I expect you are wondering “Where is this Drôme Provençale” – well I hope you are, since this is where most of the action will take place!
The Drôme is French Département 26, and it lies in SE France to the east of the river Rhône, south of Lyon and north of Orange and Avignon.
The part of the Drôme called La Drôme Provençale doesn’t have exact geographical boundaries but roughly speaking it is the southern third of the département. You can think of it as the gateway to Provence.
Rather strangely it includes a chunk of département 84, the Vaucluse, around the town of Valreas, which is known as the ‘Enclave des Papes’. So what’s going on there? The answer is plonk, good red plonk. Back in history a certain Pope John had a decent glass or two in Valreas and liked it so much he bought the place.
From 1305 to 1378, the Popes were based in Avignon for squabbly reasons you can read about here if you are historically minded Avignon Papacy . Or if, like me, it’s the red stuff that draws you in, you are probably putting Papes and Avignon together and coming up with Châteauneuf-du-Pape. And you would be right! Those Popes seem to have spent as much time improving their vines as their flock, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2teauneuf-du-Pape_AOC , so by the time Pope John XXII took his trip to Valreas, he knew a good wine when he drank one.
And so the Enclave des Papes grew up around Valreas as the Popes “acquired” further vinyards and hung on to them until in the French Revolution when the peasants, who also knew a decent rouge, grabbed the whole lot back in 1791.
Having whetted your palate, so to speak, it’s only fair that I should give you a tip for a good glug from the Enclave and it would be
in Vinsobres, where Aurélien is now the family wizard of the wines. It’s just possible we may find ourselves there before the 300 miles are up!
The Drôme Provençale isn’t just about wine. It is about lavender, sunflowers, truffles, goat cheeses, hill-top villages, les marchés de Provence, Roman remains, cicadas, castles, Mediterranean food, olives, stunning vistas, and the mountains that harboured the ‘Maquisards’. But all that will have to wait till we have got there and jumped on the bike!
You can listen to Gilbert Bécaud giving you a flavour, here!
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