The Rhône Valley and a couple of great new restaurant finds

The wine regions in the Rhône Valley are split into two distinct halves: the Northern Rhône where the reds are almost exclusively made from syrah, and the Southern Rhône where grenache is King but usually blended with lots of other things.

In the South, the towns are very historic with lots of old castles and monasteries. For a long time the Rhône itself was the border between the Roman Empire and France.  The most famous and largest wine village in the south is that of Châteauneuf du Pâpe. Located about 10 minutes South West of Orange this village producers strong, full- bodied wines from grenache, syrah, mourvedre, cinsault and up to nine other varieties.

This year we found a couple of great new places to eat as well as re-visiting one of our all-time favourites leBeaugravière.

la Beaugravière à Mondragon
Tel: +33490408254
Fax: +33490409101
E-mail: [email protected]

In the southern Rhone we stay at a charming hotel in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon, the smaller town across the river from the bustling Avignon proper. What was always a great place to stay is now even better with the new wine bar AOC 200 m from the hotel. There is one AOC in Avignon and this is their new venue. A perfect place from some very good quality, freshly produced food and a great glass of wine.

Hotel de l’atelier
5, rue de la Foire
30400 Villeneuve-lez-Avignon
Tel: 00 33 4 90 25 01 84
Fax : 00 33 4 13 33 71 41
E-mail : [email protected]

The menu consists of a number of smaller dishes and platters with things like tartares served with fresh salad and a sinfully good potato gratin. We had a great dish which can only be called a Duck Shepheard’s pie, probably sounds better in French, but you get the idea. Great charcuterie, simple clean flavours freshly prepared, and with wines by the glass form all over France including many of the small domains we buy direct.

AOC- Avignon
5 Rue de Trémoulet
84000 Avignon
Tél : 04 90 25 21 04

AOC-Villeneuve-lez –Avignon
2 Place Victor Bash , 30400
Tél : 04 90 94 34 46

But the best find in the Rhone is an hour to the North in Tain l’Hermitage. This town unlike Villeneuve doesn’t have a lot going for it in terms of historical buildings or nice shops but now it has a new must-see venue: Le Mangevins. If you are near Tain you have to try this as it is some of the best food we have had in France. But if you want to go you will have to book as they can only seat 20 and it is always full. Vincent is a passionate vino-file and his Japanese wife has had a strong influence over the style of the food which is fresh vibrant and very tasty. I had a great piece of black Spanish pork, we had some line-caught cod cooked to perfection, a delicious sashimi-style tuna Carpaccio and a syrah poached fois gras were all highlights of a menu consisting simply of three entrees, three mains and three desserts.

Le Mangevins – Bistrot à vins
6 avenue dr paul durand – 26600
Tain l’Hermitage – France

Other things to do in Tain are a visit the Valrhona chocolate factory shop. Luckily they do not weigh you in and out as the samples on offer where too much of a temptation for a self-confessed chocoholic.

A quick stop at the M. Chapoutier cellar door is worth a visit in the same street as Le Mangevin or give a quick call to Jerome at our friend at Coursodon for a tasting at the cellar door in Mauves, across the river from Tain.

3, place du marché
07300 Mauves sur Rhône
+33 (0)6 83 44 32 42