APPRECIATION of good wine only gets better with age and time. Now into my thirties, it’s become central to my time with friends and good food. Over the past year, I’ve had a desire to really get to grips with fine wine, particularly red, from grape to glass. So what better place to head to than the Rhône wine region in Southern France?

I head for Château de Rochegude, a hotel in Provence, around an hour-and-a-half drive from Aéroport de Marseille Provence. Keen on being surprised, I purposefully tried not to research too much into the historic castle at the foot of the Rhône valley vineyards.

After a bumpy ride which sees the driver struggle to get the coach up the very narrow streets, I arrive just after the stroke of midnight. I look up at the hotel, standing ruling over all like an impenetrable fortress, watching the Mont Ventoux, guardian of the border between Drôme and Provence. The medieval castle, transformed into an exceptional, four-star luxury resort, the Château de Rochegude, I’m told, is a member of the most beautiful collection of hotels in the world.

The front desk staff get my tastebuds going when they tell me the cellars of the château boast some of the best wines and are a starting point for wine tastings in the surrounding vineyards.

The next morning, I rush to throw open the windows and look over the Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards, with vistas of the Mont Ventoux, which roll on into the distance for as far as The Rhône valley holds 70,365 hectares of vineyards – equivalent to 71,000 rugby stadiums – 28 appellations, grows 27 grape varieties, over 5,000 wine-growing businesses produce Rhône valley AOC wines and that three million hectolitres are harvested, equivalent to 100 Olympic pools, made up of 81% red, 13% rosé and 6% white.

I'm travelling with Lidl to discover where they source their wines so it’s off to the Caveau Balma Vénitia, in the village of Beaumes de Venise, in the heart of Provence. Locally made wines from growers around the area are sold at the quaint shop, which also doubles as a tasting school.

Driving up to the scenic heights of the Dentelles de Montmirail, for the grape tasting and short harvest experience, it’s clear to see why the area is known around the world as a rock-climber’s paradise. The small mountain chain seduces me as I find myself getting lost within the remarkable harmony of the landscapes and the endless rows of grapevines. The sweet, purple grapes are far too appealing not to devour in the blistering heat and I’m eager to get started with the short harvesting experience – backbreaking, but rewarding, work.

Visiting the masterpiece of engineering that is the Pont du Gard has been high on my bucket list. Seeing her in all her glory leaves one almost breathless. She’ll have to wait for a bit, though, as, on the way to the bridge, the Lidl team seals off a small section next to the Gardon River to launch six Rhône wines as part of its Christmas collection. I look at the table adorned with classic red blends, dry whites, and fizz as the anticipation sets in.

Wines from the Rhône are in harmony with modern tastes; fruit-driven, not too oaky and ready to drink as soon as they are bought. Hosted by the retailer’s master of wine, Richard Bampfield, we start with three reds. I enjoy Vacqueyras, AOC, 2016, a smart, winter warmer with red fruits and spicy undertones, made from the same grape varieties and the same region as Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Then it’s onto the full-bodied Les Aumoniers, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Seguret AOP, 2016, tasty, with notes of white pepper. Already, I’ve an idea to pair this with a nut roast dinner for the only veggie in the family.

The Dame de Clochevigne, Rasteau AOP, 2017, deep plum and peppery, rounds the reds off before the whites.

The dry, yet fruity, Colnem Blanc, Costières de Nîmes, AOC, 2017, is peachy, perfect for lighter meals as I enjoy some canapes, eagerly looking up to the Pont du Gard.

Café Terrasse Muscat, Vaucluse IGP, 2017, is made entirely from Muscat grapes, making for a delightful, refreshing, dry white with bright fruit flavours.

Looking to the final one before visiting the bridge, Lidl’s exclusive Cuvée Cesar, Clairette de Die AOP, 2016, sparkling wine is light and fresh, although slightly sweet, with rose petal aromas and flavours of baked apple. Just as I thought I’d had enough, I suddenly want just one more glass of this very moreish fizz, ideal for guests at the end of the night.

Located in the heart of the medieval village of Castillon du Gard, near the Pont du Gard, it’s off to gourmet restaurant L’Amphitryon for dinner for plenty of brandade and anchoïade. Belly full of grapes and wine, and with a desire for more time to weave in and out of the vineyards, sadly, it’s off to the airport. On the upside, Christmas is just around the corner – and that means one thing...