Dreamlike Provence is that beautiful region of yellow-gold sunshine, purple lavender and yellow sunflower fields, silver-sage olive groves, and a wild countryside filled with Mediterranean vegetation. The Provençal landscape stretches from the Mediterranean to the snow-capped Alps. Cultural pursuits here include exploring Roman ruins, medieval villages, ducal palaces, farmland, and ritzy seaside indulgences. Artists, reclusive spirits, and the glitterati have all made their homes here. A particularly varied landscape dominated by a warm and dry sunny climate gives Provence its unique wines.
The area is so accessible by sea that the first vineyards were planted 26 centuries ago by the Greeks when they founded Marseilles.
The wines produced at that time were light in color, resembling Rosés. Later, Phoenicians colonized the area, followed by the Romans in the second century BC. They developed the culture of the vine and organized Provincia Romana.
The “Côtes de Provence” wines obtained Appellation d’Origine Controlee (DOC) status in 1977. They have the innate sophistication of all the best wines: they are subtle enough to accompany the most delicate dishes such as truffles or lobster, yet they are also robust enough to underline the wide range of the Provencal cuisine flavors. Lately interesting red wine production has cropped up in the area as well.
Provence Wines – Major Wines of the Provence Region
Many white and red varieties exist here that come from elsewhere in France and the Mediterranean. The difference this region offers is the incredibly varied landscape and soil types that give each varietal its own unique identity.
In Provence there are three major appellations that represent 96% of the volume of registered DOC of Provence:
Côtes de Provence
Côtes de Provence, whose local denominations include Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire and Côtes de Provence Fréjus, Côtes de Provence La Londe and Côtes de Provence Pierrefeu, and Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence.
Cassis is an AOC area near the coast where white wines are made from Marsanne and Clairette.
Bandol produces red wines made from Mourvedre grapes, which take advantage of the dry, hot climate conditions and sandy limestone soil. These wines are rich and intense after being aged in the barrel for 18 months.
When To Go To Provence
- May through August is the best time to enjoy the sunshine, fields of lavender and sunflowers (in bloom and at their best in July), and even red poppies, which bloom in May and June. July and August are filled with festivals and fairs.
- September to October is a great time to visit for still-warm weather and less crowds—but you’ll have missed the lavender.
Where to Taste Provence Wines
Maison des Vins de Côtes de Provence: With over 800 bottles on display, this “House of Wines” is specially designed to help visitors discover the different terroirs and the wines that they produce.
There are free tastings from a weekly menu of 16 wines, oenology classes, and a wine bar that sells the bottles at winery prices.
Find out more about wines at the Musee des Vins in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
With arranged visits, here are some of the best places to sample renowned rosé wines of the region, recommended by Alexandre Pauget, a top sommelier in Provence:
- Château d’Esclans sits on a hill near the Gorges de Pennafort, and their “Whispering Angel” is the star. Other places to try include Château Minuty, Jas d’Esclan, and Château Saint Julien d’Aille.
- For the Bandol red wines try Chateau de Pibaron and Domaine e l’Estagnol.
- In Chateauneuf-du-Pape Chateau de Beaucastel is one of the top estates.
- Near Aix-en-Provence Chateau de Simone surrounds an 18th -century palace (which unfortunately does not offer tours of the interior).
- Award-winning Cotes du Luberon wines can be found at Chateau la Canorgue.
- In addition to these, there are numerous small wineries to visit, each offering unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences—one winery is only accessible by fourwheel jeep thanks to its cliff-side location! Check with your Travel Advisor who has contacts in the region to arrange your tours.
Where to Dine In Provence
There are almost too many amazing restaurants to name, spread all over the region. Sommelier friends recommend:
- Le Logis du Guetteur. Place du Château, 83460 Les Arcs
- La Vigne à Table. Route Nationale 7, 83460 Les Arcs
- Le Relais des Moines. Route Saint Roseline D91, 83460 Les Arcs
- Bruno. 2350 Route des Arcs, 83510 Lorgues
- Le Chrissandier. 18 Cours de la République 83510 Lorgues
- La Farandole & La Bouscarelle. Route de Salerne (D10)
And I can personally recommend, for a terrific experience in the uber-charming cliffside Mediterranean town of Eze, the legendary two-Michelin-star-rated La Chevre D’Or.
Best Places To Stay In Provence
You have a huge range of choice accommodations! Your Travel Advisor can arrange for you to rent a reputable villa in the countryside or a stay at one of the numerous resorts and exceptional hotels in the area.
If you want a total vacation in the area to combine with your wine exploration, and a place to bring the whole family, try Terre Blanche Hotel Spa Golf Resort.
This golf, spa, and family destination is perfectly situated in the wild and authentic countryside of Provence, while still remaining near the French Riviera. It is modeled after a Provencal village with cottage-esque accommodations, and the property abounds with forests and gardens.
