Letting Provence out of the Bottle

It is now time of year when the insistent temperature and stark light of summer have retreated and Provence is bathed in a warm, golden glow that is like a lingering caress prior to the harsher days of winter. The mellow autumn season is the perfect time to explore this little piece of paradise on earth, which is also the oldest wine-growing region of France.

Vineyards are actually part of Provence’s sunlit landscapes since Greek sailors first landed upon its shores in the 6th centuries BC. The rows upon rows of grapevines that stretch their own dark, gnarled branches up to the sun are as much a part of the region’s scenery and history as the tortured shapes of the olive trees, which they resemble.

Now that the main stream associated with visitors has departed, making it possible to ramble at leisure, stopping when and where the particular spirit moves you, for a food or an overnight stay, let us take you on a tour of five of the region’s quality wine-growing areas.

In each one, we give you a simple recipe for earthly happiness: take a couple of outstanding vineyards, add a choice of nearby gourmet restaurants plus charming hotels — some of which can be found under one roof — plus savour the combination in a setting that is one of Nature’s masterpieces.
The first vines were indeed planted on the coast by the Greeks, when they founded Marseille, but it was the Romans who deserve the credit for spreading vineyards throughout Provence. Now, these people carpet the region, from its Mediterranean seaboard to its verdant inland valleys and forested hills, right up in order to its sculptured mountain ranges.

Within Roman times, all the wine produced was rosé, and that is still the color of wine most often associated with Provence. But in addition to light, fruity rosés, perfect for summer drinking, the region also produces a wide range of hearty reds and a few surprisingly crisp whites. The fruit traditionally used for its reds are local varieties such as Mourvèdre (known as the dog-strangler! ), Tibouren plus Cinsault, now being blended with international names such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache. The white wines are a marriage of Provencal old-timers like Clairette, Ugni Blanc plus Marsanne, and relative newcomers to the region like Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

Since 1935, when France developed a strict system of wines laws, the highest quality wines from a specific area are granted A. U. C status — Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. It is a tightly defined certification of origin, ensuring that wines using the A. O. C. label have got met a long list of requirements, including allowed grape varieties, maximum yields, minimum alcohol levels and vinification strategies.

The wine-growing areas of Provence in this article have all earned the appellation classification: one as long ago as 1936, one as recently as 1995. With that kind of quality assured, you will discover the wines sliding down therefore easily that we thought it better to provide a choice of nearby hotel/restaurants where you can rest from your tastings and gather strength for the next lap of the tour.

All the vineyards we describe are happy to have you come plus taste their wines, and the majority have English-speaking staff. The starting hours we list at the end of the content were correct at time of going to press, but it never hurts to give them a call before you go, simply to check that there have been no changes.

Finally, before we start, let us end up being quite clear that we will be having just a few small sips from the huge and varied wine cellar that is Provence. We are merely uncorking a few sample bottles for you at a number of remarkable vineyards. The region has numerous other liquid assets for you to discover and add to your own personal address book. The votre santé!

Cassis: The earliest AOC in Provence (1936)

Allow us to begin at the very beginning, down on the particular Mediterranean Coast. Not far from where Greek sailors founded Marseille 26 centuries ago, the pastel-colored little port of Cassis nestles on the foot of Cap Canaille, France’s highest sea-cliff. From its picturesque harbour you can take a boat tour from the calanques, inlets of crystalline, deep-blue water carved into the white limestone coastline, or take the more enthusiastic option of admiring their transparent absolute depths from above, by hiking along the well-marked, spectacular GR98-51 trail that borders the coast.

Once the view of those sparkling depths has worked up a thirst, internal refreshment is at hand, in the form of the excellent wines of Cassis, an unique phenomenon in Provence. In contrast to all the other wine-growing areas, which generate mainly reds and rosés, a great 75% of the wines of Cassis are crisp, clean whites, which are the ideal table companion to the famous local fish stew, bouillabaisse.

Within the hillside above Cassis stands Château de Fontcreuse, a stately home once belonging to Colonel Teed, the British Army officer who dropped in love with the area and launched themselves into winemaking in 1922. Nowadays the estate is run on exemplary lines by Jean-François Brando, the head of the Cassis vintners’ syndicate.

In the village of Cassis itself, and blissfully free of any bus tours, since they cannot park nearby, will be the elegant Clos Sainte-Magdeleine, which has the majority of its grapes, all organically cultivated, planted in terraces on the inclines of Cap Canaille, around the impressive Art Deco mansion. Its floral whites, with a definite tang of the sea to them, simply cry out for some fresh seafood to accompany them.
You will find a wide choice of dining places serving just that on the seafront. Among the best is Nino +33 (0)4 forty two 01 74 32 (Menu: 32EUR).. Their bouillabaisse is the genuine article and the service is relaxed and friendly. Just a little way out of Cassis, in an idyllic setting at the tip of the diminutive presqu’ile (promontory) associated with Port Miou, La Presqu’Ile (+33 (0)4 42 01 03 77 Menus: 29 — 46EUR) is worth seeking out for its combination of wonderful meals with a wonderfully romantic sea see. To either work up an urge for food or work off your meal, you can find five seaside tennis courts which can be rented by the hour.

If you would like to watch the sun set over the sea, you have till November 1 to book directly into Les Roches Blanches (+33 (0)4 42 01 09 30; areas 90 – 260EUR) a 24-room, 4-star hotel in a superb environment, which closes for the winter. The particular nearby 27-room Hôtel de la Rade (+33 (0)4 42 01 02 97; Rooms 90 — 140EUR) stays open year-round and can give you the impression of going on a vacation cruise, without ever leaving shore. Ready over the sea, its teak patio with canvas-covered railings sets the nautical theme, which carries on inside, with seashell décor and brass portholes.

