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These are FRENCH wine-growing areas that are geographically part of the Rhone but have their own identities: Clairette de Die, Cremant de Die, Vins du Diois, Coteaux du Tricastin, Cotes du Ventoux and Costieres de Nimes.

CLAIRETTE DE DIE

Clairette de Die is an ancient wine that was known by the Romans (Plinus the Elder 77 BC). At that time the wine was called Aigleucos and was made by the local Celts. They dipped the vats in which the wine had just started to ferment into the ice-cold mountain streams. This brought an early end to the fermentation process so that the bubbles were retained. Up to World War II Clairette was only ever intended to be drunk as a young, still fermenting wine, drawn from the barrel. This situation changed radically in 1950 when the Cave Cooperative Clairette de Die was established. The vineyards were extended and the technique of wine-making was enormously improved. With respect for tradition, a new elan was given to this almost lost traditional local drink. Clairette de Die is made from Muscat and Clairette grapes. These French wine is bottled before the fermentation is complete without any other additives. The carbonic acid gas that is produced during the fermentation is therefore trapped in the bottles as naturally-occurring bubbles. This ancient method is officially known under the name 'Methode Dioise Ancestrale'. Thetaste of this traditionally made Clairette de Die is exceptionally fruity (the Muscat grapes) , gentle, and seductive. The low alcoholic content (7%) makes it a sensual aperitif but it can also be served with chicken or rabbit casserole to which a generous amount of this wine has been added.

 

CREMANT DE DIE

The dry (brut) version of this French wine, made exclusively with Clairette grapes and by the Methode Traditionnelle, has been known as Cremant de Die since 1993. The nose is reminiscent of apples and other white and green fruit. When older these are supplemented by suggestions of dried fruit and almonds.

CHATILLON-EN-DIOIS

This small area of appellation is found at the foot of the first outcrops of the Alps. Chatillon Gamay, red or rose, is a fruity and yielding wine with a rich bouquet. Drink these French wines young except for the special cuvee that is aged in oak, which can be kept for a time before drinking. Chatillon Aligote is an elegant, fresh dry white wine with a bouquet of wild herbs. It needs to be drunk when young, for instance as an aperitif. Chiitillon Chardonnay is a fuller, more serious white wine, which improves with a year's maturing in the bottle. In addition to these generic wines there are also various domain wines of superb quality. Be quick off the mark though because the demand exceeds the supply.

 

COTEAUX DU TRICASTIN

This French wine is little different from Cotes du Rhone. For some obscure reason it is not included within ,the elite Rhone wines. White, rose, and red wines are produced here on the same types of vine, and similar soils.

 

COTES DU VENTOUX

The climate is somewhat cooler here than in the Rhone Valley. The wine is therefore less alcoholic than other Rhone wines. Red wine predominates and this is fresh, elegant, and needs to be drunk while still relatively young.

 

COTES DU LUBERON

This appellation has only existed for white, rose, and red wine since 1988. The climate here is also cooler which explains a predominance of white wine.

Generally speaking these are quite inexpensive but good quality wines which are becoming increasingly popular. It is expected that this area will develop further in the twenty-first century. Keep an eye on these wines. In terms of taste there is little difference with Rhone wines, except perhaps that Luberon is slightly less full-bodied and structured. Finally, a mention for a good VDQS wine: the Cotes du Vivarais.

 

COTES DU VIVARAIS

Red French wine is mainly made here from the Grenache and Syrah grapes. There is also a local fresh-tasting rose that is particularly pleasing.

 

NATURALLY SWEET WINES

Two communes in the Rhone Valley region make high quality sweet desert wines using Muscat grapes. A full -bodied. strong white wine with enormous aromatic potential is made in a natural manner in Beaumes-de-Venise. This white wine both smells and tastes of the Muscat grape, together with peach, apricots, and occasionally also of freshly-picked wild flowers. Drink this wine well chilled 41-42.8°F (5-8°C).

By contrast, a fortified red wine is made in Rasteau. Fermentation is stopped by adding pure wine alcohol to the wine juice. The wine produced is very sweet, very fruity, and somewhat resembles Port. Drink slightly below room temperature.

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