The resort has won yearly awards for “best spa and golf experience” in France and offers an outstanding Kids’ Club and pools, outdoor and nature activities designed for family time, and plenty of adult pleasures.
Adults will love the relaxing spa with an indoor pool and large fitness room, as well as two 18-hole golf courses with exclusive, innovative learning facilities to improve your game, tennis courts, and a huge infinity pool.
There are 50 four world-class restaurants under the supervision of Michelin-Star awardee Executive Chef Philippe Jourdin.
Can you say “oh la la”?
Exclusive Virtuoso benefits include: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability, daily full breakfast for up to two in room guests, a bottle of red wine from Provence and assortment of regional fresh olives and variety of nuts, early checkin/late check-out subject to availability.
In-the-Know Tips From The Locals
Sommelier Alexandre Pauget: “To find biodynamic or organic wines from small growers, check out the Cave Legrand Gourmet in Antibes Juan les Pins.”
What To Do In Provence
Provence is a large and varied region to explore, and it would take a stay of several weeks to see everything. However, your Travel Advisor could help hone a shorter visit to fit your interests.
Town and City Touring
There are so many beautiful towns to explore! Avignon, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Nice … and the list goes on.
Provence is home to some renowned perfumeries. Take home your own scented memory in a bottle with a visit to one of these fine perfumeries:
- In Grasse the Fragonnard perfumery is located in the town center. This historical factory is one of the oldest in Grasse, and its name is a tribute to the famous painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
- Founded in 1849, Molinard offers a wide range of perfumes from Grasse. Combining modernity and tradition, Molinard offers unique scents and essential oils. Various activities are available, like sampling scents at the Fragrance Bar or touring the perfume factory.
- In Biot you’ll find a stunning glassmaking factory where each glass is a state-ofthe-art creation designed for household use. Visit the Eco museum and admire masters of glassmaking at work.
- For antiques shopping, the destination is L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue near Avignon. Many shops are housed in old olive mills and factory buildings, and on Saturdays you can enjoy browsing through the flea market along the river’s edge.
- Visit a market or take a food tour. The towns and cities of Provence host markets bursting with color and flavor, and the region abounds with fresh produce, tasty local recipes, and ingenious chefs.
Crazy for Culture
- Get some culture at the art galleries that dot the region, many of which house incredible works from greats such as Chagall, Cezanne, and Van Gogh. The region continues to attract artists and artisans.
- Visit villages such as Gordes, a bustling town perched high on rocky crags that once were medieval defense positions for the peasantry. Now the town plays host to galleries, shops, hotels, and bars on winding stone streets that pass under arcade passageways.
Immerse in History
- Avignon boasts well-preserved art and architecture, including the Papal Palace, home to several displaced popes in the 14th century—it’s the largest Gothic palace in the world! Take a picnic sourced at a market and a bottle of wine to enjoy on the beautiful grounds. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a medieval village that hosts the summer home of the Avignon popes and is surrounded by vineyards of the same name. Provence has the greatest abundance of Roman structures outside of Rome. In the area you’ll find Roman arenas, amphitheaters, aqueducts, triumphal arches, baths, villas temples, and entire lost towns.
Go to the Sea
- The Cote d’Azur and the French Riviera beckon you to sample the delights of the deep blue Mediterranean. Drive along the coast for stunning views of the sea and craggy hills; the Corniche-des-Maures is the most scenic stretch that goes up through the woodland highlands and down again. Or head uphill to Eze, a charming village where you can walk the stone streets under canopies of bright pink bougainvillea, have lunch with a vista of the sparkling sea below, stroll through the art galleries, and shop in local perfumeries.
- Cannes is perfect for shopping or a walk on the mythical Croisette.
- Saint Tropez was a former fishermen village and now welcomes the jet-set from all over the world—my favorite summer sandals have the iconic French seaside look and are made here at K. Jacques and Rondini.
- Marseilles has overcome much of its rough-and-tumble grittiness and is now a beautiful seaside port city—it’s the perfect spot for relaxing by the sea and enjoying the area’s unparalleled seafood.
- Want to get away from it all? Go to the island of Porquerolles to hike through creeks, woodlands, and some pretty beaches. The best part? No cars are allowed on the island!
Enjoy Nature and the Outdoors
- The outdoors adventures in Provence are practically endless: visit the Carmargue salt marshes habitat of wild horses and flamingos, sail to a national park located on a coastal island, hike or drive in the Gorges du Verdon, and road bike or mountain bike all throughout the region.
- For water lovers, a trip to St. Cassion Lake offers up aquatic activities like paddle boating or kayaking. And finally, animal lovers will adore the Arc National Mercantour.
- Close to the Italian border, this area encompasses a wildlife habitat filled with ibex, chamois, birds of prey, hoopoes, ptarmigan, and many more species.
If you’d like to have more ease in your travel planning, I’d love to help!
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