Provence in the Spring
22 - 27 April 2008
Provence as an historical entity was created by the Romans, who regarded it as a ‘province’ of their empire and indeed, Provence saw the first plantings of vines in Gaul when the Greeks introduced them in the 6th century BC. England began importing wine from Provence since Henry II of England married Eleanor of Aquitaine. The local wines are mostly created from indigenous vines such as Grenache and Mourvèdre, though there are now also Cabernet and Syrah vines.
Although Provence conjures up the idea of easy drinking Rose wines, this tour will prove there are many more “serious” red and white wines to be considered – ones that can be enjoyed at any time back in the UK – not just on the ellusive sunny day!
Our first base is the quintessentially Provencal town of Aix-en-Provence, birthplace of Cezanne (you can enjoy many of his paintings in the Musee Granet and visit his house). Plane trees line the attractive Cours Mirabeau, with its open air cafes and beautiful hot spring fountains. From here we discover the wines of Les Baux and St Remy, whose wines were granted Appellation Controllee status only in 1995. These vineyards are overshadowed by the dramatic rugged mountain range, Les Alpilles. Red wines are dominant here from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsaut and Cabernet and are often considered by wine journalists to be amongst the best value wines from the region. We’ll also climb up to the hillside village of Les Baux. We spend a day too in Chateauneuf des Papes, tasting a range of top domaines over lunch followed by a visit to the great domaine Vieux Telegraph.
Heading to the coast, our next couple of nights are spent in the best hotel in the seaside town of Bandol, where we discover the robust eponymous wines from several of the top producers.
This region is now so busy in the summer it is best avoided – so early spring time is ideal -with the promise of wildflowers in the fields and the hope of warm sunny days! Of course, it is impossible to enjoy these wines without the mouthwatering local food – full of flavour, with delicious freshly picked vegetables, locally grown herbs and spices, black olives, sun dried tomatoes, home made goat’s cheeses, succulent lamb, and, of course abundant freshly caught fish.