A Stroll with Bacchus
Welcome to France's first vineyard! Planted 2,600 years ago by the Greek Phoceans, the vines of the Bouches-du-Rhône are in invitation to travel. Spilling across the shores of Cassis, foothills of the Alpilles, slopes of the Sainte-Baume hills and sandy soils of Camargue, our vines produce Côtes-de-Provence, Côtes-de-Provence Sainte-Victoire, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, Palette, Baux-de-Provence, Cassis and IGP Bouches-du-Rhône wines. Rosés of course, but also reds and whites - whatever the colour, they are all equally excellent. The local growers encourage wine lovers to sample their wares, explore their wine walks, holiday in their charming rooms and revel in their local produce. They invite you for a jazz concert, see a film in the heart of the vines, or admire a modern art exhibition - in short, enjoy a packed, novel leisure programme to the hilt, against the backdrop of Provence's stunning seascapes and sun-drenched hills. A genuinely unique and exclusive experience.
Vineyards of our Bastides and Provencal country houses
Monumental gates, alleys lined with plane trees… And at the end, stylish old houses and prestigious cellars. The vast countryside around Aix is home to many exceptional domains and you'd have to be mad not to visit them! An example? Château du Seuil, in Puyricard. After Aix's shopping streets, it's time for a complete change of scene: a sunny bastide-come-château, a French-style garden and 135-acre of vines planted on the slopes of Massif de la Trévaresse. The vineyard is also a fun place to visit, with its wine walk (open until August 30th) and recent cellar.
As you drive through the ochre fields of Aix – the colour of a fine, aged wine – it's time to head to the 593-acre Château La Coste in Puy-Sainte-Réparade, featuring a cellar designed by Jean Nouvel, Tadao Ando Japanese art centre (reception area, exhibitions, bookshop and restaurant), brand-new Pavillon de Renzo Piano (exhibiting the Japanese photographer Sugimoto until September 3rd) and art itinerary in the vines dotted with works by renowned artists and architects (Othoniel, Serra, Gehry, Calder, etc.), together with 100% organic wines. The spa and 28 villas and suites, including 6 with pool, offer breathtaking views over the nearby Luberon. With the MyProvence Pass ("two visit, one pays"), Bouches-du-Rhône inhabitants benefit from free, unlimited access to the Château, along with a hand-picked selection of other tourism hotspots (when accompanied by a visitor paying full rate). Get your Pass renewed now!
How about a trip to paradise? Provence-born wine growers Xavier and Odile Thieblin marry wine, culture, terroir and music to perfection at Château Paradis in Puy-Sainte-Réparade. A delicious, stirring place, where you can attend a delightful Wine Grower's Picnic (3rd, 4th and 5th June), Music en Vignes (July 19th, 20th and 21st) and Apéro Jazz (part of the 'Musique en Luberon' Festival, on August 8th). The Château now offers a wine walk inaugurated in Spring 2017 and will be welcoming an archaeological exhibition on June 17th and 18th. Just a few wheel turns further on and you'll cross the River Durance to Pertuis, home to the elegant, 18th-century Château Val Joanis and its listed 'Remarkable Garden'. The old-fashioned kitchen garden and impressive collection of perennial plants, roses and other Mediterranean varieties, make this a truly enchanting stop-off. The Château is part of the MyProvence Pass network.
It's back to the Aix plateau and Hostellerie des Vins de Rognes. This wine cooperative, featuring 65 producers, is a great place to taste impeccable Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence wines. With a Coteaux d’Aix Wine Fair in May and wine grower's literary walk on July 1st and September 12th, the local producers truly know how to welcome visitors - enjoy!
It's off to the South-West now to Saint-Cannat. The Double family has been nurturing Château Beaupré for four generations. Their organic wines, produced in red, white and rosé, are now acclaimed. This is also a great opportunity to admire a typical Aix Bastide, set in vast grounds planted with plane trees. Every year, the Château hosts a gourmet stroll (June 24th and 25th) and, especially, the Jazz à Beaupré festival: two days of swing in the heart of the vines in July (7th and 8th).
Just 12 km more and you'll arrive in Vernègues, near Pont-Royal and its golf course. Nestling in the plain, ](https://www.myprovence.fr/en/travel-guide/entertainment/craftsmen-producers/vernegues/215-chateau-bas)Château Bas may well have produced spicy 'Hypocras' wine in ancient times, as the site dates back to the Gallo-Roman era (Roman temple and medieval chapel at the rear of the domain and items found during digs in the cellar museum). The property has successfully taken the 'all-organic' road and also offers various entertainment: a wine walk, group tours, oenology classes, a Wine Fair (May 27th) and Roman Day (11/6) – the Aix area is never short of inspiration! Member of the MyProvence Pass network.
