Clairette de Die – the importance of direction

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rhone clairette ac map

Legend says that the process to make the sparkling wines of Clairette de Die was found accidentally by a Gallo-Roman shepherd. He was using the cool waters of La Drôme river to chill a jar of local wine. The jar was forgotten and left in the cold water over the winter. Upon finding it in the spring, it was found to be carbonated, or pétillant, which roughly translates into English as “sparkling”. Following the original discovery, Gallic tribes left jars of the wine in rivers over the winter and then recovered them in the spring.

The Diois vineyards are some of the highest in France (higher than most in Savoie for example), lying between 400 and 700 metres, rising as one travels eastwards. Saillans in the west stands at around 270m, the next village of Vercheny is at 350m, and Die itself at 415m, giving its name to the surrounding ‘Diois’ region. Some of the highest vineyards are beyond Die, at St Roman and Aix-en-Diois, over 600m, ripening usually about two weeks behind Saillans. Wine-making in villages upstream from St Roman is a challenge, with good grape maturity one year in five.

I have visited the Clairette de Die wine region three times. Once from the north, once from the south and once from the west. Each time my impression of the Diois region was strongly influenced by the route I took. Most accounts of the Diois  are by those who come up from the Rhône; Clairette de Die wine is often described as being linked to the vineyards of the Rhône Valley. Continue reading