Bandol: The best-known AOC of Provence (1941)

A short, panoramic drive east of Cassis, the Bandol region spreads around the holiday resort of Bandol, with terraced vineyards climbing from the sea up to the Sainte Baume mountain range.
“Quality, not really quantity, ” is the motto from the area’s winegrowers, and they adhere to the punishing set of regulations to live up to that credo. Fresh rosés be aware of 55% of Bandol wines, however it is the gutsy, long-lived reds made from the distinctive Mourvèdre grape and aged in oak casks to get at least 18 months, that have made the area’s reputation. Here is more on restaurants cassis have a look at our own site.

On Sunday, December 4, Bandol will hold its annual Fête du Millésime, a great chance to taste the new wines of this year’s harvest. There is always a theme – it is “Games” this year — and the wines producers have great fun getting decked out. Join the crowd, which is abundant but happy, wandering along the interface from tent to tent, sampling and spitting, either into the spittoons provided, or directly into the sea. By the end of the day, the fish in the harbour must have a hard time swimming a directly line!

Like most beach towns, Bandol has a string of seafood restaurants along the seafront. One of the best is the hectic Auberge du Port (+33 (0)4 94 29 42 63; Selections: 32 — 42EUR). If you go for the Wine Fair, make very be certain to reserve! The more casual Wine Pub of the Auberge, the oldest one in Bandol, serves an eminently reasonable 18EUR menu of grilled meats and fish, with wine beverages by the glass.

Some of the greatest Bandol whites, with a life expectancy of 20 years or even more in good years, come from Château Pradeaux, which has been in the Portalis loved ones since 1752. Just outside the seaside town of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, with a never ending sea breeze protecting the vines from diseases, the château was designed in the style of a Roman property. It is covered in rambling roses, and has an assortment of friendly dogs snoozing in various corners.

Right in Saint-Cyr, is the four-star, 133-room Dolce Frégate (+33 (0)4 94 29 39; Rooms: 147 — 560EUR), a hotel with every contemporary comfort and convenience, as well as among the top ranked golf courses within France. Its facilities also include an indoor heated pool, 3 tennis courts and a spa.
Just 15 minutes aside, at the foot of the medieval hill-side hamlet of la Cadière d’Azur, Alain Pascal, the new star amongst Bandol vintners, named his site, Le Gros’Noré, in memory of his father, a corpulent guy called Honoré, or ‘Noré, to get short. Alain, a former boxer, is really a man who does not mince his words or compromise — especially on the quality of his wines. Since 1997 he has been making an outstanding red and a superb Mourvèdre-dominated rosé.

At the top of the village, L’Hostellerie Bérard (+33 (0)4 94 ninety 11 43; Rooms: 80 — 259EUR; Menus from 44EUR) is definitely an inviting stop for a meal or for the night. Both an inviting 40-room inn housed in an 11th C convent and a fine local restaurant, it has a superb view from the luminous dining room. Chef René Bérard shares his palpable love plus knowledge of Provençal food in the 4-day cooking courses he runs each month except January and August.

Côtes de Provence: The Biggest AOC of Provence (1977)

With a sprawling 45, 000 acres of vines dispersed from Aix-en-Provence to Nice, this particular appellation offers wines of every colour and style. Rosés make up 75% of the production, reds account for twenty percent and whites for just 5%.

The particular quickest way to get an overview of the immense quantity of vineyards is to visit the area’s Maison des Vins – the Vinotheque — within the medieval town of Les Arcs, on the river Argens. You are close to some spectacular scenery here, like the Pennafort gorges, where water cascades down deep-red rocks crowned by umbrella pines. At the Vinotheque you are able to sample a free selection of Côtes de Provence that changes every week and purchase, at producers’ prices, any of the 600 wines that are kept in stock.

In the idyllic countryside just outside Les Arcs, is Château Sainte-Roseline, a state-of-the-art vineyard located in the 12th century abbey. It is went to both for its consistently good reds, whites and rosés, and for the Romanesque chapel, containing an immense mosaic by Chagall and, inside a crystal reliquary, the remarkably well-preserved 14th corpse of Sainte-Roseline himself.

Also in Les Arcs will be the recently built, magnificent Château Typeface du Broc, which combines two noble pursuits: winemaking and horse breeding. The château, with its stupendous Gothic-vaulted cellar, took four years of work and would be worth visiting even if you did not want to taste the wines. You would be wrong to pass them up, however. Everything on this grand estate, where peacocks strut close to self-importantly, is opulent and well-built, and the luscious, prize-winning reds, and also the full-bodied rosés, are no exception.

For dinner and the night, visit another marvel in the area: Chez Bruno (+33 (0) 4 94 85 93; Menu 56 – 110 EUR; Rooms: 84 — 130EUR), the truffle king of Lorgues. A genial, generous giant, Bruno will greet you in person, with the warmth of a long-time friend. He furthermore beams down as Jesus, from the humoristic mural of the Last Dinner painted on the walls of his restaurant! Do not take offence, yet do take second helpings! The particular truffle menus are a gastronomic experience not to be missed, and 4 rooms await those who wish to digest them in peace.

Opposite the deep-red cliffs of the Pennafort gorges, floodlit at night, the idyllic, Michelin-starred Hostellerie Les Gorges de Pennafort +33 (0)4 94 76 sixty six 51; Menus: 49 — 110EUR; Rooms: 185 — 220EUR) is a destination no self-respecting gourmet ought to pass by. Its ebullient owner plus chef, Philippe Da Silva, dishes up such delicacies as a divine foie gras ravioli with Parmesan, and he always adds little extras, leaving you groaning with pleasure at the end of the meal. His wife Martine watches over the elegant, 16-room hotel, making sure that everything is of the same high standard as her husband’s cooking.