The gaze of Cézanne
Sainte Victoire mountain and Vallée de l’Arc at its feet shimmer in the sunshine. Throughout the year, the sunlight plays games of light and shade with the cliffs, red soil and vine leaves. Like Cézanne, the grapes flourish in this beautiful climate and have found one of their most wonderful expressions here: the Côtes de Provence wines.
Why not start your tour with Trets? Set on the northern slopes of Mont Aurélien, the Lou Bassaquet cellar raises a wine made with gently-ripened grapes. After your tasting session, head off in the company of a guide to discover the Trets wine walks. As you descend into the plain you will come to Rousset and Domaine Terre de Mistral. The oenology experience continues in the vines, with contemporary sculptures by Mimi and Lufti Romhein on show at the summer Art & Wine fair. Let yourself be tempted by the 'Casino des Vins' – a fun wine laboratory – before sitting down at the farm-auberge to revel in produce grown at the domain, topped with stunning views and jazz music. Don't miss the jazz festival on July 21st and 22nd!
In Puyloubier, the draping cliffs overlooking the vineyards blend into the mist of rising heat and take on an ethereal quality. Here, the organic wines of Château Gassier, made with grapes harvested just before dawn, unveil all the subtlety of the terroir. You can also choose to perfect your yoga technique here, with a meditation class. In summer, the domain opens at night from July 21st to September 1st, for the film Toile sous les Étoiles and Michel Pellegrino Gypsy Jazz concert, on August 16th.
Moving even nearer to the mountain, Domaine de Saint-Ser is an emblem of the Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire appellation. Its red, white and rosé wines are grown on a rough, chalky soil. Welcomed as residents every year by the association Voyons Voir, artists add their beautiful personal touch to the vineyard. From here, you can also reach the Grand Site Sainte Victoire botanical footpath and, if you're feeling sporty, climb all the way up the mountain to the 'Croix de Provence' cross.
If your thirst for discovery and pleasure still isn't quenched, simply pop in to the 'Fédération des Caves Coopératives de Puyloubier'. Their Sentier des Vignerons wine walk will teach you all about local wine growing heritage. And their wine walks aren't just about wine – you can even opt for an introduction to rock-climbing and admire the vines from the air...
A dive into the Med
The Cassis sea beds are acclaimed for their beauty. But you can also enjoy a full immersion in the beautiful vineyards of the world-renowned Cassis appellation. Between the Bouches-du-Rhône's prettiest port and the immense and dizzy cliff of Cape Canaille, breathe in the sea air and plunge your senses into the Med.
Under the red cliffs, snuggled against the slopes, lies the luxuriant green terroir of Cassis, producing wines with a very typical mineral and saline flavour. Laid out in terraces, Domaine du Paternel is one of its emblems, reputed for its citrus-scented whites. You will be able to taste them after a fascinating tour of the vineyard and cellars.
Set lower down in the plain, Clos D’Albizzi is a very ancient vineyard. Run since... 1523 by the heirs to a Florentine dynasty, it is a hub of wine growing expertise. You will discover all its secrets with a vineyard tour. Producing deep, plump whites, generous, supple rosés, typical full-bodied Bandol reds and Provencal mulled wine, this is a truly enchanting site.
Welcome to Paradise-on-Sea. Perched over turquoise waters, Clos Sainte Magdeleine cascades down from the highest cliffs to the water's edge. You can enjoy a guided tour of this beautiful vineyard from Spring to Autumn, before savouring its delicious, all-organic white and rosé wines. And if you're short on time, simply pop into Chai Cassidain adjacent to Cassis port. Boasting an impressive 300 references, including, of course, the 12 vineyards of Cassis, this is the place for visitors in a hurry. You can drink in - wine bar-style - or take out.
And to wind up the perfect day, head to Port-Miou, the end of the world at the edge of the 'Calanques' fjords... In a dream setting, cradled by a gentle breeze and wrapped in the arms of the sparkling sea, Chef Jean-Bernard Jugnon awaits you at La Presqu’île - Table 13. Jean-Bernard marries his wines beautifully with his inventive, perfectly-mastered southern cuisine. And if you're lucky enough to be in Cassis in late September, don't miss the Vendanges Étoilées, when the town celebrates the new vintage with gastronomy - wine's eternal ally - and the region's chefs unveil their secrets. You will also be able to fill your basket with local produce at the farm market.
The sacred Sainte-Baume terroir
To the South of Sainte Victoire mountain lies Basse Provence's most remarkable and most sacred hill chain. Like an orthodox monastery, the cave ('baumo' in Provencal dialect) where Saint Mary Magdalene spent her final years clings to the cliffside, alongside the finest local cellars. Among them, grown on chalky-clay soil, some of the rarities of the Provence Wine Route await you.
