Our trip to Provence last summer was filled with times that Tom and I will always remember, times worthy of capture in a photograph—what advertisers once called “Kodak moments”. Each region of France offers delightful variations on a national theme of good eating, and we traveled to the Luberon with expectations for excellent wines and great food. In picture-perfect Provence, Wendy Jaeger of Bliss Travels introduced us to wonderful wines of the region and farther afield, in remarkably atmospheric locations.
The rosés of Provence
To many, Provence has long been the center of the rosé wine universe. Wines pale in color and high in quality were introduced to the region by the Greeks, and enhanced through Roman times and beyond with the introduction of vines from other parts of Europe. Winemaking monks in local abbeys established traditions that by the 14th century served kings and nobility. Replanting after the devastation of Europe’s phylloxera epidemic renewed the vineyards in the late 19th century and in the 1930s, Appellations d’Origine Protégée (AOPs)—there are now nine of them in Provence—were established to define requirements for production and terroir and brand the region for quality Provençal wine.
Today more than 80% of the wine produced in Provence is rosé. These versatile wines come in a range of colors, textures, and flavors. They tend to be fresh and crisp, and dry on the palate. I had expected good wine in Provence to mean rosé. It did. To my delight, Wendy introduced us to a wider range of flavors within the spectrum of rosé wines than I even knew existed.
A hallmark of Bliss Travels destinations is the direct routing to some of France’s most atmospheric locations. A simple aperitif of pink-tinged rosé enjoyed on a hillside amongst the stones of ancient bories came with a stunning Luberon view, a soft breeze and a strumming guitarist.
A couple of days later, wine tasting with a sommelier in a cave in Lourmarin was accompanied by an array of nibbles, set out on tables made of wine barrels. All kinds of local products—jams, confits, honey and more—were available in the shop. After the tasting, we had some time to explore the quaint streets of the town.
Our most elegant meal began with an aperitif in a castle garden filled with Roman and medieval ruins and concluded with dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant surrounded by art.
At table—for evening meals, Sunday lunch, and our fancy dinner—wines shared top billing with food. The emphasis here was on elegant and memorable pairings. Slow, family-style luncheons came with carafes of the house wines, each one a fine match for the meat and fish dishes we enjoyed. One wine I especially enjoyed: an organic rosé, Chateau La Canorgue.
On our last day in the Luberon, we were treated to a wine-tasting in an art gallery, surrounded by the fine art photography of Esther Sobin. Wendy Jaeger teaches and writes about wine, and she had selected a range of wine types for us to sample. Her choices showcased some of the best vintners in the French regions she tours with clients, and each wine was paired with tasty bites from Chef Celine Ramillon.
The food: We tucked into a brandade of cod on mashed chickpeas, sea bass tartare with papaya, a homemade confit of tomatoes with pesto and mozzarella. Figs with gorgonzola and walnut spread, a tapenade, and mackerel rillettes on homemade crostini were followed by aged Comté and Gruyère cheeses and a dessert combo: shortbread cookies with a strawberry cappuccino. Every bite was sublime and sublimely paired with the wines we tasted.
The wine: The tasting was bookended by a private bottling of Chianti and an Avignonesi Vin Santo. Thanks to brilliant pairing, it was impossible to choose a favorite–it could have been that Grand Cru Burgundy from Charmes-Chambertin, or perhaps the Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape–but it was surely a marvelous tour across some of the world’s top wine regions!
The Provençal lifestyle
The Impressionists left us with lasting visions of Provence in summer—pastel meadows under sunny skies, fields of lavender, and rocky hillsides clambering up to perched villages. Life here is flavored with fresh seafood and vegetables from local markets, olive oil, and food-friendly wines. For most visitors, the aim is to tap into this Provençal lifestyle for a brief time, to take home their own personal visions of a sun-drenched land filled with good food and wine.
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We were in Luberon last summer with Bliss Travels, who offers culinary and wine adventures in France and Italy several times a year. Highly recommended way to explore the great wine regions of both countries!
Wow, what a spectacular tour, I love rose wine and definitely have to go back to Provence and visit these wineries in more detail….sounds like a wonderful tour
Wendy’s tours are fabulous, Noel. Highly recommended if you want to see hidden Provence! We did not spend much time near the coast, so we too have reasons to return 🙂
Loved the article! And, as always, Tom’s photos made my mouth water!
Glad you approve, Wendy! What wonderful memories, our post captures just a few of them.
Glad you enjoyed the post Wendy! We have such fine memories of our time with you in Provence, and in writing the post, got to relive the trip 🙂
I had to read your post, not just because it’s about France, but because it’s Provence, my FAVOURITE place (on earth and) in France! There’s nothing like it and your description of the wines, food and entire atmosphere are making me more excited about going back in less than 2 months. I particularly like Chateauneuf du Pape wines and had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Brunier of Vieux Telegraph over 20 years ago when it was just starting to become a name. Amazing wines! So nice that you could try many wines paired with fabulous food!
High praise coming from you Jan! Lucky you to be headed for Provence soon. We’ll be following your travels there, for sure.
The food looks amazing. We were in Provence in Winter and it was still beautiful the food variety was not there. I really want to return in Spring or Summer to see the lavender and enjoy the food and wine.
I can imagine Provence would have a very different feel in winter…you should definitely try for a summer visit, to make the most of what gives Provence an unforgettable aura!
I thought rosés were sickly sweet and awful until I went to Provence two years ago and, oh my, I discovered a new world, like you describe. Thanks for educating me much more about them, and Provence. Excellent!
Oh Aysha, the rosés of Provence are anything but sweet…and oh so good. Great discovery, I agree!
I took almost that exact same photo of the ocher cliffs of Rousillon that you have at the top. I have friends who live a short walk through the forest from Rousillon and I loved visiting there. Unfortunately, since we ate most of our meals at home, I missed out on those wonderful meals and wine pairings you describe. I will have to go back!
The colors of Provence are so gorgeous, and the ocher cliffs quite dramatic. Your friends live in a special place, indeed! Definitely worth a return visit, I completely agree.
Provence really calls to me. The food, the lavender, the art. I’m not a wine person, but my husband would enjoy that aspect. Sounds like you had a fabulous visit.
Glad you enjoyed the post, despite it being so wine-centric! As I hope you could tell, it’s the combo of food with the wine–and of course the setting–that make Provence so special for me. I’m sure you’d love it, especially during lavender season.