Provence is a wine lover’s paradise, and wines have been produced there for thousands of years. My wife and I live part of the year in St-Rémy-de-Provence, near many excellent wineries. Here are some of my favourites, all of which have English-speaking staff.
In the 13th century, a Templar knight built a great château in the Alpilles Mountains. It was not only his fortress but also housed a Court of Love, where noble ladies presided over “questions of gallantry.” It makes me wonder: could you be thrown in the dungeon for not picking up a lady’s hanky? Or get 50 lashes for using the wrong fork?
The château is now a ruin but nearby is the most beautiful winery in the region. Be sure to tour the underground “cathedral winery” that follows the form of a Gothic cathedral (reservation required.) The tasting room is beautiful and the wines are outstanding, with prices that reflect the high quality. I like all their wines but especially the white wine made from the Rolle grape, which is also called Vermentino.
The road to the winery passes by the St-Rémy aerodrome, where you can stop to watch gliders take off and land.
Mas de la Dame
The medieval seer Nostradamus, who was born in St-Rémy, once prophesied that “the sea will cover the earth, and will stop at the stele of Mas de la Dame.” You can still see the stele, and waves are not yet lapping at its foot, but maybe you should visit soon in case Nostradamus was right.
Mas de la Dame sits near the southern flank of the Alpilles Mountains and the view from the winery is spectacular. I like to stop there sometimes and gaze up at those beautiful peaks.
The large tasting room serves a wide variety of wines, and you can also buy olive oil and other local products.
Mas de Sainte Berthe
Nestled below the towering château of Les Baux, this is my go-to winery for rosés. All the wines are good here, but I especially like the rosés.
The tasting room is small and friendly, with a boutique attached where you can buy olive oil and other local products.
Some of Sainte Berthe’s wines can be purchased not only in bottles, but also in a 5 or 10 liter “bag-in-box” (BIB). BIB wines have a reputation for low quality, but there are plenty of good ones in France. I sometimes keep a BIB in the fridge, to have a glass of wine in the afternoon — they last about three weeks after opening.
Domaine des Terres Blanches
Another top winery with a friendly tasting room is Domaine des Terres Blanches. They have one of the best views around of the northern slope of the Alpilles. Like Château Romanin, I love their white wine made from the Rolle grape, and there are also local products sold in the tasting room.
Drink Like a Roman
Unique in France, Mas des Tourelles is a winery that produces wine the way the Romans did, in a reconstructed Roman winery. You can tour the vineyard and winery, watch a film on Roman winemaking techniques, and taste wines made with recipes from the ancients. Wines with honey in them (or cinnamon or fenugreek) might not be to your taste, but learning about and tasting them is fascinating. There is grape juice available for the kids and a room full of Roman games they can play.
4294 route de Saint-Gilles
Contact: +33 (0)4 66 59 19 72
This chapter has been excerpted from Keith Van Sickle’s forthcoming guidebook, An Insider’s Guide to Provence, which will be released in the autumn. The book is available for preorder on Amazon here.
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