Coteaux des Baronnies
Coteaux des Baronnies is an IGP (formerly Vin de Pays) that naturally borders the south east of the Rhone valley. This mountain area is part of the Pré-Alps and is located in department Drôme. Viticulture was practiced already in Roman times, but it were the Dominican monks who gave it a real boost in the 18th century. The region is characterized by poly-agriculture; next to vineyards (currently ±500 hectares) one can find fruit- and olive trees everywhere, alongside grain- and lavender fields, and linden trees (tilleul de Baronnies).
Due to a considerable effort to increase quality in the 1980s, led by the Liotauds (Domaine la Rosière and Domaine du Rieu Frais), the popularity of this wine region has increased. Although syrah and grenache noir (for the latter hard to reach full maturity here) have been around for long, new planting involves cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay. Processed in a blend or as varietal wine, thereby deliberately distinguishing the wines from the generic Côtes du Rhone wines from the nearby Enclave des Papes (Canton de Valréas).
The high altitude of the vineyards, in an west-east direction that inhibits the Mistral, and the calcareous surface have added value especially to the white wines, chardonnay and viognier in particular. The latter is definitely different from the rest of the Rhone valley: more aromatic and slimmer, with an attractive freshness and 1-2% less alcohol. Add limited oak-aging to that equation and you have an excellent white wine for relatively little money.
With the distinctive terroir and the on average high quality, an AOP status would be a wonderful recognition for all the efforts made in recent decades. Whether the INAO awards that with >50% planting of international grape varieties is highly questionable. Nevertheless, the ambitions of the current young generation of wine producers will further increase this potential of this region in terms of market share.