POSTS A road trip to Provence


A road trip to Provence

The reason of the trip

Wheels and Waves. My only connection to this is 2-3 old motorcyclist friends, 1 excellent winemaker friend who surfs in Santorini, and once I almost drowned in Egremnous of Lefkada at the age of 6.

In this event, bikers from all over Europe meet surfers in the village where the sport was born, Biarritz. Everyone becomes a big group, they are racing with their motorbikes, the streets are full, the bars and beaches are like Ermou Street through Christmas time, bands and music are heard everywhere and the atmosphere is very festive. And the result is that people who were completely unknown to each other, create friendships that will last for years since they finally have infinite things in common, one of them wine, even if they don't shout out about it.

The real (mine) reason of the trip

I would never do such a trip just to see wheels, machines, waves, surf, grease, and very beautiful people (people laugh here, but I'm trying to say something else here...). The gold dust that sprinkled the journey was the starting point, the course, and the final destination. The magical route crossing the entire French Riviera, the lush green vineyards, the turquoise waters, and the unimaginable Provence rosés that I tasted, and had completely replaced the water, which admittedly there probably comes from springs with gold filings, to justify its price. So the trip was a road trip that started from Nice, continued to Cannes, Marseille, Carcassonne, and Perpignan, to ended up in Biarritz, the place of the event.

Rose revolution, Provence, "the French do it differently" and all these stereotypical clichés, no matter how much I support the motherland with eyes closed, in the end, they all turned out to be true. The French in the production of rosé wines run a sprint, and how can we do it guys, the rosés of Provence just smash, and as much as you may not believe it they are all one-to-one and completely different from each other. Clearly, the region lends itself to tasting amazing reds and whites as well, but the mood was summery and on holiday, with questionable food consumption, so everything led to rosés.

A few historical things about Provence

It all started around 2600 years ago, when Greeks planted the first vines in Provence, making it one of France's oldest wine regions. After the same founded Marseilles and Nice, the Romans took matters into their own hands by developing winemaking techniques. The Middle Ages, as expected, brought the vines into the hands of the monks, creating a atmosphere of mysticism around the production and consumption of wine. The flurry of property changes that followed the Renaissance and the French Revolution ended in the 19th century with science once again providing the solution, with a more technical approach. But the huge change came in the middle of the 20th century when the producers decided to change the (apparent) bad reputation that had been created after all these, with radical changes in the vine and winemaking, which marked the famous "Rosé Revolution of Provence" ».

Provence today

It is no coincidence that we often compare rosé wines from other countries with those from Provence. The category is now a trademark of the French vineyard. The area is located between the Mediterranean and the Bay of Biscay and is particularly privileged. What makes it special is Maistros, a strong wind that dries the moisture from the vine, and thus the intense sunshine leads to the perfect ripening of the grapes. The type of soil also defines the quality of production. Provence has 9 appellations of origin (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) with Côtes de Provence, Bandol, Cassis, and Bellet being among the most important. The largest is the first with 200,000 acres of vineyards (and I realize we haven't even crossed ¼ of it!). The main grape variety that produces rosé wines is Grenache Rouge, followed by Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, and, to a lesser extent, Carignan and white Vermentino (or Rolle).

The winemaking tradition of Provence was created through very strict legislative institutions and today it is supported by many wineries in the region, with some being great milestones and important parts of it. Domaine Ott and Chateau d'Esclans are among those that have gained international recognition, with wines that have been described as the best rosés in the world.


What I tasted and where

The first stop was Nice, where the view of its beach is magical. The must do which was the electric bike ride along its entire length and the walk through the market of the old town, to the highest spot where the waterfalls are located and while the hassle of climbing teach you great "French language" (its almost a curse) well, the magnificent view at the end compensates you. On the way down, ending up at an open wine bar was a one-way and the old market street again surprised us. Open-air delicatessens where you could buy awesome French cheeses and sliced cold meats, for immediate consumption. We loved the multi-purpose cooler gadget wine glass where wine was served to go and kept it at the perfect temperature! We tasted many, but we started with #Lou from Commanderie de Peyrassol because it was a non-loose choice that everyone would like, elegant, fruity, floral, and with the right refreshing acidity that paired perfectly with Brie De Meaux. Miraval was next and we could not miss its tasting because it was everywhere. It was great with terrine, which was also sold in slices. However, pair the first one with malathuni cheese from Tinos island and fresh volaki cheese from Andros island  and you will be shocked. These is a kind of terrine in many supermarkets, but prefer the one without the garlic!

