoux AOC attracts winemakers and entrepreneurs from different geographies and walks of life

Pragmatic pioneers

Ventoux producers have developed a deep awareness of the value of the natural assets they have been given – not least because their terroir now puts them in a privileged position in the face of climate change. If once the region struggled to deliver the conditions for optimal grape ripening and desired alcohol levels, today the fruit achieves balance and retains finesse, while other regions struggle with steep ABV levels and unbalanced phenolic maturity.

Leveraging this ‘natural privilege’ has required a concerted collective effort, seen not just in the way the grapes are handled in the vineyard and in the cellar but in the appellation’s overall approach to the stewardship of its natural resources – of which the preservation of the above-mentioned biodiversity is the perfect example.

This holistic and pragmatic approach to sustainability is also reflected in pioneering initiatives to reduce environmental impact across the supply chain. Ventoux AOC has researched and started to implement the use of reusable bottles, for instance, in a pioneering initiative that will hopefully become a template for other appellations and regions to follow.

Wine tourism is another strategic area of development, used to promote the viticultural wealth of a previously overlooked Rhône appellation, and also to…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/sponsored/ventoux-aoc-the-rising-star-of-the-rhone-524559/