Vacqueyras is an appellation for red, white and rosé wines from the vineyard-strewn area around the parishes of Vacqueyras and Sarrians in France's southern Rhone Valley wine region.
(© Christophe Grilhé)
Until 1990, Vacqueyras was one of the Cotes du Rhone Villages, but the consistent quality of its wines (particularly the concentrated, powerful reds) earned it an upgrade to a full, independent AOC. The Vacqueyras appellation laws are similar to those of Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, its respected neighbors to the immediate northeast and southwest, and its wines also very similar, if a little less refined. One key difference between the wines of Vacqueyras and Gigondas is the proportion of Grenache required by their respective appellation laws. All Gigondas red wines must comprise at least 80% Grenache, whereas Vacqueyras wines are required to contain only 50% of this classic southern Rhone variety. The remaining percentage is made up of Syrah and Mourvedre, with an addition of 10% of any of the other Cotes du Rhone varieties, excluding Carignan.
The landscape around Vacqueyras is dominated by its position at the 'toes' of the Dentelles de Montmirail foothills. Many of the finest vineyard sites here are on the steep, southwest-facing limestone slopes just to the east of the town, which mark the beginning of these hills. The presence of these foothills points to the origins of the landscape as it looks today, divided between limestone ridges 1650 ft (500m) tall and an alluvio-glacial terrace formed many thousands of years before grapes were first grown here.
Climate-wise, the area is strictly Mediterranean (the eponymous sea is only 50 miles/80km to the south) and is therefore blessed with a long, hot, dry growing season, ensuring maximum ripeness for its vineyards. This, combined with the site's south-westerly aspect, make it one of the most sought-after viticultural sites in the Rhone valley, which explains the density of vineyards in the area.