Welcome to the beginning of the « Vineyards and History » walk, one of eight thematic itineraries that make up the Clairette de Die route. For many years vines have been linked to the Drôme valley and to the town of Die, which sits at the foot of the Glandasse mountain. The region developed its economy notably through wine growing and sheep farming. Just next to you you can see the Sheep with a Suitcase sculpture , evoking the transhumance festival which takes place every year when a large flock of sheep travels through the town on its way to spend the summer months in mountain pastures. Through four thematic panels, you will discover the history of wine making in the ancient Gallo-Roman town and travel back in time from the present day to antiquity passing through the the heyday of the vineyards in the 19th century. You will discover the agro-town of Die from the XV to XVIII Centuries, the era of the Counts of Die and wine at the time of the Vocontii.
From secrecy to renown
So… Where are the vineyards in Die ? A little hidden away, but certainly present, you will discover them along the length of this trail.
Originally spread out across the hills above the centre of town, the extent of the vineyards diminished from 1870 onwards because of
various diseases such as phylloxera, and increasing urbanisation. During this period however, an important renewal was possible as the
winegrowers obtained a first Appellation d’Origine AO in 1910, followed in 1942 by an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée AOC. Finally
in 1971 the Clairette de Die winemaking method, which is unique in France, was indentified as being « méthode dioise ancestrale »,the
ancestral Diois method. The co-operative cellar at Die was opened in 1950 to encourage the development of collective production
methods. Approximately 91 000 bottles were produced from the first harvest. In 2016 the total production of all of the members of the
AOC co-operative was more than 13 million bottles. The two co-operative cellars play an essential role in the production, marketing and
reputation building of Clairette de Die and the wines of the Diois, as do the individual private cellars and the wholesalers. The appellation
area now covers more than 1600 hectares and the union of producers of Clairette de Die and Diois wines has over 300 members.
Grand carriage gates of Die
Ancient Girard cellar
Come and discover the 7 other “Clairette Walks” and enjoy the glorious landscapes!
The maps for each walk can be found at the Tourist Offices.
The vineyards of the Diois in South-eastern France cover nearly 1600 hectares all along the river Drôme in a beautifully conserved landscape where the clement Mediterranean climate meets the alpine air. The river flows through the mountains where the vines make way to fields of lavender and fruit trees. This combination is ideal for the production of charming and surprising wines.
AOC Clairette de Die Tradition
Legend recounts that Clairette de Die was come upon by accident. According to the writings of the Roman writer, Pliny the Elder, one winter, the Voconce people of Gaul (the ancestors of the inhabitants of the Diois), forgot about some amphora containing wine. When the spring came and the amphoras were rediscovered they found a delicious sweet and sparkling liquid in them.
The notion of “terroir”, meaning “the land”, is of prime importance to French rural and agricultural tradition. It gathers together in one term the life, work and produce that the land has provided for centuries, giving France its reputation for a people very much attached to their way of life and the protection of their delightful and stunning countryside.
The Diois is situated inbetween the Alpes and Provence and is therefore one of the highest wine-producing regions of France. The vines in the foothills of the Vercors reach an altitude of 700m and are well protected from frost. The clay and lime soil retains the rainwater very efficiently and so even in the driest periods the vines do not suffer from drought.
Clairette de Die Tradition.
The Clairette de Die Tradition is the main wine produced by the growers in the Diois and is considered to be the jewel of valley.
It is made using the “Méthode Dioise Ancestrale” which is specific to Clairette and is the natural process for making sparkling wine with no added sugar.
During fermentation some of the sugar in the must is preserved by using the cold. The wine is then bottled and the natural sugar and yeast contained in the grapes cannot escape, thus the alcoholic fermentation can start again and will naturally end when the stocks of yeast have disappeared.
The carbonic gas produced at this stage is what makes it a sparkling wine.
Consequently the “Méthode Dioise Ancestrale” requires technique, savoir-faire and finesse in order to produce a unique and elegant wine with subtle aromas and a low alcohol content.
Clairette de Die Brut
The Clairette de Die Brut is only made from the clairette variety of grape and a second fermentation in the bottle to which a mixture of sugar and yeast has been added called “liqueur de tirage”.
There are nearly 300 wine producers in the area.
La Clairette de Die Méthode Ancestrale is made from the assembling of two grape varieties: the small graped white muscat (minimum 75%) and white clairette. The muscat with its small firm grapes contributes its sweetness and fruitiness and the clairette with its larger fruit brings the finesse.
Clairette de Die develops fruity and floral aromas. It suggests the fragrance of ripe summer fruit such as apricots and peaches.
The bouquet reveals the perfume of white flowers such rose, wild rose or honeysuckle. Its “robe” covers a range of hues from very pale yellow to gold.
1910: Clairette de Die obtains the much sort after “Appellation d’Origine” label.
1942: Clairette de Die obtains the “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” label.
1971: The wine-making process for Clairette de Die Tradition is offically defined as “Méthode Dioise Ancestrale”.
The “Appellation d’origine” and the “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” are both labels that guarantee the production methods, provenance and quality of produce such as wine and cheese and other traditional products of the “terroir”.
1560 hectares/3853 acres: the size of the production area for 2016.
94000 hectolitres/2068000 UK gallons: quantity produced in 2016
The Crémant de Die is made in the same geographical zone as the Clairette de Die.
The grapes come from vines grown on small plots of land with clay and chalk soil along the Drôme Valley.
The vines can be found on the hillsides on the banks of the river between 200m and 700m altitude.
In the past, this “brut” white sparkling wine was made from just one clairette grape variety. Today the aligoté (10% to 40%) and the Muscat (5% to 10%) varieties are also used.
Apple and other green fruit notes that are characteristic of this wine emerge when tasting the Crémant, with its rich aromas, fine sparkle ending with a delightful freshness. Its “robe” is pale gold.
1993: The Crémant de Die obtains the AOC label.
50 hectares/124 acres: size of production area for 2016
3000 hectolitres/66000 UK gallons produced in 2016
The wines of Châtillon en Diois
The vineyards of Châtillon en Diois cover 35 hectares/86 acres.
In the nineteenth century these wines were called the “Côtes du Bez” as this was the name of the tributary of the river Drôme that flows through the district.
The red and rosé are only produced in the two villages of Châtillon-en-Diois and Menglon.
The gamay noir variety of grape with white juice is used (75% minimum) as well as pinot noir and syrah.
It is a rich purple in colour with fragrant notes of raspberry.
The white Châtillon-en-Diois covers 12 districts and is made from the aligoté and chardonnay grape varieties.
This wine has an assertive character with floral aromas.
1975: the wines of Châtillon-en-Diois obtain the AOC label
35 hectares/86 acres: size of production area for 2016
1690 hectolitres/37180 UK gallons produced in 2016.
Coteaux de Die
This exclusively white wine obtained the AOC label in 1993 and is produced in limited quantities from the clairette grape variety.
The vine stock is to be found on limestone hillsides.
Its golden “robe” has green tints and to the palate it reveals floral and fruity aromas as well as green apple, aniseed, peach and quince.
1993 The Coteaux de Die obtains the AOC label.
1.3 hectare/3.2 acres: size of production area
48.20 hectolitres/1060 UK gallons produced in 2016