Tavel AOC is a dry, still pink wine from the Rhône, the leading example of this style in the Rhône and possibly in France too. It is one of only two geo-specific pink wine appellations in France, the other being Rosé de Riceys.
History: Vines have been cultivated in this area since the 5th century BC, planted by the Greeks and developed by the Romans. Tavel had an enviable location on a major route between the Roman settlements at Roquemaure and Nîmes. Artefacts dating back to this period include amphora fragments depicting bunches of grapes. Meanwhile, the name Villa Tavellis, from which Tavel derives, first appeared in written documentation in the 13th century.
In the mid-14th century, Pope Innocent VI was particularly fond of wines from the Rhône’s right bank, and served the wines of Prieuré de Montézargues at the Papal court; the priory’s wine estate still exists today, lying at the heart of the Tavel AOC area. When the Papacy returned to Rome, and right up until the French revolution, the region’s wines were exported to Italy. In 1902, Tavel formed a union to represent their owner-winegrowers; and in 1927, at the suggestion of Baron Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié, Aimé Roudil, union president, led 40 Tavel producers in petitioning the Gard authorities to officially define the production area. Tavel was awarded AOC status in 1936, and has since become France’s leading rosé wine.
Communes (2): Tavel (mainly). Roquemaure.
Geography: The vineyards lie in the Gard department on the right bank of the Rhône (Avignon is on the other side).
Climate: The climate has Mediterranean influences, with low rainfall and an average of 2,700 hours of sunshine a year. It is heavily influenced by the Mistral wind.
Terroir: Soils comprise sand, alluvial clay and pudding stones. The Tavel winegrowing area can be divided broadly into 4 sections. The first is alluvium generated by the Rhône, and is found on the hillsides of Lirac and Tavel, in the form of alluvial deposits covering the lower and mid terraces. The second is an area of sand dating from the Mid-Pliocene, lying between Tavel and Roquemaure. Limestone marl deposited during the Lower Barremian forms the Villeneuve les Avignon, Les Angles and Tavel massif makes up the third section, and finally, an area of Upper Barremian Urgonian Limestone making up the Tavel-Rochefort du Gard massif comprises the fourth. These are primarily crystalline clay and reef limestones with gravelly detrital limestone.
Wine styles: Oz Clarke (2015, p.255) says Tavel rosé comes in either an ‘aromatic-aperitif’ style or the ‘robust, heady, traditional one’ which requires food such as ‘garlic, herbs or Chinese cuisine.’
Production: 2002 948ha produced 40,396hl (Guide Hachette des Vins 2004, p.1062).