In the evening we ended up doing a wine tasting in an underground wine bar, finding out that the monastery influence is still alive in the wine bars as well. Intense atmosphere of mystery, with lit candles and artworks adding prestige. The city is all dressed in the colors of the yellow and orange palette and there is somewhere you sense the reasons why famous painters like Matisse and Van Gogh drew inspiration and tranquility there!

The next stop was Cannes and just a few days after the festival, the city had an incredible calm and serenity. Countless tourists, beaches with white sand and a vast area, and everyone young and old playing beach volleyball at Olympic pace. The wine bars here are more like wine cellars, so you have the option to taste any wine you want before you buy it. And this was the ideal opportunity to do a proper wine tasting, in the house we had rented right on the beach of the Blue Coast. The challenge of proving that the rosés of Provence are many and distinct, even if they come from the same winery, was crowned with success. The tasting line up was:

The Beach. OK, now what is Meow Meow doing on the tiles? I went all the way to Cannes to understand what the man who designed this label was seeing. Delightful, summery, with intense freshness and juicy fruit.

Whispering Angel. We've said it so many times that now it's cliché, it's the rosé of all times and all moods. Nectarine, flowers, and pink grapefruit, it was the best to drink when the blue sky started to turn pink-orange!

And of course, the tasting culminated with the Chateau D'Esclans, and things got serious. The greatness of Chateau D'Esclans winery unfolded in our glasses and justified the legend of Sacha Lichine. On the balcony of the cobbled house on the beach of Cannes, am amazing snack bar was set up with a variety of cheeses, cold meats, and Italian food, with people jogging and playing volleyball right below, probably will remembered forever because that view of ours was not in the perfect harmony with the area and perhaps it resembled a movie attraction!

The next day found us in the busiest street of Cannes and in the traditional Le vin by Warner, where we tasted a brave number of wines fatefully the group was divided into drinkers and non-drinkers, because of the 9 hours travel that was following to the final destination. An intermediate stop was Marseilles, the capital of Provence, the largest wine distribution center during the Roman Empire and France's largest commercial port. A mix of modern and noisy port, with quiet, traditional neighborhoods and a fine balance between traditional and very modern architecture. Everywhere, there were small shops with handmade soaps and traditional madeleines that flooded the streets with aromas.

Only 50km away there are two very important wineries and this was the best opportunity to taste Pomponette Domaine de Sulauze (yes Provence now produces awesome biodynamic rosés) and Bandol Ott from Château Romassan Bandol, (the reasons for aging rosés of Bandol became very clear) overlooking the old port.

From there the road trip to the final destination began and crossing the way to Toulouse the intermediate stops were the villages of Perpignan and Carcassone. Both are like pictures from a fairy tale, with an unforgettable view of the illuminated medieval castle that stood out from the road and shouted loud to be visited. After hours on the road and crossing countless villages and vineyards, we arrived at the final destination and there the Atlantic Ocean completely changed the landscape. There in Biarritz, I also lost count of the tastings, because due to the border with Spain, the wine choices were endless. I stood out and loved L'Artnoa.

Greece produces amazing rosé wines, we know it and we shout it at every opportunity, we also have the chance to taste a lot of rosé from Provence here, but when you taste them at the spring you feel different. It's like eating a Panorama triangle dessert in Thessaloniki, pasta and cheese pie, and lamb chops in Epirus.

This trip is now a bit more economical than a three-day trip to a Greek island and it only needs very good organization or simply super cool friends who can find the greatest bargains in all tickets. The ideal way to taste more wines is to visit the surrounding wineries, which requires more days and a dedicated wine tourism trip. Until then get the best and most representative dose of Provence here.

Porto Rafti is fine, I will be patient, and next year I will be there again!


Things about the South of France I wish I had known as a child:

  1. The French speak English fluently and are very willing to help you without any confusion
  2. The French nose is a MYTH.


Provence, you were simply magical


Christina Tsogka