Among the popular wine regions of France, the Loire Valley, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Alsace, which are known as the Big Five, Provence is not mentioned. In recent years Provence has started to produce the best rosés in the country, putting it on the map as a major player for one of the top wine regions in France.
Provence also produces high-quality white and red wine, plus excellent sparkling rosé. The growing conditions, including the rich soil with clay and limestone, plenty of sunshine, hills, and the Mediterranean climate, make Provence an ideal setting for vineyards to flourish. Bandol, which comes from the southeast near Marseille and Cassis, covering a very small region of fewer than 4,000 acres, is best known for its rich-bodied red wine, using the Mourvèdre grape, also grown in Spain, southern Australia, and California.
1. Domaine De Fontenille, Lauris
Located in the Luberon region of Provence, in the village of Lauris, Domaine de Fontenille is an all-encompassing wine, culinary, and luxury hotel experience.
The vineyard dates from 1600 and is laid out on 97 acres of prime Provence soil. Domaine De Fontenille produces certified organic wines along with the latest technology to produce their superior products. The rich soil containing limestone and clay, along with slopes that attract the sun at an advantageous angle, produce the Luberon PDO grape which provides a rich taste.
The various wine tasting experiences at Fontenille include a visit with an onsite wine professional who will guide you through the different stages of how the wines are produced. You will visit the cellar where the wines are blended, and sample a tasting of numerous wines at the end, for around $20 a person. At a workshop you learn the step by step process to use your senses to recognize the subtle flavors and scents, so you can know how to match wine to the food you are eating, and later, a tour of the vineyard, where you are shown how the grapes are grown is accompanied by a picnic lunch under the shade of an olive tree.
Domaine De Fontenille has a luxury hotel housed in a former château, with 19 luxuriously appointed rooms, a wellness center with relaxing massages, scrubs, and facials, and an outdoor, heated swimming pool. Dining choices include the one-star Michelin Le Champ des Lunes, where Chef Michel Marini focuses on modern French cuisine with ingredients sourced in the Luberon, La Cuisine d’Amélie, a bistro on the expansive terrace overlooking the lush gardens of the property, and a full breakfast also outside at Le Grande Table des Petits-Déjeuners.
If you don’t want to stay overnight but want to still enjoy all the amenities, Domaine De Fontenille offers a package with a spa treatment of your choice, use of the swimming pool and chaise lounges, and lunch at the more informal bistro La Cuisine d’Amélie for $242 per person.
2. Château De Berne, Flayosc
On par with Domaine De Fontenille, Château de Berne is another winery with luxury accommodations and gourmet restaurant but is in the Vars region.
The award-winning vineyard has been around since 1750 and located on a massive property of over 1,350 acres, scaling up to 1,100 feet of the hills of the Massif des Maures area. An extended area of the property has 300 acres of other vines and olive trees. Château De Berne prides itself on its exceptional rosé wines but also produces fine red, white, and sparkling wines.
The winery is open every day, year round, and there are several tasting options such as an express, 60- minute visit to the wine cellar that includes three tastings with a savory toast topped with olive tapenade and anchovies. A more extensive visit — 2.5 hours — includes touring the vineyards, seeing the wine-producing caves, and tastings of six wines, and the top of the line, where you taste four of its most exclusive estate wines in a private room in the five-star hotel attached to the winery, and the head chef of the Michelin star restaurant will prepare special treats to accompany your wines.
The original château built in the 18th century has been transformed into a five-star, Relais & Château hotel in a magnificent setting of vineyards, ancient trees, and rolling hills. You can relax on a chaise by the outdoor pool and also wind down with a massage, or body treatment at the expansive, 10,000 square foot, Le Cinq Mondes Spa, which also features two Jacuzzis, an indoor swimming pool, steam room, sauna, and relaxation area, serving soothing, herbal tea. If you are feeling more active, there’s a 1200-acre park with hills, rocks, streams, and farmland to hike in, electric bikes for mountain biking with four, marked paths, and a fitness suite with state-of-the-art cardio and weight machines. The hotel has partnered with a local golf course for its guests to play.
