Events / 08/12/2017 / 809



Every July, since 1947, Avignon has been experiencing its great transformation. From a somewhat dormant, Provencal town that has kept its charm for centuries with narrow stone alleys ending in the vast square surrounding the papal palace, the city of Avignon suddenly turns into a festival city.  Hundreds of artists, actors, choreographers, directors, musicians flock to the city. Overnight, every free town space,  no matter whether it is  a square, the back yard, unused warehouse of a restaurant or shop, turns into theater stage where the theater festival OFF is taking place, as an opposition to the official Avignon festival. Hundreds of small independent theater troupes perform every day for tourists, theater lovers, families who want to make their stay in Avignon unforgettable and enjoy some cultural event. Performances are varied: monodrama, burlesque, comedy, operetta, conceptual art of incomprehensible artists, classical theater ... It's up to you to spend a few hours reading the huge program of the festival and pick your favourites.

During this year's visit to Avignon, I watched several theatre plays (just like most tourists do) including a comic opera composed by Jacques Offenbach (ah, is there a better way to entertain yourself when in France than by listening to Offenbach's cheerful notes?)  and excellent performance of a Taiwanese dance theater that showed a contemporary staging of Aboriginal dances...


However, the highlight of my stay in Avignon was extraordinary dinner with friends, an opportunity to feel southern openness and hospitality that people in this part of France possess similar to us: when a guest arrives, the host tries to show the best welcome, to make the guest feel comfortable... and this means a feast and, needless to emphasize, a great selection of wines.

Thus, a warm festive night behind the scene of the festival grew into a gastronomic parade accompanied by selected wines in the company of true friends.

Champagne Moutard Pere & Fils Blanc de Blanc NV - We had a bubbly start of the evening. Champagne from Côte des Bar, a region in the south of Champagne, which makes up about 20% of Champagne's production. Although this part of Champagne is known for its Pinot Noir vineyards, this wine is made of grapes from 20-year-old vineyard of Chardonnay planted on soil resembling that of Chablis (Burgundy). Sophistication and pronounced freshness characterize this wine; on the nose, moderate complexity,  aromas of peach, floral notes with almond hints. In the mouth, the wine shows considerable length, alongside citrus character accompanied with traces of pomegranate, tangerine, peach. The wine opens in layers, revealing some almond touch, ginger, spicy hints.

photo © M. Blanc photo © M. Blanc

Chateau Vannieres Bandol Blanc 2016 - (varietal composition: 95% Clairette, 5% Bourboulenc) When we think of Bandol, its red and rosé wines first come to mind, but this magical evening brought us a white wine from Bandol. Grapevine for white wine production in Bandol is planted on the slopes of surrounding hills, and the wine's freshness is heightened by sea breeze impact on these plots. Exceptional wine, complex, multi-layered. The nose shows aromas of peach, acacia flowers, citrus, grapefruit. In the mouth, the wine also leaves a striking impression. Flavours of linden flower, lime, citrus, propolis, peach, yellow apple. A long finish. During dinner, we were all unanimous that we were tasting an extraordinary wine.

photo © M. Blanc photo © M. Blanc

L 'Anglore Tavel 2015 - Eric Pfifferling - (varietal composition: Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Clairette) Eric Pfifferling's career has evolved from being a beekeeper to becoming Tavel's influential winemaker fully devoted to natural wines. In the beginning, he was just selling grapes, but in 2002 he decided to produce his own wine. In the vineyard, he doesn't use pesticides, whilst in the wine cellar he strives to produce minimal intervention wines without use of selected yeasts, enzymes, sulfur. He is a pioneer among Tavel winemakers and he likes to emphasize that his wines have the character of Tavel as it used to be before any chemicals and oenological tricks appeared. The popularity of his wines is also testified by the fact that shopping is limited to one bottle per person, so that more people have the opportunity to taste Eric's wine.

Domaine L'Anglore has 7 hectares of vineyards in Tavel. Vines are 35-60 years old. You're probably already wondering what Eric's wines taste like. Colour immediately indicates concentration and expressiveness. The wine in the glass is darker colored than standard rosé wines from Tavel made in traditional style (which resembles our ružica wines). In the mouth, full-bodied, expressive wine, with plentiful spicy aromas, hints of forest fruit, strawberries, floral tones. Tannins additionally reinforce the wine's structure in the mouth.


