Nestled in the foothills of Mount Ventoux, on the south-easternmost fringes of the Rhone Valley wine region; the vineyards of Ventoux are higher and cooler than those of its more famous neighbours.
Mont Ventoux; for the world’s most famous cyclists its name is legend, “The Beast of Provence”, a will-sapping, heart-breaking, soul-destroying stage of the world’s most famous bicycle race, the Tour de France. When the Mistral wind that blows across Southern France is angry, howling across the face of the mountain, a constant, ferocious roar, it can bring fear into a rider’s heart; lives have been lost here.
Mont Ventoux, at 1,909m, is the highest mountain in the Provence region, geologically it is a part of the Alps; yet it stands alone to the north of the Luberon range, separated by the Monts de Vaucluse, east of the Dentelles de Montmirail.
The top of Mont Ventoux is bare limestone, giving the barren peak the appearance of being snow-covered year-round; (its actual snow cover lasts from December to April). The beast dominates the landscape, standing like a beacon. The Mont Ventoux area has been listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1990.
A Dancing Song to the Mistral Wind
“Wildly rushing, clouds out-leaping,
Care-destroying, Heaven sweeping,
Mistral wind, thou art my friend!
Surely ’twas one womb did bear us,
Surely ’twas one fate did pair us,
Fellows for a common end…….”
Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (1887) – Friedrich Nietzsche
Le Sacre Mistral
The Mistral is a violent, cold, northwest wind that accelerates when it passes through the valleys of the Rhône and races out onto the coast. It affects the northeast of the plain of Languedoc and Provence and often causes sudden storms out in the Mediterranean. The mistral is usually accompanied by clear, fresh weather, and it plays an important role in creating the agricultural climate in the regions of the Rhone and Provence. It can reach speeds of more than 90 km/h during the day and usually blows for two or three days at a time, all through winter and spring.
Old farmhouses were built with their backs to the wind here, (facing south) with sturdy north walls devoid of windows. The bell towers on the churches are topped with open frameworks, in order to allow the Mistral to pass through them, lest it topple them over all together.
Locals blame the Mistral for headaches, anxiety and say it is the reason for bad behavior from husbands, pets, and children. Many attest to the fact that it was ‘The Mistral’ that drove the artist, Vincent Van Gogh so stark raving mad that he cut off his own ear!
However, the Mistral does have some beneficial effects on viticulture in the region, helping keep temperatures and humidity down during the ripening season, blowing away rain clouds, and preventing diseases from taking hold amongst the canopies of the vines.
The Velvet Underground
Nestled in the foothills of Mount Ventoux, on the south-easternmost fringes of the Rhone Valley wine region; the vineyards of Ventoux are higher and cooler than those of its more famous neighbours. The vineyards here are also somewhat more protected from the ravages of the Mistral. The cooler ripening conditions see grapes retain greater acidity, with more complexity and concentration of flavour, giving the wines depth, elegance and animation. Being less famous than their neighbours keeps prices in check as well, which means the region is offering up some of the best bargain-buy, everyday-drinking, value-for-money wines from across the width and breadth of the entire Rhone region.
In the 1970s Aline and Denis Aymard planted vines in the Ventoux region near Carpentras, at first the wines were produced at a local co-operative, but soon convinced in the quality of their grapes and the potential of both their vineyard and the region, the Aymard’s soon constructed their own winemaking facilities, becoming one of the first independent producers in the region. Soon Jean-Marie and Michael Aymard were working hand in hand with their parents to maintain the vineyards and produce the wines.
And today their daughters, Anne-Laure and Carine continue the family tradition with their passion for the vines and wines of Ventoux. Their vineyards now extend to over thirty hectares at the foot of Mount Ventoux. The family is totally committee to sustainable, eco-friendly viticulture and winemaking and seek to be in balance and harmony with the natural environment all around them.
Domaine Aymard Intemporel Rouge: a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. A medium bodied red with good acidity and dry, savoury fruit characters. The wine showed lovely primary fruit notes of raspberry berlingot, (Grenache), red current, violets and black tea (Cinsault) with a dollop of satsuma plum and hints of olive tapenade and peppery spices (Syrah). A fine, dry red with a generous mid palate of fruit, balanced complexity, fine, subtle tannins and charming, chalky, fresh acidity.
Written by Darren Gal