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France,  Travel

Provence – Wine and art and the art of wine


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Provence is a traditional wine region and is located between the Mediteranean and the Alpes. It offers a variety of excellent wines. Certainly, the most famous winery of the region is Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the best and probably the most expensive red wines of Provence. The best red wine growing areas are between Orange and Carpentras, located straight beside the mountain range Dentelles de Montmirail. However, Provence is known above all for its excellent rosé wines, which make up around 80 percent of its products. With 38 percent of its national production, Provence even ranks first among France’s rosé wines. On more than 27,000 hectares, wines are grown in Provence and more than 300 domains are open to visitors.

This text is part of my series of Provence blogposts. I had the opportunity to go on a five-day tour through Provence, an experience I want to share with you here. This post is about wine and art and the art of wine. On my blog you will also find a post on basic information about Provence and a post that gives you a more general overview on our trip. In further blog posts, I will get into deeper insights of our tour on various specific topis. You will find all posts of my Provence series linked at the end of this post. So here we go!


A vineyard in the middle of an art park

When you think of Provence, inevitably you think of hilly landscapes, and lavender swinging easily in the wind. You think of sunshine, a good glass of wine and maybe last, but certainly not least, also of art. The region is known for its beautiful vineyards. One of them, Château La Coste, is not only a winery, but also a center of modern art. The winery was bought 2004 by the Irish family McKillen who decided to make it a sybiosis of wine and art. Since then, artists from all over the world have realized their ideas in the vineyard.

You should allow approximately two hours to go on a walk at you leisure trough hilltops and valleys, alongside olive groves and wine fields to see the sculptures and installations of contemporary art on your way.

The Crouching Spider by Louise Bourgeois
Entering Château La Coste, The Crouching Spider by Louise Bourgeois welcomes you.


The Crouching Spider by Louise Bourgeois welcomes you when you enter the space of Château La Coste. On your stroll you will find more than 30 art installations, such as Le Pavillon de La Musique by architect Frank O. Gehry, The Centre d’Art by Tadao Ando and The Drop, a shiny mobile sculpture in the middle of the vineyard, by Tom Shannon.

In the front The Drop by Tom Shannon, on the right Le Pavillon de La Musique by Architect Frank O. Gehry – surrounded by the wonderful landscape of Provence.
In contrast to the modern art, the wine shop is located in a building from 1682.


Beyond all the art, there is also remarkably good wine to taste and to buy. In contrast to the modern art, the wine shop is located in a building from 1682. My favorite wine is Le Rosé and I bought some bottles of Château La Coste before going back home. If you are a wine lover (like me), then you should not miss this opportunity.


After we got tired of walking around and tasting wine, we decided to try one of the four restaurants. I recommend you not to miss that – the food (accompanied by the appropriate wine for sure) and service were outstanding!


Creating our individual wine

In the department Vaucluse, one of the most beautiful corners in Provence, we visited the wine-growing company Maison Lavau. First, we had a guided tour and visited the cellar where we learned a lot about all the steps to make a great wine, from manual harvest to bottling. As you might know, wine can be made of different grape varieties. So after the tour in a workshop we did a tasting of the different varieties to get to know better their typical flavors.


And then, finally, we were allowed to try it ourselves: equipped with a pinafore, test tubes and wine tasting glasses, everyone could try to match his or her individual taste, blending typical varieties of the Rhone valley: a bit of Grenache, some milliliters of Syrah …. and maybe a little bit more Grenache … and so on. After a while and a lot of tasting of the other participant’s creations, everybody was a little tipsy and more or less managed to mix a wine that matched his individual taste.


Everyone was in a good mood and we had a lot of fun. At the end the wine got bottled with our custom label (the only one who did not manage to put the cork in the bottleneck was me, and not because of too much alcohol, but because you need more muscle power than I could muster) and we had a perfect souvenir, taking our individual wine back home.


Wine festivals worth a visit

Of course, there are also wine festivals in a wine region. And for sure all of them are worth a visit. I would like to introduce you to three extraordinary wine festivals, that have a lot to offer besides wine:

MAY

Balades Gourmandes
Where: Château La Gordonne in Pierrefeu-du-VarAbout
What: 30 wine-growers and four of the well-known chefs of the region invite you to a six kilometer gastronomic boardwalk with music, carriage raides, stalls and last but not least fine wine and culinary specialties.

JUNE – SEPTEMBER

Art et Vin
Where: Bandol, Côtes de Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence
What: Winemakers and artists are transforming vineyards and storage cellars into art galleries. The works can then be seen throughout the whole summer.

OCTOBER

Rallye annuel des Vignerons de Sainte-Victoire
(usually on a Saturday )
Where: Sainte-Victoire
What: As a part in a car, this rally guides the participants to stage destinations with various themes, such as work in the vineyard, blind tasting, wine and health, harmony between wine and food and so on.


Further remarkable locations about wine

Château Maravenne
Where: La Londe-les-Maures
What: Around 50 animated characters depict life at a winery in the 1920s.

Maison des Vins Côtes des Provence
Where: between Aix-en-Provence and Nice
What: Vinotheque with more than 800 different wines.

Maison des vins Coteaux Varois en Provence
Where: Abbey of La Celle
What: Domain of a former Benedictine abbey, which presents a different selection of its wines to the visitors every week.

Although the trip was sponsored by the France Tourism Development Agency, I assure you that I only recommend places and things that I really liked, and that I would recommend to you even without this sponsorship.

This post is part of a series around a 5-day-trip to Provence:

Provence – Basic information
Provence – The dream destination in the south of France
Provence – Where to stay
Provence – Wine and art and the art of wine

(more to follow)


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Have you ever visited Provence? Which are your “must see” places? Which ist your favorite wine? Leave your comments below!


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