Bonjour from Tain-l’Hermitage
Tain-l’Hermitage is a tiny village on the left bank of the Rhône River in the Northern Rhône valley 50 km south of Lyon.
The northern Rhône district is more industrial, less picturesque than other wine-growing regions in France. However, the land surrounding the river is heavily cultivated with vines and there are some innovative restaurants and wine bars popping up in the area.
Tain is home to the iconic Valrhona chocolate factory and tours to the public are available. In October, Valrhona will open a “Chocolate City” with cooking classes for chocoholics and professional chefs. If you haven’t already stocked up on chocolates in bulk, then head to one of the town’s many chocolatiers for hand-crafted gems.
A bistro worth booking is the tiny 20-seat Le Mangevins bistro (6 Av Dr Paul Durand). The wine list is extraordinary, the chef is Japanese and an example of the seasonal dishes, include line-caught cod and Syrah-poached foie gras.
Cheeses to look out for in the Rhône-Alpes area are the mild Bleu du Vercors-Sessenage, the round little goat’s cheese called Picodon, and the soft, white creamy Saint-Félicien.
The wine area around Tain is Hermitage and the main grape is syrah (shiraz). Hermitage reds are punchy and tannic, pairing brilliantly with the game and meat of the area and often need a few years in the bottle before they settle down into a lovely smooth drink. The top vignerons are Chapoutier and Chave. Côte-Rôtie is a powerful, plush red from further north around Ampuis. Here the syrah is blended with a little viognier, which adds lifted aromatics and a plushness to the wine. Look for the wines of Marcel Guigal and Ogier.
Best food souvenir
Valrhona chocolate by the kilo.
Getting there and around
Take the train ride through the vineyards on the SNCF train from Lyon. Buses run regularly from Valance. It is possible to organise a river cruise down the Rhône, but serious wine tasters might like to hire a bike to get them around the area. Otherwise, hiring a car is your best bet.