Jamie Ivey, Provence Guru editor and author of the Moon Guide to Provence, selects the best vineyards for wine tastings in Provence.
The selection below is a personal one, and is based on the overall experience of the wine tastings rather than the quality of wine.
- Domaine des Masques– St Antonin sur Bayon near Aix en Provence
A wine tasting should be an adventure and not only for the taste buds. A visit to Domaine des Masques involves driving into the middle of nowhere while ignoring “no-access other than fire vehicle” signs. Views of Mont Saint Victoire are spectacular. The vineyard is the only one located on the high rocky plateau which rings the base of the mountain. After bouncing twenty minutes up the track (don’t attempt this wine tasting with a low slung sports car) the view of the tasting room in the distance is a welcome one. The winery sits all alone with fields of vines and lavender lapping at the walls. The wines (red, rose and white) are all competitively priced with my favourite being the Cuvee Addictive Viognier. Who says they can’t make white wine in Provence?
2. Domaine Milan, Saint Remy de Provence
A visit to Domaine Milan just outside Saint Remy de Provence is far from average. Whether it’s the 100% Grenache S&X cuvee with its appropriately suggestive label or the outrageously priced Petrus of Provence the merlot-based Jardin cuvee, which retails at over 100 euros a bottle, Domaine Milan challenges expectations. All the wines are 100% natural, made without the addition of chemicals at any stage of the process. The dedication to producing wines using old fashioned methods even goes as far as using a horse and plough in the fields.
3. Chateau Canorgue, Bonnieux, Luberon
If you are a sucker for great organic wines mixed in with a film memorabilia then this tasting is for you. Chateau Canorgue was where the 2006 Ridley Scott adaptation of Peter Mayle’s book a Good Year was filmed. The tasting room has posters and photos from the filming. It’s fun to stock up on some of the Chateau’s fabulous red and then back home, settle down and watch the film, soaking up the gorgeous cinematography while indulging in the unctuous wine.
4. Chateau Vignelaure , near Aix en Provence
The uniqueness of the wine made by Chateau Vignelaure stems from its Cabernet Sauvignon grapes which in 1960 were grafted from the classed Bordeaux growths at Chateau Lagune by George Brunet. As a result the Chateau produces a Provencal wine which is capable of ageing for 15 to 20 years. At its best, so the owners claim, it is reminiscent of fine Bordeaux. When visiting definitely make time for a cellar visit. The vineyard has underground storage which descends four levels into extensive caves. Thousands of bottles are lovingly stored. The famous American wine critic sums up Vignelaure as “one of the showpiece properties not only of Provence, but of France.”
5. Chateau Lacoste, Le Puy Sainte Reparade, near Aix en Provence
Vineyard, art center, restaurant mecca, and luxury hotel, Chateau Lacoste has it all. The wow factor is undeniable. As you drive up towards the tasting rooms, an enormous spider sculpture skates on a shallow lake, and in the distance a gleaming silver sphere appears to have landed from outer space. Wine tastings are always best when you have worked up a thirst. Many vineyards now offer walks in the vines, but Chateau Lacoste is by far and away the best. Throughout the walk hikers stumble across pieces of visually challenging modern art. It’s great fun. After a little exercise the modern tasting room and wine cave await. One quibble is that the prices of the wine (red, rose and white) are a little high. Then again the art can’t have come cheap.