A Minima 2015 - Trapet - (varietal composition: 50% Gamay, 50% Pinot Noir) Another minimal intervention wine made in accordance with principles of biodynamics. The grapes for this wine are sourced from a vineyard planted in 1965 called Grand Champs, located on the very outer edge of Gevrey-Chambertin. Emphasized fruitiness with predominant aromas of black currant, blackberry, black forest fruit, cherry. The wine exudes youth, full of liveliness. Medium body, flavor profile consistent with aromatics on the nose, long refreshing finish.


Les Millères 1998 - Domaines Gardies - (varietal composition: Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvedre) Cotes du Roussillon Villages AC produce exclusively red wines, powerful, concentrated, with complexity and character. Therefore, this is the place to look for wines with aging potential and excellent price-quality ratio. One of such wines is the blend Les Milleres from Domaines Gardies. Wow... 19 years old!!! A moment of silence while waiting to hear that familiar sound of a cork popping. We decanted the wine ... And the moment of truth... We took a short break in-between wonderful dishes  and tried to guess whether the wine would meet our expectations... Mature, smooth, genuine liquid poetry. Complex nose, soft elegant aromatic profile that constantly evolves, still fruity, although underlined by tertiary tones, leather, tobacco, prunes, forest floor... In the mouth, long, elegant, concentrated trail... Only after a few minutes I realized that we all fell silent and focused on this wine. So far, I have visited wineries in the vicinity of Minerve and Saint-Chinian. Now I have already put wineries of Cotes du Roussillon Villages AC on my wish list to visit in the coming years.

photo © M. Blanc photo © M. Blanc

Chateauneuf du Pape 2009 - Domaine du Banneret - We are still keeping away from the mainstream and exploring true wine jewels. Domaine du Banneret, a small family winery with 4 hectares of vineyards aged between 60 and 70 years and annual production of up to 10,000 bottles. A blend of all 13 permitted varieties in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Wine with quite expressive nose, concentrated fruit, sour cherry, black forest berries, hints of spice. A mature, multi-layered wine. In the mouth, tannin structure add weight and give it serious character without taking away elegance. It has a firm structure which guarantees longevity. The wine is still youthful, further aging will give it a patina and additional depth.

L'Altenberg de Bergheim Grand Cru 2010 - Marcel Deiss - And now something completely different. Grand Cru of Alsace. Altenberg de Bergheim is often found in sommelier textbooks as an example of exception to the rule for Alsace Grand Cru wines that need to be made from only one of the noble varieties (Riesling, Muscat, Traminer or Pinot Gris). Blending noble varieties is allowed for Altenberg de Bergheim Grand Cru wines. This wine captivates with its baroque structure. The nose shows expressive aromas of tropical fruit, vanilla, honey, tea, rose petals. Full body, rich impression in the mouth, well balanced acidity.


Fine de Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1995 - Chateau La Nerthe - The evening came to a close with another twist. Eau-de-vie, 22 years old, made of wine from Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC. It aged in French oak barrel. Lush nose with a patina, a touch of nobleness: aromas of raisins, hazelnuts, port, sweet spices. The mouthfeel reveals harmonious flavours of sweet spice, butter, dried fruit, nuts. Volume: 40%. Later on I enquired about the price: 500 ml bottle costs about 150 euros.


Avignon has stood still on the bank of the river Rhone for centuries, and the Papal Palace dominates the whole area. Each visit to South France brings the past to life, those times when the seat of Catholic Church was there and not in the Vatican. Even then, local winemakers were passing knowledge and winemaking traditions from generation to generation. That's why this tradition is still alive and today's generation of winemakers are nurturing it enthusiastically.



Tomislav Ivanović

Awarded wine writer, wine critic and contributor to selected wine magazines. WSET3-certified author and editor-in-chief of Member of Vojvodina Sommelier Association. Juror in national and international wine competitions. Lecturing about wines of Serbia and the Balkans. Local partner of Wine Mosaic organization. Co-founder of International Prokupac Day.

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