Foodies can get their culinary fix with an exclusive cooking class or go behind the scenes in the kitchen to watch where chef Louis Rameau creates his magical meals. In the warmer months, dine on the sun-drenched La Terrasse de Berne with dishes prepared with herbs and vegetables from its garden. The more formal restaurant, Le Jardin de Berne, offers five and seven-course dinners and an optional wine pairing with each course.
3. Château De Saint Martin, Taradeau
A historically relevant vineyard, Chateau De Saint Martin has been owned by the same family since 1740, and the roots are traced back thousands of years to 200 B.C. with Roman remains that were discovered in the 1990s. In the 12th century, monks produced wine and built cellars that are still in use.
Château De Saint Martin not only caters to oenophiles with their wine tastings, but also offers wine pairings with chocolate, cheese, and local food products.
Located about 60 minutes from the Côte d’Azur in the south of France, Château De Saint Martin is 45 miles from Nice and even closer to Toulon (25 miles).
4. Château La Coste, Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade
The tradition of winemaking in Provence extends back to the Roman times in France in the second and third centuries and Chateau La Coste still uses ancient winemaking traditions, combined with modern-day techniques. The small winemaking house, near Aix-en-Provence, which began in 1682, has an estate with 300 acres of vineyards mixed with cypress, oak, and olive trees on the rich soil that produces organic grapes.
Château La Coste is best known for its Côte de Provence rosé wine but also stocks a good selection of white and red wine.
A state-of-the-art cellar with steel, temperature-controlled vats, was launched in 2008 and designed by award-winning, French architect Jean Nouvel. Wine tasting workshops are given by its wine experts and last 2.5 hours.
Another great reason to visit Château La Coste is for its impressive architecture and art collection. World-renowned artists and architects including Tadao Ando, Sophie Calle, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Frank Gehry, Sean Scully, and Ai Weiwei have contributed works in past years. You can book a self-guided walk of the art installations as you wander through the olive groves, vineyards, and the woods. Currently, there’s an Alberto Giacometti exhibition through September 12, 2021.
Villa La Coste, a fabulous luxury hotel, is also part of the winery. Offering 29 spacious suites with outdoor terraces, the smallest room measures 1,000 square feet and the Villa suite measures 3,000 square feet with a 120-foot-long terrace, private pool, dining room, two bedrooms and bathrooms, and a living room.
The Villa La Coste spa uses locally grown products for its treatments including lavender, apricot, jasmine, rose, and olives. Its signature treatment is a Himalayan salt and mud scrub.
Among the various restaurants at Villa La Coste, the standout is the one with the multi, award-winning chef Helene Darroze, who has won five Michelin stars for her restaurants in France and in London.
5. Le Domaine de Marie, Ménerbes
This petit winery, on just 57 acres, Le Domaine de Marie is rather new, just opened in 2000 by Jean-Louis Sibuet, a devoted wine lover and connoisseur. Located near the ancient, scenic villages of Gordes and Bonnieux, Sibuet took the painstaking task of bringing the vineyard up to modern-day standards with the latest technology including stainless steel storage vats that are temperature controlled for the most accurate fermentation.
Le Domaine de Marie offers restaurant dining for lunch and dinner, indoors and outdoors, afternoon tea serving local specialties, and a happy hour menu.
There are also overnight accommodations ranging from rooms to suites to a converted farmhouse nearby for rent with five bedrooms and bathrooms, kitchen, living room, dining room, terrace, and private swimming pool.
Pro Tip: Many of the wineries listed in this article can ship cases of wine to the U.S. It’s best to reserve your tickets online when possible.
France is noted for its wine and restaurants and visitors will find it difficult to make a selection from so many choices: