Last week I spent my days soaking up some sun in the beautiful region of Provence in the South of France known for some incredible wines. I fancied reconnecting with my wine knowledge and picked out a few vineyards I wanted to learn more about. I packed my bags, a few paracetemols for those inevitable drinking headaches, and off I went to Marseille.
I’ve never visited the South of France before and had heard it was really picturesque and they have an incredible amount of sunshine, boasting 300 days with little rain. The weather in London had turned freezing, literally, and so couldn’t wait to feel the sun on my face after so long.
Marseille is close to the wine regions of Bandol & Cassis. Bandol is famous for rose wines made from the Grenache blend, with Mouvedre and Syrah (Shiraz) thrown in there too. I drove through some beautiful wine country, and i coudln’t help but think – ‘I wonder what my life would be like growing up in an area like this’. It was stunning. I tried quite a few different wines from an excellent vineyard, and realised it was time to move on when I started having serious thoughts how I could fit this into my bag on my way home.
Next stop – Cassis. Some of you may have heard of that tasty liqueur ‘Creme de Cassis’. Well that’s not from here. Cassis is a wine region that has some great white and red wines. Had my fair share of tastings and then it was time to head back to the Old Port in Marseille for a spot of nourishment. Marseille is known for bouillabaisse, a Provencal fish stew originating from this coastal region. I asked around for the best bouillabaisse in town and there was one name that came up more than once – Chez FonFon. It was the perfect way to end a great day tasting wine. Needed something filling and there is nothing quite like having fresh seafood by the coast.
The next day I booked a train to Avignon, another wine region further north from Marseille. It is a commune on the left bank of the Rhone River famous for its rich heavy reds, mainly from Chateauneuf Du Pape. There are some excellent examples of this famous region, and some terrible ones, and sadly this really is an area where price is a good reflection on the quality. Cheap Chateuaneuf Du Pape really is cheap tasting. Luckily I tried some fantastic examples and so got a real feel for this GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) blend. The neighbouring areas of Gigondas and Vacqueryas also have some delicious wines which are great value as they share a lot of the characteristics of the more famous Chateaneuf.
What better way to end a wine tour than a quick pit stop to Beaumes de Venise for some sweet fortified wine. I love love love sweet wine! Made from the Muscat grape that has had its fermentation stopped by adding grape spirit (vins doux naturels). I was in heaven….
What a whirlwind trip. Too many wines to taste and not enough time. Provence is a wonderful place to visit not only in the scorching hot Summers, but the pleasantly mild Winters. And with the wineries open all year round, what more could you ask for!