Monday, June 17, 2013

Beaumes-de-Venise, a bustling village and producer of excellent sweet wines

We don't spend a lot of time hanging around Sablet. It's not that we don't like our village, but we are usually at one of the weekly marchés, exploring new villages, visiting family or friends, looking for fields of coquelicots, lavender and sunflowers, or doing "dégustation de vins" (wine tasting). Hey, we have only tasted at a handful of the 1,837 private wineries and 103 cooperatives in the Rhône Valley.

As we are out and about, we repeatedly traverse the villages of Violès, Vacqueyras, and Aubignan on our way to and from Sablet, but never stop to visit. Another village we drive through but have never stopped to visit is Beaumes-de-Venise. So a few weeks ago, with friends Scott and Jean-Pierre in tow, we decided to pay a visit to Beaumes-de-Venise.

Beaumes-de-Venise is a small village (2,305 inhabitants) about 12 km south of Sablet that climbs up the foot of the southern slope of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Beaumes-de-Venise is one of several wine-making villages along the 78 km "Route des Vin" that circles the Dentelles de Montmirail (a small chain of mountains I told you about here).


The word "beaumes" comes from the Provençal word bauma meaning "cave" or "grotto". There are many caves carved into the surrounding hillside which were shelter for the regions first inhabitants during the Iron Age.

Arched doorway from Raspail Avenue to Place du Marché

The Saint Nazaire Church seen below was built in 1849. There is also a Saint Nazaire Chapel, but all that remains of the latter are ruins which date from the 8th century.

Saint Nazaire Church

Close to Saint Nazaire Church, is the arched doorway seen below which leads through the ramparts into the center of the village.

Arched doorway into the center of the village

Vestiges of the 12th century feudal castle with its ramparts nicknamed “Des Barons” stand above the village in the picture seen below. This castle made Beaumes-de-Venise one of the most powerful villages in the Comtat Venaissin, in the Middle Ages.

View toward Place de la Liberté with castle ruins at top of village

A brightly colored house near the fountain at Place de la Liberté.

Fountain at Place de la Liberté

Come along with us as we walk around Beaumes-de-Venise.

The wrought-iron campanile and bell tower of Saint Nazaire Church

A pretty village house

The ramparts were probably erected in the 12th century. There are two doorways which remain; one as I said before is near Saint Nazaire Church and the second seen below is at Place du Portail Neuf.

The arched doorway and fountain at Place du Portail Neuf

We decided to follow the path up to the castle ruins at the top of the village. I would not recommend the way we went since it was not much more than a narrow footpath that wound its way through brush. When we got as high as we could go, we could see the ruins just above us but we could not get up to them. There may be a way to get there but we did not find it.

One of the views over Beaumes-de-Venise we saw as we hiked to the castle ruins

Another view over Beaumes-de-Venise with Saint Nazaire Church in the middle of the picture.

Another view over Beaumes-de-Venise

Beaumes-de-Venise is probably best known for Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, a sweet fortified wine produced by village winemakers from the small berried Muscat à Petits Grains grapes grown in vineyards surrounding the village. The color of the wine can vary from amber to rosé, and even purple.

The grapes ripen from the warmth of the sun as it reflects and radiates over the vines from the huge vertical limestone slabs of the Dentelles de Montmirail. There are just over 1200 acres currently under cultivation.

Beaumes-de-Venise is also home to two other appellations: red wines were classified in 2005 as AOC Beaumes-de-Venise and whites and rosé wines were classified in 1978 as AOC Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Beaumes-de-Venise.

A Beaumes-de-Venise vineyard

A house built right up against the rocks

17th Century Fountain at Place du 8 Mai

Saint Nazaire Church

The Saint Roch Chapel seen below was built during the midst of the plague in 1586. Beaumes-de-Venise was spared.

