Wine Touring in Provence: Not Just for Celebrities

Wink Lorch's picture

Wine Touring in Provence: not just for Celebrities


Wine Travel Guides - Provence


Provence has been a magnet for famous people from politicians to artists and musicians for more than a century, and its popularity seems never to wane. Recent news that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have purchased Château Miraval, a well known wine producer, having rented the property for a couple of years, reinforces this – it also meant that, sadly, we had to remove the property from our recommended wine producers to visit on Wine Travel Guides – their security gurus don’t welcome casual wine tourists. Yet, if this makes you think the region is over-run with celebrities and you have to either be one or be a fan to go there, think again. This beautiful, wild part of France is as attractive and almost as accessible as it’s ever been and now has the added bonus of producing much better wines than it used to.

Dry, fruity rosé wine has long been the mainstay of production here and it is ideally suited for drinking outside on a terrace taking in the Mediterranean sea views, relaxing in the warm Provençal sun. It also works well with many of the classic olive oil and tomato-based dishes typical of the region as well as classic seafood dishes such as bouillabaisse. But, like many wines whose popularity is made by tourists, quality is not always what it should be and it really pays to find one from a good producer.  Much more interesting are the increasingly good, structured, warm and spicy red wines, often made from a mix of Mediterranean grape varieties (like Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre) with some more classic names such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Whites are rarer, but when you find a good one they offer the scents of the garrigue (wild herbs) along with exotic flowers and match the fresh seafood superbly. There are good vineyards on the coast especially close to Cassis and Bandol just a little east of Marseille, but many are in the more interesting inland areas, which are certainly the ones to explore if you hit a busy holiday period.


Our four guides to the wine regions of Provence are written by two Masters of Wine, both called Elizabeth or Liz and both lucky enough to live in Provence, one at either end. Liz Berry MW (who you also read about in my Rhône Valley article) lives near Aix-en-Provence and has recently opened a wine shop with her husband in the little town of St-Martin de Crau – she writes our two western guides. The ones further east are written by Liz Gabay MW who has lived with her family in the hills above Nice for several years and always been a specialist in eastern French wines.


The area near Aix is an artist’s paradise and Liz Berry introduces the area as follows:

“Aix en Provence, and the department of Bouches du Rhône, is known for its tourism, for its warm climate and amazing light, especially in winter, and for the numerous artists who have settled in this region, including Vasarely and Cézanne, who lived and painted around the town of Aix en Provence, and Van Gogh, who lived for several years in Arles and later in Saint Rémy de Provence. The town of Aix combines the charm of old architecture with a juxtaposition of modern buildings, and a number of excellent museums and art galleries. The best vineyard sites around Aix are on the slopes of Mont Sainte Victoire. Les Baux de Provence is about an hour’s drive from Aix and the village includes the spectacular ruins of a medieval fortress that juts out of the skyline - well worth a visit. The vineyards of the Baux area are around a chain of mini-mountains; the Alpilles. The vineyards are on the slopes to the north and south of the Alpilles, intermingled with olive groves, and wine quality here has dramatically improved over the past five years.”

If I had to select an ideal itinerary for a wine lover on a visit to Provence, it would be to explore Les Baux, stay and eat in the wonderful-sounding Riboto de Taven with just six rooms, and then the next day visit the organically run wine and olive oil estate Mas de la Dame. A perfect couple of days.


If you want to focus on the areas further east and have a yearning to stay near the seaside, this is what Liz Gabay has to say about Coastal Provence:

“The coastal region of Provence has, for me, a dual personality. During the summer it is to be actively avoided. However nice it is to dream of dinners under the stars overlooking the sea or sunny beach days with blue skies, umbrella pines and the characteristic red rocks tumbling into the deep blue water – the vast hordes of tourists and traffic jams are horrendous. During the winter most restaurants and hotels are closed, leaving spring and autumn as the best times to visit. During late spring and early autumn the weather is generally mild enough to dine outside at midday while in the evenings a roaring fire can add to the atmosphere. Much of the coast is outrageously built up - and this is where exploring for vineyards comes into its own. Keen wine lovers can leave the beaten track and discover the hidden beauty of the local countryside.”


Near the village of La Motte, about half an hour inland from Fréjus or St-Raphaël you will find Château d’Esclans which produces possibly the most expensive rosé wines in the world and is owned by Sacha Lichine, son of the late, great wine writer Alexis Lichine. When Liz Gabay went to taste the wines she was unexpectedly impressed, and found the cuvée named ‘Whispering Angels’ well worth it. Close by is a country restaurant in a wine estate called Domaine de la Maurette. You can enjoy a modest, family style meal here with the domaine’s wines and be sure not to bump into any celebrities, out of season anyway.


Provence simply has to be visited at least once in a lifetime and incorporating a wine tour is a lovely way of seeing some of the most attractive parts of the region.

For a useful discount on subscriptions - perfect for planning your own private wine tour in France, use the promotional code offered to all visitors to Wandering Educators – you will find the details at our special Wine Travel Guides section here at Wandering Educators.




Wink Lorch is the Wine Editor for Wandering Educators, and the Publisher of Wine Travel Guides.