It’s said that the Phoenicians started the wine trend in the Cotes de Provence when they arrived with their vines over two millennia ago. Ever since, the area has been producing full-bodied reds, fresh whites and the prettiest pale pink rosés around. The long hours of sunshine throughout the year, the sea salt that floats in on the Mistral wind from the Alps and the well draining soil creates the perfect environment for the land to grow green and fertile, and crops to grow ripe and flavourful.
The terroir of the south is varied. In turn, so is the wine. There are lots of different grapes grown here – from Syrah to Cinsault to Clairette – thanks to the range in geographical locations and soil compositions of the vineyards of the Var, which stretches from the west of Marseilles all the way east to St Raphael.
If you’re looking to visit some of the wonderful vineyards in the area, we’d recommend adding these to your list:
This biodynamic vineyard in nearby Nice grows vines between 200 and 330 metres above sea level, in a calcareous soil of sand and pebbles. Man-made terraces prevent mechanical harvest of the grapes, and guarantee excellent quality in each and every harvest.
Château des Marres is 30-hectare, family run vineyard between Saint-Tropez and Ramatuelle. Its vines, which grow on soil made up of sand, clay and schistous, produce Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre grapes for Provence rosé; Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for red; and Rolle, Sémillon and Viognier for white wine.
This vineyard was established as a family business in the 80s, and expanded in the 21st century across five hectares of land. It grows some unusual and highly respected grape varieties dating from Roman times, including Rolle, Braquet and Mad Black. The owners of Domaine de la Source are well known for their careful techniques and the deep respect they show to their soils.
There are two different terroirs to this vineyard, growing grapes for two types of wine: Luberon AC and Ventoux AC. Thanks to the variation in soil and location, each wine has a distinct character of its own drawn from the roots of the vines. Situated in the beautiful Luberon Regional Natural Park, the vineyard has its own water treatment plant which guarantees no pollution can contaminate its produce.
Chêne Bleu is an exclusive vineyard located at an altitude of 1700ft in the idyllic foothills of Mt Ventoux. It offers boutique wine tours and a wine course that has been rated highly by top wine industry professionals and critics.
This vineyard, which was founded in the Middle Ages, produces a limited number of fine wines each year. So fine, in fact, that they have been served to heads of state at a recent G20 summit, and the jury of the Cannes Film Festival. The vineyard is run by twenty-one Cistercian monks that live a traditional monastic lifestyle on Ile Saint-Honorat. They care for their vines and harvest the grapes entirely by hand, without any herbicides or additional salt, so as to preserve the island’s unique eco-system.
Such is the quality of our wine in the south, it often dictates our meal choices. If you happen upon a young red in Provence you can bet it will be fresh and fruity, and would make a great accompaniment to a barbeque in the summertime. The light, wonderfully rounded rosés of the region, which have become the coveted by rosé lovers around the world, also call for summery dishes. If you’re after a white wine in the warmer months you might like to try a gentle and aromatic variety grown near the coast with a light Mediterranean dish; but consider switching to a bottle from an inland vineyard as the weather gets cooler and your meals become heartier, as it is likely to be more robust. When the winter sets in, its time to dig out that bottle of great quality red you’ve been saving for years to enjoy with a venison dish or a board of French cheese.
You don’t have to make a special trip to find excellent wine here in Antibes. Supermarkets and grocery stores tend to offer a good selection at very reasonable prices. If you’re looking for something special, head into the centre of town. The passionate wine merchants at specialist wine shop La Treille d’or will help you find the perfect bottle for the occasion.