Trip to the Var: Part I

I believe I may have mentioned that my Officer in Charge of Drinks has been purchasing wine online. His most recent acquisitions were a selection of rosé wines from the neighbouring Var. During the summer, there’s nothing nicer at the weekend than quaffing a chilled rosé on the terrace as the sun sets on a week of hard graft. A bottle will last us all weekend but, in this case, after each one we’ve taken and compared notes. Clear winners emerged and we thought: “Why not visit the vineyards one weekend?” I decided to do a bit of research beforehand to discover more about our rosé wines in the region.

When the Phoenicians founded Marseille 2,600 years ago, they introduced the grapevine making Provence France’s very first wine region. Four centuries later, the Romans began to settle in Provence and continued cultivating grapes there, and indeed elsewhere. Provence is also the only region to focus on rosé  – 88% of its wine production – and is home to the only research institute dedicated to the style.

Of course, the area is blessed with a fantastic climate: lots of sunshine and not too much rain, with warm days and cool evenings. The Mediterranean sea moderates the temperatures and the (in)famous Mistral wind keeps the vineyards dry, free of pests, and the skies clear.

The geography is diverse with numerous mountain ranges that texture the landscape providing gentle slopes and sheltered valleys. The soils are diverse as well. Limestone rules in the western part of Provence where the land was once covered by a warm, shallow ancient sea. Travel east and the soil is mostly chrystalline schist (granite) and, in one small area, volcanic.

Throughout Provence, wild, resinous shrubs like rosemary, juniper, thyme and lavender grow almost everywhere. Many say these plants, collectively called Garrigue (on limestone/clay) or Maquis (on crystalline schist), influence the character of the wines.

As the map above shows, Viticultural Provence comprises nine main regions or AOC (Appellation d’Origin Contrôlée). An AOC is basically a specific area for growing grapes defined by the factors that establish its unique character – such as type of soil, the climate, and geography. Being within an AOC has rules. A grower is restricted as to what kinds of grapes they can grow, how they are grown and how many tons can be harvested. Wines must be made to specific blending percentages with regulated levels of alcohol and residual sugar. They also must follow strict labeling protocols.

We particularly enjoyed the wine from one of the four areas within Côtes de Provence, the largest AOC, and the biggest producer with about 75% of wine production (of which 89% is rosé). We decided to visit two vineyards within La Londe which has soil with plenty of quartz (heat-retaining, lower acidity), little rainfall and constant sea breezes.

The drive along the motorway was particularly enjoyable. Hardly any traffic and the scenery is glorious at this time of year as it’s so lush. Plus, the red rocks and soil provide a brilliant contrast with the verdant greenery. We’ve visited this area before but only in the winter to watch bike racing, not to taste its wines. It’s an area we normlly drive past on the way to somewhere else!

Please don’t expect detailed tasting notes. I give wines marks out of 10 depending on whether or not I like the taste. Wines have to achieve at least an 8 before I’ll buy more. As you know from my little mishap in Australia, cost is rarely a factor.

We firstly visited Domaine de Figuiere which produces organic wines. We’d tried a number of their wines previously and were keen to learn more about the rest of their range of rosés. With strict protocols in place, we were delighted to have arrived before the rush and were able to experience the remaining rosés which we found very much to our taste. They have a large bright tasting bar adjacent to a small restaurant (currently closed) which would normally serve local specialities with which to better enjoy their wines. We left laden with a couple of boxes!

Next up was the nearby Chateau Saint Marguerite, yet another organic family producer, a vineyard where we’d also tasted a number but not all of its rosé wines. We particularly wanted to taste its Cru Classé, recognised since 1955 and one of only 18 prestigious wine estates to be accorded that status. The family had recently built a new and very modern tasting and production facility which we loved. We also adored the wine and left with yet another box.

We’ll happily return later in the year to both vineyards to taste their offerings of red and white. Meanwhile, should we run out, the Officer in Charge of Drinks can order further supplies on line. Now, we needed to find somewhere for lunch!

 

20 thoughts on “Trip to the Var: Part I

  1. Congratulations! I have nominated you for the SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD, please see my latest blog post for details. I look forward to reading your response to my questions upon acceptance of the award! 😀🙏💛👊🎉

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  2. I save this post for my next trip to France whenever I can go again see my parents who live one hour away from the Cotes de Provence area. Also if you want to check it out, I have another blog which is a wine blog (in English this one) where I write tasting notes of the wine I drink. There are many French wines or wines that can be found in France because I also continue my tastings when I visit my parents (we taste so many wines that I usually fill up a whole “carnet” then I release my notes with pictures on that blog over time (I have a huge backlog) : the address is https://wineinamerica.wordpress.com
    And I agree it’s a pleasant occupation to visit the wineries or breweries for the beverages you enjoyed. One of our plans for this summer with my parents was to go to St Martin Vesubie to visit the Biere du Comte de Nice brewery… and check the rest of their offerings… Also visit les Maitres Vignerons de la presqu’ile de St Tropez or the Chateau d”Esclans near Frejus (though their Whispering Angels is too pricey for my liking here in the US but they do sell a little sister version, a Coteaux d’Aix en Provence called The Palm rosé for a lighter price and that we enjoy.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the link to your other blog, I shall follow and read with interest. I had no idea there was a brewery at Saint Martin Vesubie, I’ve ridden there many times. I shall have to look out for the others you recommend .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thank you for the follow. As for the brewery, I discovered their existence last winter when I bought randomly their beers at Super U ! Then I searched about them and found they were located in St Martin Vesubie. I also have been there hundreds of times. However they opened in 2012 at it seems. But still I have been there a couple of times since then and had no idea.

        Liked by 1 person

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