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"Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône" - "Voyage of Discovery in the Rhône Valley", is the name of an event that tries to bring the wine world to the Rhône every two years. It is not a "salon" as we know it from Bordeaux, Düsseldorf, Tokyo, Verona. And yet some 1.5 million admissions are registered, from visitors from 35 countries, to whom 1,000 winemakers want to present 4,000 wines, in 7 regions, in 16 different locations, 19 larger and smaller halls. The southernmost and northernmost presentations are some 250 kilometres apart, from the Côte Rôtie down to the Costières de Nîmes. The event lasts a week.

Hustle and bustle in the "sacred halls" of the papal palace

So much for the numbers, the terms, the superlatives. What now? Of course, I plunge into the action. Even the first day is far too short: arriving, meeting friends, moving into the flat, there is hardly any time left for discovery. The programme includes, of all places, Châteauneuf du Pape, the parade appellation on the Rhône. No big deal! I know one or two names here, I have already drunk one or two "great" wines. A "découverte", a discovery, is hardly possible here, and if it is, hundreds of people are already discovering a vineyard, a wine.

Still, with so many wines, almost alone

So we wait for the second day: Avignon - three presentations in the imposing Papal Palace. There is no time for beauty of art and historical excursions. In the large audience hall there are "Gigondas" and "Côtes du Vivarais" from 70 producers. In two other rooms, there are 75 winemakers from "Côtes du Rhône" and "Côtes du Rhône Village". They are all trying to arouse my interest at the moment.

My childhood dream, which I began to dream not as a child, but only when I passed my exams, is visibly evaporating: namely, to be a weighty wine critic, a successful wine merchant or even a famous sommelier. I am glad that I am allowed to "discover" but do not have to, that I can write about it but do not have to! What did I read: "N'oublions pas le plaisir!" ("Let's not forget the pleasure!").

That's almost philosophical!

On this day I only do "spot checks", manage 26 tasting notes, have 3 conversations with winemakers and discuss with visitors, especially with my friends from Germany. At least it's a start!

Fair guide with notebook% Glass and spittoon; the constant companions.

The next day - my wife has arrived in the meantime - there is unfortunately no famous wine region on the agenda. Instead, there are four places apart: Roquemaure for the "Lirac" appellation, Tavel with its own wines, Laudon with "Côtes du Rhône/Village" and Pont du Gard for the "Costières de Nîmes". After almost an hour's drive, we reach the salon in Roquemaure: 40 wines are on the "discovery table", one bottle from each winery. I set to work, manage about 20, half of the wines, and do without conversation or discussion. For a long time, it's just me and the wines.

I start to calculate. For one wine I need - if I do it very quickly - four minutes: Note the data, fill the palate twice, perceive, think, spit out, note impressions, fight my way to the next wine. With 40 wines, this makes 160 minutes, or almost three hours. I manage 20 wines in two hours, then I'm exhausted.

Food is well provided for - the hard-won seating in the courtyard has to be defended. And it's wonderful spring weather, so another hour goes by easily.

The only diversion: a truffle dog

We do not visit the next three presentations: the journey alone would have taken over an hour. Instead, we visit a winemaker friend in Châteauneuf du Pape (the subject of a later column). Finally, we land in Orange, race through the Arena, the art world heritage site, and make our way home (another hour). After dinner I become more and more thoughtful: 150 winemakers and wines not seen, not even from a distance, let alone tasted!

On the third day, of course, I do everything differently: better. This time there are 130 vintners, spread over three locations. Another long journey, picnic at Mont Ventoux and finally in Vissan: "Côtes du Rhône/Village".

But wait: there's another attraction waiting for us. Truffle hunting! My wife really wants to go, I sign off and turn to the wines. I have never seen or experienced the clever truffle dog.

Instead, I'm ambitious enough to test the 56 wines on the discovery table. To say it in advance: I manage 42. Then the exhibition closes.

With a high success rate!

But I am proud of the 42 notes: at least I know now that three wines are very good, worth buying, that the (few) organic wines do not do better, but also not worse, that the cooperatives also make good, always better wines, that the wines in this region have a lot of alcohol, that I will click on one or the other estate on the website and that one day - the next time I am in this region - I could visit one or the other winegrower, maybe - possibly - on occasion...

But it is not certain, because there are other regions, in France, in Germany, in Austria, in Italy, even in Switzerland..., that I have wanted to visit for a long time. At this thought at the latest, I capitulate, stop my efforts to discover the Rhone, give up, renounce the next 3 days in the hustle and bustle of the "Décvouvertes", suppress the interest in such important appellations as "Hermitage", "Crozes Hermitage", "Côte-Rôtie". Maybe next time, in two years, I'll do everything better. (By the way: this is the third time I've been to this event, always with about the same yield).

Tired and exhausted% Hardly happy, judging by their faces.

As a journalist I have it good, I only have to record what I want, what I taste, that has to be for me alone, not for the public, not for the sales figures, not for my income and livelihood. It has to be for me alone! That is why I have not forgotten "the pleasure" on this voyage of discovery!

Yours sincerely
Peter (Züllig)

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