Wine Tasting Near Avignon

We rose before sunrise and caught a train from Aix-en-Provence to Avignon for a tour of regional vineyards.
We took a bus from the TGV high speed train station and were deposited just inside the town wall.
We walked toward the tourist office to meet our tour guide.  We discovered a small park just outside and since we were a bit early took the opportunity to explore.
We met a 1-eyed black cat...
...jaunty Roman statues...
...and sooty ruins...
We walked around to the front of the tourist office and were whisked away (along with 4 others) by David from Avignon Wine Tour to the Provençal countryside.
The sun shone across the hills and winter vines as we approached our first stop.
We pulled up in our wine-tasting-mobile to admire the vines and our surroundings before heading to the tasting room.
I spied an orange-tipped butterfly on a gnarled tree.
After we'd learned a bit from David about the terroir and methods for trellising the vines, we knocked on the door of Chateau Romanin.
A playful sculpture stood outside.
We walked through the showroom into the heart of the production center.
We saw large stainless steel tanks...
...oak barrels in a dark cave aging the wines to perfection.
After stepping us through the various steps of wine production, we got down to the business of tasting wine.  David was a sommelier for 16 years before joining Avignon Wine Tour and tried to give us a crash course in the tricks of the trade.
  1. Hold the glass by the stem, not by the bulb.  You don't want to warm the wine with the heat from your hands or leave unsightly fingerprints on the glass.
  2. Observe the color and judge the vintage.  Clear edges mean the wine is younger; reddish brown edges mean the wine is 4+ years old.
  3. Describe the 'first nose'. This is the scent of the wine without disturbing the contents of the glass.  
  4. Swirl the glass vigorously and describe the 'second nose'.   Describe the nose in terms of a general class (eg: mineral, fruity, floral) and then describe in more detail (eg: strawberry compote, blackberries, plums, cherries).
  5. Observe the legs after swirling.  This will tell you if the grapes grew in a cool or warm climate.  The cooler it was, the more 'legs' you'll see running down the inside of the glass.
  6. Take a healthy sip. Describe the flavors using major categories and then refine further (eg: lots of spice; pepper notes, nutmeg and leather)
  7. Sample the 3rd nose.  When your glass is empty, wave it up and down 4 times, sniff and describe.
That's all there is to it!

We piled out of the tasting room and back into the sun.
Onward to the next winery!
Next up was Domaine de Valdition.
We started with samples of their olive oil taken direct from a spoon.
We moved on to more wine tasting.  We continued to ply our rudimentary knowledge to characterize the wine.
Sampling complete, we checked out the market on the premises.
We stopped in Eygalieres to check out the local market and have a gourmet bite for lunch.
David dropped us off at one end of the market and we ran the gauntlet of fresh foods.
We were lured in by these fabulous looking hand crafted nougat and bought a slab.  Beware!  Nougat is very expensive.  It can run about 50 euro a kilo.  We bought a small slab and it was 20 euro.  That was more than we really wanted to spend, but hey, what are you going to do.  It was a tasty treat after all.
The market also featured lovely cheeses...
...herbes de Provence and lavender...
...olives and crockery...
We'd worked up quite an appetite.  We were greeted by two gorgeous felines on the patio at Sous les Micocouliers.  
Culinary delights awaited us inside from bread and crudite... a sampler platter featuring chestnut soup, pate, poached pear, duck, shrimp, and more.  It was great to try a variety of small bites.  They were all fantastic and it's unlikely I would have ordered many of these items if given a choice as a single entree.
A platter of small sugary treats was brought out at the end of the meal with our espresso.
We also took time for dessert which included a chocolate cake with fruit and sorbet...
...and a poached pear with cream and macarons.
The food was delicious but be aware that it's not included in the price of the tour and cost about 31 euro per person including wine.

We continued on our way to Mas Sainte Berthe.
We could see Les Baux on a hill in the distance.
We strolled around the grounds for a bit soaking in the sun before heading inside to taste more wines.
The tasting room featured a peep hole into the barrel room and a shelf around the perimeter of the room featuring empty wine bottles of different sizes and shapes.
My favorite part about Mas Saint Berthe was the petrol style wine station.  It was possible to buy table wine by the jug.
While we were there, someone came in with their plastic jug, tapped out a few gallons, and paid by the weight.  
We sampled our wines the more traditional way: from a bottle into a glass.
Continuing on, we had a chance to stop in Les Baux and admire the views of the surrounding valley.
We caught a glimpse of a guy parasailing overhead.
The village of Les Baux has sat atop this hill for over 1000 years.  We wandered the narrow cobbled streets and admired the architecture of the town buildings.
David picked us up again and we made our way to our final vineyard of the day, Chateau Estoublon.
There was a Christmas market on the premises at the time which was a nice touch.
I particularly liked the Phileas Fogg (Around the World in 80 Days) carousel on the property.
The tasting room was set in a large stone mansion.
Inside, we went through the wine tasting steps one final time with David.
We rounded out our tour with a browse through the surprisingly large market on site.
David dropped us back in Avignon after a very full day of exploration.  Avignon Wine Tour visits a different region each day of the week.  If we get back to Provence, we'd definitely go on another adventure with David and company - C'est Magnifique!



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Sidewalk Safari: Wine Tasting Near Avignon
Wine Tasting Near Avignon
Sidewalk Safari
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