Saint Roch Chapel

In addition to wine, olive oil has been produced in Beaumes-de-Venise since 1789. At the entrance to the village is La Balméenne olive oil mill which is open to the public. All of the olive oil is pressed from "Verdale de Carpentras" (or Aglandau) olives from the Vaucluse harvested by hand between the middle of November and beginning of January.

There is a cute shop on site which sells olive oil and a variety of products produced in the region including soap, honey, tapenades, jams, olives and souvenirs.

La Balméenne Olive Oil Mill

A house with pretty flowers near La Balméenne Olive Oil Mill

An olive tree near La Balméenne Olive Oil Mill

As we enter and exit Beaumes-de-Venise, we go around this striking roundabout near the Vignerons de Beaumes-de-Venise wine cooperative.

Roundabout at the entrance to Beaumes-de-Venise

So that's it! Thanks for joining us on our walk around Beaumes-de-Venise. Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.


  1. Michel, I always learn so much from you and happy that you are back in France and enjoying it all...

    Perhaps you know of it already, but just beyond that rounabout, up in the hills is the gorgeous Notre-Dame d'Aubune--which if you haven't visited yet, I would heartily recommend.'Aubune
    With all of my Best from Arles,

  2. Heather - We have seen the Notre-Dame d'Aubune chapel on the hill but have not gone up to take a look. We will definitely do so next time. Thanks for letting me know it is worthwhile to do so.

    Opus T. Penguin - Thanks for stopping in to visit my blog and for leaving a comment. It is appreciated very much. I like the old world look too, something we see a lot of in Provence.

  3. Hi Michel,
    I,m brazilian living in Rio de Janeiro,thank´s for the so nice pictures of Beaumes-de-Venice and the informations about this beautful small vilage. My wife also has a blog " Se essa lua fosse minha", just like you she loves to write about our house and the trips we make. For the moment we are planing to visit Provence for the first time, unfortunatelly it will be a short visit due the litle vacation I have this time. We´ll be arriving on June 24th and we are worried that we´ll not see the lavender fields in full bloom, I found your blog because I was trying to have informations about it, this was a nice surprise to find it. Sorry for the long text, I don´t use to write so much, and sorry for my poor english.
    Michel thanks again for nice post about Beaumes-de-Venice, if you have a chance visit my wife´s blog.
    Best Regards,

  4. Wesley - Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog and to leave a comment. I appreciate this very much. You should definitely see lots of lavender when you arrive on June 24. One of the prettiest places is at the Abbey de Senanque near Gordes. There is also lots of lavender on the other side of Nyons, near Sault and Simiane-la-Rotonde. Enjoy your visit.

  5. Michael,
    It was my pleaure to visit your blog, thanks for the lavender informations. My wife´s blog is in Portuguese, for the moment she is writing some post about our trip to Holand, I dont know if you speak Portuguese but we will be happy to receive your visit anway. I was just talking to her about your dedication on writing a post, just like her, but unfortunatelly not so many people enjoy it, but please keep showing to the world the wonders of Provence.
    All the best for you and your wife.
    Best Regards,

  6. I think you should publish your own visitors guide to the region because like Heather, I always learn a bit from your posts and I'm sure loads more would as well :)

  7. Sara - Thanks so much! That is really sweet of you to say! I am honored. I will keep you posted!

  8. Michel...Following Heather's remarks, I support your making a visit to la chappelle Notre-Dame d'Abune. It is beautiful and serene there. If you are not careful you might find yourself stepping back in time. We drove in by the rough road from the village only to find a quick exit onto the highway at the other end, although it would be nice to walk in and around the place. Seems the villagers used to come up there to help themselves to building material. BTW, I use the muscat from Beaumes-de-Venise to spike a grape cake that I make in your Sablet kitchen, an augmented Patricia Wells recipe.

  9. We will definitely plan to go up to Notre-Dame d'Aubune chapel when we return to Sablet in September. You don't know how happy it makes me to know that our kitchen is being put to good use by our guests.