We just returned from 10 days in Rome. Although we lived there for many years, this city will never lose its appeal. Where else is it necessary to stop every 50 yards to admire an ancient building, a provocative statue, a scene from “La Dolce Vita”, a painting glimpsed through a window, a dramatically modern restaurant or any other of the myriad views that the city nonchalantly offers, as if observing 2500 years of civilisation is “normale”?
What other place on this globe has given so much culture, art and engineering to the world, not just once, with Ancient Rome, but twice, with Renaissance Rome too? Nothing can match the greatness that Rome has given to the world. Add a glorious climate, great food, wonderful wines, stupendous music, the warmth of the people, and Rome’s charms far exceed its drawbacks.
Of course there is a price to pay for all of this. There is so much history and architecture to preserve, that no city or even a country could possibly afford to maintain it all in pristine condition, let alone one managed like Rome and Italy are managed. So dilapidated monuments are everywhere, laughable “lawns” abound in the parks, and the traffic strives mightily to reach the heights attained by Naples’ inhabitants, but happily never quite attains that level of insanity. The governmental administration at various levels is questionable, and not averse to corruption.
The people, being naturally resistant to rules and regulation, are not averse to surviving in chaos. Within limits, this too becomes a perverse attraction as one thanks God that this unique gem is not run like Singapore or Zurich, but remains a vibrant and living museum to our shared human civilisation.
There is limited prospect that Italy will be “Great” again. These people were “Great” longer than any other civilisation. They’ve learned that being “Great” is not all it’s cut out to be, that there are more useful, pleasant and productive things to do than being “Great”. Just being in Rome is one of them.
Welcome to the largest wine-making area of France! Established 2,600 years ago by the Phoenicians, the vines of the area are an added bonus to travel enjoyment. They incentivise a drive on the shores of Cassis, in the foothills of the Alpilles, on the slopes of the Sainte-Baume, and in the sands of the Camargue…. Get ready to enjoy: Côtes-de-Provence, Côtes-de-Provence Sainte-Victoire, Coteaux d’Aix En Provence, Palette, Baux-de-Provence, Cassis, IGP Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpilles …
In rosé, it goes without saying that Provence is a star, but for its reds and whites excellence has been achieved and is on the rise. At the heart of these “terroirs” ( meaning literally from the soil of the land), independent winegrowers and cooperatives encourage epicureans to taste their wines, discover their trails and their charming chateaux and cellars and their local products. They also propose for your pleasure, jazz concerts, or a film in the heart of the vines, and often even an exhibition of contemporary art. In short, do take advantage of an abundant offer of cultural pleasures, beyond the wine… while journeying the territory and inhaling the air of Provence the sea and the “garrigue”. A true experience, unique and exclusive to repeat again and again.
What follows is a very personal list of vineyards as the variety of wines in this region is simply overwhelming. These are producers whose wines we like and whose properties we like. We have not gone into detail about all of their wines, as that is the joy of your wine tourism.
* Château de Beaucastel This is arguably one of the two best Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines (the other being « Le Vieux Telegraphe »). It lies between Orange and Avignon.
In 1321, under the reign of Pope Jean XXII, four barrels were brought from the papal cellar to be filled with wine in Châteauneuf. Then, the Popes planted new vines and the legend of the papal wine began. We find the first evidence of Château de Beaucastel as it exists today in the sixteenth century. In 1549, Pierre de Beaucastel bought a « barn with a plot of land extending to « 52 saumées at Coudoulet ». The manor house will be built then with the arms of Beaucastel sculpted on a stone wall of the drawing room.
In 1687, Pierre de Beaucastel was appointed « Capitaine de la ville de Courthezon » by Louis XIV, in recognition of his conversion to Catholicism. Louis XIV’s letter, also said by Colbert, is still visible at the Château.
The property is now owned by the Perrin Family who also own many vineyards through the Rhone Valley and are recognised as highly successful producers down to their their « la Vieille Ferme » wines, red, white and rosé, as daily drinking wines in the €5-€8 price range.
Château de Beaucastel is in the €55-€65 range.
VISIT Visits of Château de Beaucastel are by appointment only. Contact by e-mail to make an appointment.
There are « Famille Perrin » shops in both Avignon and Aix.
