Now, I bet you are surprised I talk about wine cooperatives. Totally uncool, right? How can you? Next thing you know she is buying wine in the supermarket. Right? Wrong! There are some wine cooperatives, where we, living in the Provence, buy our wine. Not because they are less expensive, but because some of them have very good wine.
Independent wineries and wine cooperatives don't like each other very much in the Southern Rhône Valley. Normally smaller growers without wine making capabilities are organized in these cooperatives. Controlling quality can be an issue unless the cooperative is well managed. Ambitious expansion in the good years until 2001, average quality and low prices have taken their toll in the face of the many new and formidable competitors from abroad, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. As a result an increasing number of wine cooperatives in the Southern Rhône Valley are - let's use the politically correct term here - financially challenged.
Having said that, there are a few well managed wine cooperatives worth your visit. They are well regarded by the likes of Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson.
Vignerons de Beaumes de Venise, one of the best managed wine cooperatives in the Southern Rhône Valley, if not in France. The Beaumes de Venise Côtes du Rhône Village received its own A.O.C. appellation in 2005. While the village is best known for the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, an A.O.C. since 1943 it is the Côtes du Rhône Village which matters the most now; and years of improving its quality have finally been rewarded.
Open: all days 8:30-12:30, 14:00-19:00.
Quartier Ravel, 84190 Beaumes de Venise, Tel: 04 90 12 41 00
Cave de Cairanne is the local wine cooperative and, yes, they produce some really good wines. Try the 2007 Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne La Reserve and the 2007 Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne Le Chêne Noir. The Coop renovated their caveau in May 2008 - très chic, très zen!
Open nearly all days from 8:00-18:00 during the summer even later.
Rte Ste Cécile, 84290 Cairanne, Tel: 04 90 30 82 05
Vignerons Laudun & Chusclan is the cooperative for the Laudun and Chusclan regions. The vineyards of Chusclan, 11 km west of Orange, run north south on a narrow plane between the west bank of the Rhône and the Laudun hills as far as Bagnols-sur-Céze. Chusclan was famous for its Rosť, but from the late 60's onwards red wines became dominant. Most if not all vineyards are part of this coop. Try the Côtes du Rhône Villages Domaine de l'Olivette Excellence 2009, a bright and balanced red, well-structured and with spicy fruit flavors.
Chusclan Shop open Mo-Sun 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:30
Route d'Orsan, 30200 Chusclan, Tel: 04 66 90 11 03 and Route de l'Ardoise 105, 30290 Laudun, Tel: 04 66 90 55 20
Cave de Rasteau is well regarded in France and abroad due to the consistent quality of the wines produced here. It is among the most prestigious wine cooperatives in the Southern Côtes du Rhône region. The cooperatives 80 members produce roughly 60° of the appellation area's wines, mostly reds, some whites and rosés. 5° of the acreage is dedicated to the production of Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel, a natural sweet wine. They inaugurated a new state of the art caveau in April 2008.
Les Vignerons de l'Enclave des Papes in Valreas is the wine grower cooperative of the Enclave des Papes, an area separated from the Provence proper yet belonging to it. The cooperative also has members in the Puymeras and Tavel region. Well managed, they offer a wide array of wines of these areas. Try their 2003 CDR Village, well-structured red with nice acidity, good to drink now.
Open: Mo - Sat, 9-12 AM and 2-5 PM.
Route d'Orange, 84602 Valreas, Tel: 04 90 41 91 42
Cave St.Marc in Caromb. Locals and visitors alike appreciate their Côtes du Ventoux. Try the 2001 Altitude 500 and the 2001 Dom Balaquère.
Open: all days 9-12 AM and 2-6 PM.
Rte. de Carpentras, 84330 Caromb, Tel: 04 90 62 40 24
Cave des Vignerons d'Estézargues The cooperative is always a solid performer and produces a very likeable Côtes du Rhône. Estézargues is a small village; take Rt.N100 Avignon to Uzes, at La Queirade, shortly before Rt. N100 crosses the Autoroute, turn South and you reach the village after 1 km.
Open: all days 9-12 AM and 2-6 PM.
Route des Grès, 30390 Estézargues, Tel: 04 66 57 03 64.