If you enter the hills from the North, start off with a visit to Domaine La Michelle in Auriol. There, at an altitude of 300 m, bathed in sunshine, Nelly and Jean-François Margier have put their wine growing talent at the service of nature. You will adore their light, organic wines, award-winning olive oil and fresh capers grown on site. As you drive along the foot of Sainte-Baume, head down Vallée de l’Huveaune to Aubagne, the epitome of town and country pleasures. Set on a modest 2.5 acres of land, Domaine du Rosier, owned by Nathalie Berthoz, produces a natural craft wine. The remaining space is planted with olive trees, offering up a spicy, fruity oil. If you want to know more, just call for an appointment!
Next, head back up to Auriol and the Vignerons du Garlaban et du Golfe d’Amour wine cooperative, fronting AOC Côtes de Provence wines from the land of Pagnol including single-grape wines made with Caladoc, Cabernet, Grenache and Merlot. On September 21st, the cooperative will be hosting a wine walk (you can use your MyProvence Pass) on the theme of local vineyards and heritage, complete with wine tasting at the cellar. When you reach Gémenos, take Route de l’Espigoulier to head up to the holy cave. Even at the height of summer, the walk through this virgin forest - unique in Provence – is as good as taking a cool dip.
Vineyards of contrast
It has to be said, in Provence, vines are never far from olive groves. Here, between limestone hills and Mediterranean lagoons, lies a land of a thousand faces. As you wind your way around Etang de Berre – Europe's largest saltwater lake – you will discover a host of astonishing landscapes where vine and olive rub shoulders.
Coudoux is a perfect example: Château Saint-Hilaire, nestling in 150 acres of organic vines, invites you to savour its succulent Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence wines. If you want to discover a real treasure, don't hesitate to push open the cellar doors, where no less than 180 casks patiently await tasting time!
It's time to head back to the shores of Etang de Berre for a gourmet stop-off at the restaurant Le Rabelais in Saint-Chamas. A disciple of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Chef Gérald Guilly works his magic under the vaults of an ancient, 17th-century wheat mill. His cuisine offers audacious contrasts of creativity and refinement and is a genuine ode to local flavours.
Fancy a walk to digest your lunch? If you're in the area on May 27th, don't miss the Fête de la vigne et du vin wine fair in Lançon de Provence! The rest of the year, head to Château Virant rock, where aficionados can have fun tackling the climbing routes. But rest assured, there is an alternative if heights make you dizzy: a different type of thrill awaits you at one of the region's temples of wine and olive oil, Château Virant. Enter into the giant cask of the new Musée de la Vigne et de l’Olivier (wine and olive museum), featuring a screening room where you can learn all about the history of wine and olive oil making.
We hope you're a professor of wine and olive oil by now! But you ain't seen nothing yet... The voyage continues with the plateaux of Massif de Sulauze. 2,470 acres set between Etang de Berre and Plaine de la Crau, where evergreen oak and Aleppo pine forests rub shoulders with dry garrigue and meadows. An unusual surprise awaits you at Château Sulauze, where a merry team of wine growers uses biodynamic techniques to grow their vines, together with... cereals and hops! What would you say to rounding off the afternoon with a nice cold beer at the brasserie set inside an ancient sheepfold? Yes, Sulauze brews beer along with their wines. And nobody's complaining about it... Tasting, strolls and a friendly chat – it's always party time at Château Sulauze!
Nearby, the sun is dipping down behind the Nerthe mountain chain. At its feet, Domaine du Mas Bleu - Val des Vignes, a charming B&B, is getting ready to welcome you for a good night's sleep, cradled with scents of thyme and rosemary, followed by a stroll along their wine walk. An experience that's worth a thousand words.
Ah, the Alpilles, with their jutting limestone peaks, Roman town of Saint-Rémy (Glanum) and magnificent village of Les Baux-de-Provence, home to the awe-inspiring Carrières de lumières multimedia exhibition centre... Welcome to La Dolce Vita Provence-style! This area is also a hub of wine and olive growing and its wines are so characteristic and anchored in the terroir that they benefit from a Protected Designation of Origin (AOP) label – 'Les Baux de Provence'.
On the road to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Château Romanin spreads out at the foot of a natural rocky circus on the northern face of the Alpilles. 150 acres of vineyards (and olive trees) are grown here, in the land of red wines, using biodynamic techniques. Set next to a ruined castle of the Knights Templar, Château Romanin opens its exceptional buried cathedral cellar to visitors. The property also features a meeting room and wine walk, and hosts guided tours of the winery and fermenting room. Free concerts are held there in December.