BEAUME de VENISE
* Domaine de Durban Some 20/25 minutes east of Châteauneuf du Pape is the small appellation, « Beaume de Venise », that produces re Côtes de Rhone wines, and the lovely sweet white wines, « Muscat de Beaumes de Venise ».
Nearly two thousand years ago, Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History: « The Muscat grape has been grown for a long time in Beaumes and its wine is remarkable »
In 1248, St. Louis took supplies of it with him on his 7th Crusade, and during the early 14th century, at the time of the reign of Pope Clement V, production was increased by 70 hectares to cater for the demand from the Popes’ Palace in Avignon. So there is considerable experience behind these wines that are priced at a fraction of Bordeaux’ famous Sauternes.
The Domaine de Durban is a small producer located on a hillside plateau overlooking the village of Beaumes-of-Venice, and was founded in 1159. The Domaine dominates the vineyard and offers an impressive panorama.
Since the Sixties, the Leydier family has nurtured and developed the production of the now internationally-renowned wines.
VISIT As they are a small producer, it’s a good idea to call ahead to check if a visit is convenient. As they are tucked away on a hill, GPS may not be accurate.
There is a map on how to reach the vineyard on their website
CONTACT Leydier et Fils Domaine de Durban, 84190 Beaumes-de-Venise Tél. : 04 90 62 94 26 Fax : 04 90 65 01 85 Mail : email@example.com
For further information, please fill out their contact form by clicking here.
* Domaine de Bagnol
Cassis, on the coast east of Marseille, deserves a visit in any circumstance. With a picturesque little port, it is within the famous « Les Calanques », the glorious white cliffs and coves that stretch to Marseille.
Of equal interest are the lovely white wines of Cassis. The town can be very crowded in summer and cars are not permitted into the centre, so visitors are required to park and be bussed in.
However, access by car is still possible to the Domaine de Bagnol, which is just outside the centre of town.
The wine in Cassis is really a very long story! Archaeological excavations have dated its presence since Roman times and the texts of March 16, 1199 mentions vines that prove that wines was being produced in the Middle Ages.
The Domaine du Bagnol, which takes its name from the district where it is located, is one of the oldest in the country.
The modern history of the Domaine begins in 1997, when Jean-louis Genovesi bought it.
Since 2003, Sebastien his son, after specialized studies, has taken it over.
Today, the « Marquis de Fesques » cuvée is the spearhead. The motto of the Estate is to work in the most natural and organic way possible.
CONTACT Domaine du Bagnol 12, avenue de Provence – 13260 Cassis firstname.lastname@example.org Tèl. : 04 42 01 78 05 Site : www.domainedubagnol.fr
Other excellent Cassis producers:
* Domaine du Paternel
* Clos Sainte Magdeleine
* Château de Seuil On the route of the Luberon, north of Aix-enProvence, the Château du Seuil is one of the most original architectural projects of the 13th-17th centuries in Aix-en-Provence.
Its French garden is classified on the French Supplementary Historic Monument List. It consists of a 55 hectare vineyard on the sunny slopes of the Trévaresse mountain chain, in the centre of the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence designation. The estate has 280 hectares of woods which provide a natural setting for you to discover. A full range of red, white and rosé available.
VISIT The wine-tasting cellar, open 7 days a week; from Monday to Friday – 9:00-12:30 and 2:00-6:00, and Saturday, Sunday and public holidays – 10:00-1:00 and 2:30-7:00.
* Château Estoublon This property, in the heart of Provence, up against the southern slopes of the Alpilles, carries with it the heritage and even some vestiges of a Roman patrimony. Halfway between Arles and Avignon, the estate of Estoublon and its 18th century castle is nestled in the sumptuous landscape that has often inspired painters and writers. The land of the Alpilles has offered Vincent Van Gogh its most beautiful models.
In this privileged environment, Château d’Estoublon has been passionately perpetuating since 1731 the tradition of olive oils and exquisite wines.
Château d’Estoublon was bought in 1999 by the Schneider family from Switzerland who have renovated everything with exquisite taste. The estate is managed by Valérie, daughter of Ernest Schneider, and her husband Rémy Reboul.
There is a restaurant on site, the Bistro Mogador, and a shop that sells the estate’s wines and olive oils.
VISIT The bistro is open in June every day for lunch 7/7 and on Saturday evening. In July & August it is open every day for lunch, and from Monday to Saturday in the evenings. Closed on Sunday evening. There is a Grand Brunch every Sunday lunch and public holidays.