How To Spend Two Days in the Southern Rhone Visiting Wineries & Tasting Rooms – By Car and Bike
Planning a wine trip to the Southern Rhone can be a little daunting. As soon as you start searching through maps and lists of producers, it becomes immediately obvious that regardless of how much time you have, you’ll probably need more time to research than you expected.
We had two days and a mission to absorb as much as possible – by bike. The Southern Rhone itinerary and travel guide that follows is the result of several hours of research and emails, many tasting rooms, 100+ wines, and approximately 60km of biking.
We kicked off with a half day in Chateauneuf-du-Pape before driving up to Vaison la Romaine, collecting the bikes and spending 1.5 days exploring the local appellations. You could easily spend longer on this trip, and cycle in other directions from Vaison, but this route is tried and tested.
Where to Stay in Southern Rhone – Vaison la Romaine
Vaison la Romaine is a great area to base yourself, and there are numerous hotel options available year-round. It’s close to several of the key appellations in the Rhone like Gigondas and has plenty of dining options as well.
Even more importantly for cyclists, it’s home to an e-bike rental store, Sun e-bike, which also has several other offices around the South of France. We rented e-bikes for €35 per day. Pre-booking meant that the bikes were ready for us to collect upon arrival.
Time (and distance) makes it difficult to include Chateauneuf in a short biking itinerary, but it’s easy to make a quick pit-stop in this gorgeous wine town by car.
There are seemingly endless tasting rooms dotted around the town, but if you’re short on time, head to the one belonging to the Perrin Family — Chateau de Beaucastel — for a thorough tasting of their portfolio.
After enjoying the Perrins’ Beaucastel for breakfast, you can drive over to Vielle Julienne for a tour of the winery and a tasting. The wines are outstanding, which some might attribute to 20 years of biodynamic farming. Be sure to contact the winery in advance by email to inquire about reservations.
Lunch & Afternoon: Vaison-la-Romaine to Chene Bleu and Back
If you asked my three friends and I to summarize an afternoon at Chene Bleu in one word, we’d quickly agree on “wow.”
The ride from Vaison to La Verrière is breath-taking. Literally, if you don’t have an e-bike: It’s a long way up. If you do, you can enjoy the views across the Ventoux with minimal pain. They are spectacular.
The estate basks in sunshine atop a mountain foothill. We basked alongside it with a picnic provided for €40 per two people. A little wicker basket is filled with locally grown and produced goodies like fresh bread, cheeses, vegetables and strawberries. You can decide where to pitch up with your picnic blanket and, should you choose, a bottle of wine. The vegetable garden — with large a stone table, shade and sprinklers — is a good choice. Other more formal dining options are also available.
After, you can take a tour of the biodynamic vineyards and gravity winery. A tasting also offers you the opportunity to sample through the estate’s White, Rosé and Red Wines which have earned international acclaim – and very deservedly so.
The cycle back to Vaison is all downhill, so you can really enjoy the wind through your hair.
Make sure to book your visit in advance at Chene Bleu.
Full day: Vaison-la-Romaine to Beaumes-du-Venise and Back
Are you feeling energetic? Good. The cycle from Vaison to Beaumes-de-Venise gives you an impression of several key Southern Rhone appellations and wineries in one day. The return journey can be done in a single day with multiple tastings slotted in, but you’ll need an early start. Fortunately, the route is mostly flat and easy to navigate.
A good option is to cycle straight to Gigondas in the morning, move on to Beaumes-de-Venise for lunch, and then break up the return journey with stops in Vacqueras and Sablet. There are several appellation-wide tasting rooms en route. They’re great for tasting wines from multiple producers in one go. On an e-bike, expect the journey from Vaison to Beaumes de-Venise to take around 50 minutes if you were to cycle non-stop.
Wineries & Tasting Rooms To Visit in Route (North to South)
Each Southern Rhone appellation we mention below offers a tasting room to showcase many of each appellation’s wines. All of these visits are free, though it’s hoped that you will make a purchase. Appointments are not required for tasting.
Sablet is a slightly overlooked appellation that borders Gigondas to the North. At its friendly tasting room (Maison des Vins et du Tourisme, Sablet), we were guided through a tasting of ten high-quality and arguably under-priced wines. Like its more famous neighbors, its production is predominantly red but there is plenty to like about its full-bodied whites.
The well-organised Gigondas tasting room (Caveau du Gigondas) has tens of bottles open for tasting. It’s an excellent place to stop and explore the appellation that many liken to Chateauneuf-du-Pape but with more wallet-friendly price tags.
Nearby, you can pop into Chateau du Saint Cosme. This is a Wine Spectator favorite: one of their wines was ranked number 5 in the magazine’s top 100 wines of the world in 2017. Their bottles from elsewhere in the Rhone and New York’s Finger Lakes are also available to taste.
Chateau du Trignon, just out of town, has a quieter tasting and various high-quality reds and whites.
The Vacuqeras tasting room (Caveau du Vacqueyras) is located just off the main route. 30-40 different wines are open and available for sampling.
Beaumes-de-Venise is famous for its sweet, fortified wines. Many are available to taste in its regional tasting room, Rhonéa Caveau de Beaumes de Venise, but it’s also worth visiting a producer like Domaine de Bernadins while you’re in town. You’ll get an impression of the area’s light white and red wines, too.
Have any questions? Leave us a comment below and we’ll answer them as best we can! The Southern Rhone is truly a Winetraveler’s paradise.