The red hair lady's castle by Marie-France Falk

The red hair lady s castle 1When I first saw the Suze-la-Rousse castle it was during a school field trip, back in the fifties returning back has unravelled more than we expected.


Before we reached the castle, we could see how large the surrounding grounds were, called La Garenne. These woods used to be full of wild game and were, a paradise for the lords owning the castle and their visitors. To our left, we noticed a strange wall with a tiny space for an entrance door but no roof. So we ventured inside and low and behold we were told that this is in fact the ancestor of tennis courts as we know them today. It was called Jeu de paume, built in the 16th century. Once you reach the castle, you don’t need to have a degree in architecture to see that it is a medieval castle. However the surprise is incredible once you have stepped inside; you cannot believe your eyes! A Renaissance courtyard, beautiful architecture, perfect windows, all in mint condition.


The Suze-la-Rousse castle was built during the 12th century on a hill, from which the name of the village is derived from. The Celtic word uz (from Suze) means hill and the word rousse means red. Could this refer to the colour of the red stones on the hill? There is also a legend which says that it could refer to the colour of Marguerite des Baux’s hair (wife of one of the early lords of the castle).


Over the centuries the castle has been the home of prestigious people such as the Princes of Orange, Lords of Baux-de-Provence and particularly Count François de La Baume, a commander in King Army. Among his famous guests were King Charles IX and his famous mother, Catherine de Medicis in 1564. Catherine was known to enjoy our Côtes du Rhône wine and had it delivered to the Court. Perhaps this was because of a special link with the Roman Tricastini family established in the area since Roman times. Nowadays the whole area in which Suze-la-Rousse is located is known as Le Tricastin.


There is also evidence that Count François de la Baume before he died, whispered to his grey mare "Come on my grey, take me back to die in Suze!". He was fatally injured in Montélimar, during one of the religious battles against the Calvinists in 1587.


The red hair lady s castle 2The castle has been restored and now is owned by the Drôme Department since 1965. Most importantly it is now the home of The University of Wine, the only one in France. Known around the world by wine experts and welcoming each year students in oenology. We recently visited the new City of Wine in Bordeaux. When we were asked by the guides where we came from and mentioned Suze-la-Rousse, instantly recongnising the location.


Each year in Summer there are musical events taking place in the castle, ranging from Les Nocturnes du Piano, chamber music, acrobatic or even sound and light shows present last year.


I can't recommend enough to visit this lovely castle. Follow the Route des Vins des Côtes du Rhône, then move on to Visan, Grignan, (which also has a famous castle), Cairanne, Rasteau, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Beaumes-de-Venise, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Sérignan.