Just as Champagne is the king of France’s sparkling wines, Tavel is the birthplace of French rosés; located just northwest of Avignon alongside the River Rhône, the village has been producing dry rosé wines for centuries. At their best when drunk chilled and accompanying food, the wines of Tavel are best enjoyed when young but the best vintages also age reasonably well.
The Grenache, Picpoul, Syrah and Clairette grapes that go into Tavel’s rosé production thrive in the hot, sunny and dry climate as well as the sandy soils of the region; of late prices have soared as the wine has grown in popularity. Wines have been produced around Tavel since the fifth century BC, when the Greeks planted the first vines; in the 14th century, the rosés were a particular favorite of Pope Innocent VI and the region was awarded AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) status in 1937. Today the village of Tavel is a pretty, sandstone village sprawling downhill from its half-ruined chateau, surrounded by vines planted in neat rows leading off to the horizon. Easy to explore on foot, it has many quiet corners filled with fountains and monuments as well as laid-back bars in which to taste the local wines.
Tavel is 20 minutes northwest of Avignon and is best accessed by taxi or car. A visit to the rosé wineries of Tavel can easily be combined with tastings at the great red-producing vignerons of Châteauneuf-du-Pape on the opposite side of the Rhône.