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!