Provence for wine lovers

Provence for wine lovers

Provence’s history extends from Roman ruins in cities like Arles and Aix-en-Provence to what’s swirling in your glass, since wine-growing here dates back 26 centuries – making Provence France’s first wine region.

Provence is a living French fairytale: hills blanketed in rows of blossoming lavender, medieval villages carved into cliff sides, hairpin turns whipping you through oak forests sprinkled with truffles, or, as they’re referred to locally, black ‘diamonds’. In the summer, the cicadas are chirping so loudly, the background noise serves as a soundtrack to days spent lounging poolside, sipping rosé so pale it would be easy to mistake the wine for blanc.

Extending from Monaco and the Italian border, Provence encompasses the South of France, the sunflower-filled countryside, the saltmarshes of the Camargue, and medieval towns where the light and landscape inspired painters like Picasso and Matisse.

While Provence itself is too large to tackle in a weekend (let alone a week), you can still experience a slice of the region on a road trip through the vines, lingering over long lunches prepared with ingredients plucked from the surrounding gardens and beautiful bottles brought over from nearby wineries. Here’s how to map out your trip.

Day 1: Avignon to Gargas

Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa

Board the train from Paris to Avignon (approximately 2.5 hours on the fast TGV) and rent a car when you arrive at the station. Make the 45-minute drive to Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa (Hameau Le Perrotet, 84400 Gargas), a Relais & Châteaux property that extends across a 40ha estate in the heart of the Luberon Valley, overlooking Provence’s highest peak, Mont Ventoux. The hotel takes over an 11th-century hamlet and still has the feel of a Provençal village, with suites scattered across a handful of renovated stone bastides, or country houses.

Spend the afternoon getting pampered at the spa – the largest in the region – alternating between the indoor pool, sauna and hammam, before heading to the al fresco centrepiece poolside bar for a pre-dinner apéritif. Take a short stroll and settle into a table in the vines at aptly-named Les Vignes. Chefs Thierry Enderlin and Aurélien Trousse ‘go to the market for research,’ as they say when describing their Provence-focused fare that’s sourced locally from the Luberon or picked from the onsite vegetable patch.

A dish or two changes every two weeks, but expect to find a menu of elevated regional favourites like stuffed zucchini flowers with chèvre and basil pesto from the garden. Order a bottle of organic Aureto wine, crafted from the surrounding vines at the hotel’s onsite winery. The tasting room, a 10-minute bike ride away, also serves wine by the glass alongside cheese and charcuterie plates, if you’re looking for a light lunch while you’re here.

Day 2: Roussillon, Lacoste & Ménerbes

La Bastide de Marie. Credit: David André

After fuelling up at the lavish breakfast spread, make your way to the hotel’s cycling centre, affiliated with Swiss brand BMC (Andy Rihs, the hotel’s Swiss billionaire owner, was also a backer of the WorldTour BMC Racing Team and head of the bike manufacturer). This part of Provence is just as infamous for its cycling routes (the Tour de France passes through the region) as its road trips, so spend the morning exploring the easier-to-cycle country roads on a guided tour (request Gaetan as your guide).

Cycle past horse-filled pastures and cherry trees up to perched villages built on rust-red cliffs that have earned the area the nickname ‘Provence’s Colorado’. Get your camera ready when you reach the top of Roussillon – they say there are at least 17 shades of ochre smeared across the homes of the clifftop village, named one of the most beautiful in France.

Check out of Coquillade and make the 20-minute drive up to the impressively-preserved medieval village of Lacoste, crowned by the Marquis de Sade’s castle. French…

Source :