Grignan – a bit of history and something about the local wine

Grignan is a hilltop town in the department of the Drôme in the Rhône valley, just north of the border of the Vaucluse and not far from Mt Ventoux.

It is one of those Provençal towns that has a very long history of human habitation, with remains stretching back as far as the Bronze Age and with evidence of Roman settlement until the 5th century CE.

In the Mediaeval period, the castle and presumably also the town, such as it was, was known as castellum Gradignanum, evolving into castrum Grainan and later Graigna. By the middle of the 13th century, the castle had come under the lordship of the Adhémar de Monteil family, descendants of Adémar de Monteil, the bishop of Le Puy-en-Velay who accompanied Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, on the First Crusade and was the spiritual leader of the Franks in the East.

His descendants became the lords of Montélimar and its surroundings and rose in prominence to become Dukes and eventually Counts.

In the 17th century, the castle was eventually inherited by François de Castellane-Ornano-Adhémar de Monteil de Grignan, whose third wife was Françoise-Marguerite de Sévigné, daughter of the celebrated lady of letters, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sévigné. François de Castellane-Adhemar had the castle, a mediaeval fortress, remodelled into a luxurious palace, which was allowed to fall into ruins after the Revolution.

Nowadays, the castle belongs to the Drôme départemental authorities and is a major tourist attraction.

One great reason to visit Grignan, apart from the beauty of the town and surrounding countryside, is the local wine. Côtes du Rhône and Côteaux du Tricastin are the two local appellations and there are also Côtes du Rhône Villages vineyards in the region too, as well as the Rasteau AOC, which produces both red and white vins doux naturels.

Grignan would be a great place for a stopover to spend time exploring the local vineyards. Rousset-les-Vignes, Saint-Pantaléon-les-Vignes and Valréas are all close by and they are entitled to use the Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC for their better wines.

All these wines are blends of the classic southern French varieties and can include Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Carignan for the red and rosé wines and the whites may include Ugni Blanc, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Picpoul, and Clairette.

In the best reds, Grenache and Syrah will predominate and this adds considerably to their depth and complexity as they age.

None of the wines have any kind of claims to greatness but they are good, fruity, full -bodied wines, full of southern sun and with a rich, mouth-filling spiciness in the best of them.

The lighter reds can be chilled and these are excellent with charcuterie and salads, while the bigger wines go well with those classic meridional dishes like daube de boeuf.

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