On-line Guide: Visiting the South of France’s vineyards
Posted Apr 2015 in Go & Do
Like much of France – a wine-loving nation if ever there was one – the Riviera is a picturesque patchwork of vineyards. The region may be best known for its highly quaffable rosé. But these days, local vineyards are creating hearty reds and fragrant whites that are just as enticing.
Sure, you can pick up bottles of top tipple at one of the coastline’s many excellent caves, or wine cellars. But we think it’s more fun to head to the source.
So what’s the etiquette? Larger vineyards often have their own on-site shop (detailed on their website) and are open during regular business hours. Smaller domaines request that visitors get in touch in advance in order to book a dégustation. At all vineyards, sipping and sampling a full range of their wines is free. However, it’s considered polite (and expected – although not strictly required if you don't like the tipple) to purchase a bottle or two after your tasting session.
Our local vineyards are a delight to visit any time of year. But the best seasons tend to be May-June, before the summertime crowds swing through, or during September, when most vineyards are harvesting this year’s grapes.
Ready to get tasting? A few of our favourite spots follow:
Just two miles north of the Cote d’Azur coastline sits Bellet, one of France’s smallest appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) regions. Rarely visited by foreign tourists, this 650-hectare perched terroir offers spellbinding views from the Cap d’Antibes to Italy. The area’s abundant sunshine and steady winds results in a production of superb white, red and rosé vintages. Note that all ten of the Bellet vineyards are hosting an open house and welcome visitors for tastings on June 13th and 14th, from 10am to 6pm.
Or head further afield. The prestigious Château Minuty is tucked into the undulating hills of the St-Tropez Peninsula. After sampling their top-notch Côte de Provence, be sure to wander the grounds for a postcard-perfect peek at the vineyard’s 19th-century family chapel too. Nearby Château Volterra, south of fashionable Plage de Pampelonne, is just as alluring, producing crisp Chardonnays that are perfect for summer evenings.
The South of France’s most inviting vineyards continue to unfurl west of here. Keen oenophiles are encouraged to plan a day trip to the domaines of Cassis, Bandol or the all-organic Domaine de La Courtade, perched on the sub-tropical island of Porquerolles (accessible by ferry (http://www.tlv-tvm.com/porquerolles-bateau-hyeres-toulon-horaires-14.html) from La Tour Fondue, journey time 20 minutes, return tickets €19.50 adults, €17.30 children 4 to 12, free for under 3s).