Vacqueyras is an appellation for red, white and rosé wines from the vineyard-strewn area around the parishes of Vacqueyras and Sarrians in France's southern Rhône Valley wine region.
Until 1990, Vacqueyras was one of the Côtes du Rhône Villages, but the consistent quality of its wines (particularly the concentrated, powerful reds) earned it an upgrade to a full, independent AOC. The Vacqueyras appellation laws are similar to those of Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, its neighbours to the immediate northeast and southwest, and its wines are also very similar if a little less refined. Vacqueyras wines are required to contain at least 50 percent Grenache, while Syrah and Mourvèdre must together account for at least 20 percent. Any of the other Côtes du Rhône varieties may make up 10 percent. Carignan was formerly excluded, but is now permitted.
Small amounts of rosé and white wine are made. Grenache must account for at least 60 percent, and one or both of Cinsaut and Mourvèdre must make up at least 15 percent. Permitted grape varieties are Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. One single variety may account for up to 80 percent of the blend.
The landscape around Vacqueyras is dominated by its position at the 'toes' of the Dentelles de Montmirail foothills. Many of the finest vineyard sites here are on the steep, southwest-facing limestone slopes just to the east of the town, which mark the beginning of these hills. The presence of these foothills points to the origins of the landscape as it looks today, divided between limestone ridges 500 meters (1650 ft) tall and an alluvio-glacial terrace formed many thousands of years before grapes were first grown here.
Climate-wise, the area is strictly Mediterranean – the sea is only 80 kilometres (50 miles) to the south. It is therefore blessed with a long, hot, dry growing season, ensuring maximum ripeness for its vineyards. This, combined with the site's south-westerly aspect, helps explain the density of vineyards in the area.