A little further on lies Domaine des Terres Blanches, in Saint-Rémy. Behind this world-famed Provence wine lies a property that went organic in… 1970, well before it became fashionable! Beyond the excellence of its reds, whites and rosés, the domain also stages cookery demonstrations at the Fête de le Vigne et du Vin, on May 25th. You can also explore the vineyard with a stroll along the wine walk.
Fancy a bit of sport after your tasting session? There's nothing like an electrically-assisted bicycle for tackling the hills and dales of the Alpilles. Located in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Sun-e-bike rents out top-comfort bikes so you can enjoy exploring the local lanes and cycle paths in all freedom. You can download a variety of itineraries onto your smartphone, or use a road book. And if you're passing through Saint-Rémy between July 28th and 30th, don't miss the 35th Fête du vin et de l’artisanat wine and craft fair - aperitifs, various ceremonies, a float parade and festive meals are all on the programme.
Set to the West of Saint-Rémy, the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Grès, known for its agricultural market, is home to Domaine du Grand Fontanille, set around a magnificent 17th-century bastide complete with a double staircase, gardens and fountains, and producing all-organic wines. For the last 30 years, a German family has been growing character-filled, aromatic reds and rosés here. In line with its environmentally-friendly growing techniques, the domain is the stage for Le Cheval dans la Vigne on May 27th, with old-fashioned working techniques and wine tasting on the programme. Located in the same town, Domaine Dalmeran (AOP Baux de Provence) harvests its grapes by hand and elaborates red wines aged in the cellar for 4 years. And above all, the domain hosts a fun summer events programme, with jazz by a regional gospel choir on June 30th and 'life-size' screening of the film 'Out of Africa' on August 26th.
It's time to head to Château d’Estoublon on the southern slopes of the Alpilles, between Maussane and Fontvieille. One of the area's most beautiful sites, boasting an 18th-century Provencal house, rose garden and vast grounds, the Château (AOP Les Baux-de-Provence and Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence), also acclaimed for its olive oils, has raised wine tourism to the heights of chic. Open all year round, its boutiques, oil mill, chapel and 'Sentier des Parcelles' illustrated wine walk (1.6 km) offer a delightful blend of heritage and terroir. The Château (10 rooms) can be rented out for receptions. Also featuring a restaurant, 'Le Bistrot Mogador', Château d’Estoublon organises specialist interest breaks on themes such as French Lifestyle and the Grape Harvest.
To finish up on the green after this rocky road, golfers can enjoy a relaxing round at the 18-hole Golf de Servanes in Mouriès – an unforgettable site at the foot of the jagged lace of limestone peaks.
Wild Camargue and its sand wines
Wine growing in Camargue? At first sight, the area seems to be all about wetlands, pink flamingos and roaming bulls. But sand wines have been grown here for centuries, so come along and taste!
Set on the left bank of the Rhône River, Domaine Isle Saint-Pierre, a 420-acre vineyard practising sustainable growing techniques, produces red, white and rosé wines, and simply loves experimenting with grape varieties from other climes, such as Tannat, Gewürztraminer and Arinarnoa… People come here to visit the cellar but also for the events programme. On June 4th, you can enjoy a Wine grower's picnic and all summer, from July 1st to August 31st, the domain will be exhibiting works by photographer Magali Bressy and sculptor Jean-Claude Guerri in the framework of the Art & Wine festival.
At Mas de Rey in the hamlet of Trinquetaille, at the gateway to Arles, the Cornille family has placed their bets on such novel grape varieties as Chasan, Caladoc and Marselan. The result? Atypical and very tasty Provencal wines. Formerly owned by the Knights Templar, the property now welcomes private and professional events alike (up to 150 guests). Don't miss the Bacchus Day on July 8th, complete with Roman camp, gladiator fights and a delicious lunch.
Bouches-du-Rhône wines get salty at Domaine Saint-Vincent – Mas de Valériole, in the hamlet of Gageron (Arles). Grown in the heart of the Camargue Regional Nature Reserve, these organic red, white and rosé wines courtesy of the Michel family – which also produces rice, wheat and sunflowers – are quite astonishingly aromatic.
But really, you can't go to Camargue without seeing the local attractions! So head off to the Musée de la Camargue to learn more about the area, rent a bicycle from Camargue Découverte and pedal out to the end of the sea dyke, roam the wetlands on horseback with La Grenouillère riding school, or visit the Marais du Vigueirat marshes – a genuine hub of wildlife. After all, there's more than way one way to drink your fill!
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Time to row
Fancy grabbing your paddle and swishing off to the translucent waters of En-Vau fjord? Test your biceps with a kayak tour of the myriad of fjords dotted along the coast between Cassis and Marseille.