A Trip to France

If youre planning to travel to the south of France in the near future, think about including a trip to one of the vineyards of the 60 winegrowers in the Ctes de Provence region. A small, yet beautiful area, it takes in the departments of the Var and part of the Bouches-du-Rhne.

An indigo sky, azure sea and miles of white, sandy beaches welcome you to an area where limestone cliffs and medieval villages give way to miles of sharply-scented pine forests that provide shelter to tranquil lakes and lazy rivers.

Whether you stay in a bustling, crowded metropolis with all the modern conveniences, or a turn-of-the-century country guest house filled with 17th and 18th century antiques, in Provence your days will be filled with sunshine and warmth, and lush nights, scented with jasmine, lavender and wild thyme.

Perhaps because of the breathtaking beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and the abundance of tourist attractions found in Nice, Cannes and elsewhere along the French Riviera, Provence is often overlooked by companies that offer traditional wine tasting tours, in spite of the excellence of its wines.

2600 years ago, the Phoenicians settled in what is now France and created the first vineyards to honor Bacchus (the God of wine). They left behind a legacy of full-bodied wines that have a sparkle and fullness that is as rich as the area they are grown in.

In Provence, as everywhere in the Mediterranean, youll find the people full of warmth, spontaneity and a joie de vivre. As you will soon discover, any of these master oenologists (winemakers) will be delighted to introduce you to the wines they have become famous for; and share a little of the regions history with you.

If you’re very lucky, and your host is in the right mood, he might even share some closely guarded secrets of how to blend the right food with exactly the right wine, something that most French winegrowers are passionate about!

As it is throughout all of France, winemaking in Provence is a serious business. Many of the winegrowers here have won the rights to include the prestigious AOC designation (Appellation dOrigine Controlee) on their bottles of wines. This label assures the buyer of a guaranteed vintage from the designated region. In order to win the right to become designated as an appellation wine, winegrowers much pass rigorous tests and inspections.

This is a truly prestigious and coveted award, as only the Ministry of Agriculture in Paris can bestow the title of an AOC on a wine.

As you will discover from the first delicious sip, the Ctes de Provence winegrowers are experts in utilizing traditional methods when harvesting and bottling their wines. Their deep respect for the soil, the climate and the different varieties of grapes they use comes through in the quality and taste of each bottle.

Located in the heart of Provences winemaking region, the Maison des Ctes de Provence boasts an outstanding selection of appellation wines.

If youre not worried about the thickness of your waist (or your wallet), a visit to the four-star restaurant the Bacchus Gourmand is a must, where you can savor real Provenal cuisine accompanied (of course) by the perfect bottle of a Ctes de Provence wine.

Or try sampling a home-cooked meal at one of the many out of the way cafes youll find tucked away on a narrow side street in any village, where your host is also often your chef, and he will be delighted to recommend a wine to you.

During your tour you can arrange to take a wine tasting course at one of the vineyards where you will learn a complete understanding of wine: its robe (color), its bouquet (perfume), its body (strength) and everything you need to know about service, conservation etc.

A visit to Provence and a tour of some of these wonderful vineyards and wineries — and taking home a bottle or two — will be an experience to remember.