A rich and diverse heritage
The 'tour de Crest', 52 metres high, is a veritable sentinel standing guard over this picturesque medieval town and the valley it occupies. To satisfy yourself on this point you only have to admire the astonishing panorama which unfolds from this one of the highest keeps in France. Die owes its finest monuments to the Roman period, including its town walls and the many artefacts held by the 'Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie'. Close by the Abbaye de Valcroissant is over 800 years old. At Châtillon-en-Diois, it's the tinkling of 17 fountains with their stone basins which is a recurring feature of a walk through the viols (narrow streets) of this medieval village, which today boasts the status of 'village botanique'. Finally a 'farandole' (dance) through the hilltop villages which characterise this valley, reveals a flourishing artistic activity, represented by the Cliousclat potters or the painters and craft workers of neighbouring Mirmande.
There are unexpected and grandiose natural sites to be seen; the area is also a paradise for sporting and outdoor activities
From its junction with the Rhône to its source at La Bâtie-des-Fonds in the Préalpes du Sud, the river Drôme, one of the last untamed rivers of France, runs like a common thread through the area. The river offers, together with its smaller tributaries, a considerable range of aquatic activities, from the most tranquil to the most extreme. Strollers, hikers, botanists and entomologists will be beguiled by the 'forêt de Saoû', nestling at the heart of the highest high level syncline in Europe. The Cirque d’Archiane and its impressive limestone cliffs, marking the southern extremity of the Parc Naturel Régional du Vercors, is another not to be missed grandiose site. Lovers of winter sports will appreciate the conviviality and authenticity of the resorts at Lus-La-Croix Haute or Valdrôme.
A sparkling gastronomy
The vineyards of the Diois, some of the highest in France, are situated at the foot of the Vercors and stretch from Aouste-sur-Sye to the West, to Châtillon-en-Diois to the East. They produce two sparkling AOC wines, veritable ambassadors for the area.
Clairette de Die tradition is the best known and oldest in the Diois (1942) and is a naturally sparkling and sweet wine produced from Muscat blanc and Clairette blanche grapes.
The Crémant de Die is a sparkling 'brut' wine which only uses the Clairette blanche grapes. Vinified using the traditional method, it is the only Crémant in the range of great wines from the Rhône valley.
The Châtillon-en-Diois wines are arrayed in three colours with a predominance of full-bodied white wines. They provide a perfect companion to the Picodon AOP, a small goat's milk cheese with a typically strong taste, made in the local traditional way. Amongst the other produce, the white garlic of the Drôme can be cited, together with the peach and apricot orchards whose blossoms delight the eye in the spring.
All these savours are united and sublimated by the newly starred chef (1* in 2013) Sébastien Bonnet* at the restaurant Le Kleber in Crest.
This is an area where organic agriculture dominates and sustainable development is a reality
If the Drôme is top of the list of French départements for organic agriculture, the Drôme valley and the Diois have certainly had their part to play in this story. For some time this area has had a strong organic and sustainable development presence. There are some large organic production units, whether in agriculture, wine growing or goat herding. The Diois is an ideal place for the organic production of perfumed, aromatic and medicinal plants; the département is a world leader in this domain. In summer the lavender fields awaken all our senses.
Thus it is no coincidence that Biovallée® came into existence in the Drôme valley – an area extending to some 2200 km² between Loriol and Die. Involving local people and local businesses, there has been a flurry of initiatives in eco-building, social and mutually supportive economics, short supply chains and renewable energy. The aim is to become a rôle model for the rest of France.
A pioneer in the sector, the 'centre d’agro-écologie des Amanins' (created by Pierre Rhabi amongst others) offers all those who visit an example of this «alternative» art of living.