The Official Guide

Most Beautiful Villages in France book

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Official Guide to the Most Beautiful Villages of France

The Official Guide

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Who’s heard of Sautel?


Sautal labelI cannot be alone in wondering what on earth that row of bottles behind the French bar is all about – multi-coloured, odd-shapes, obscure names like Suze, Byrhh, Chartreuse – and usually me with no idea what they are – alcoholic or not; sweet, dry or bitter; drunk by themselves or as a mixer or part of a cocktail; when they are drunk; or what to expect. (Suze is a quite medicinal “bitter” based on gentian – an acquired taste which is better by the second glass).

Furthermore there are some distinctly local brews, and whilst just checking up on the Cotes du Ventoux I came across this one which I have never heard of – SAUTEL – which is claimed to be similar to a Pineau des Charentes – but closer inspection reveals it to be “Grenache noir juice extracted from its skin and pips which is then mixed enriched alcohol. The final product is then flavoured with cinnamon and orange rinds.” i.e. nothing at all like Pineau which is a blend of unfermented grape juice and Cognac.

The Cotes de Ventoux is obviously an area for oddities – garish bottle labels and corks; bizarre liqueurs – and a range of wines under the “Maquis de Sade” label!! – presumably you don’t have to be a sadist to offer this wine to your friends.

Other oddities from southern France include the various “Marc” which are distillations of the organic remnants of the wine-making process – usually a fierce but somewhat tasteless slug of something approaching neat alcohol (second glass not advised!); Rancio – an unfortunate name for a rather heady, oxidised or maderized wine from the southern Rhone; and Carthagene which is a very (too) sweet fortified Vin Doux Naturel from southern Rhone/Languedoc.

Maybe its the dazzling light, too much sun or the Mistral wind which produces this effect. There are times when you realise just how foreign France can be!

For more on Sautel and the Maquis de Sade wines see

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