Wine

rose wine and petanqueProvence boasts some wonderful wines and here's where to find them, from the rich spicy reds of the Côtes du Rhône to the crisp, flinty whites of Cassis - not forgetting the essential rosés, of course (or the Avignon Popes' favourite tipple).

Apart from the articles displayed below,, there's even more about wine in other areas of the website.

Click here for our guide to the best wine drives of Provence, here to read about the remarkable Château La Coste winery and art trail near Aix en Provence and here for a tour of the quirky Corkscrew Museum and Domaine de la Citadelle winery just outside Ménerbes.

 

 

carre du palais avignonIt is a flagship project for Provence wine tourism. And it has become a highly controversal one. But now the Carré du Palais in Avignon has finally opened - sort-of - after very many delays.

The project is meant to be a sumptuous showcase to promote the region's Rhône wines and push them into the same league as the more famous ones from Burgundy and Bordeaux.

On the place de l'Horloge right in the heart of Avignon, the Carré du Palais is housed in the 18th century l'Hôtel Calvet de la Palun (formerly the Banque de France), pictured.

It was originally supposed to open in autumn 2014. But the extensive renovation work lasted very much longer than expected.

The launch was repeatedly postponed and, in spring 2017, it emerged that the couple running the project was being investigated for fraud and money laundering, among other charges.

It even seems that the architect's diploma which the contractor claimed to hold may be fake! An official enquiry is still under way.

For all these reasons, the Carré du Palais has had a very soft opening, with none of the expected fanfare - in fact with virtually no publicity at all. But, as we can confirm from a visit in July 2017, it is definitely up and running - just in time for the Avignon Theatre Festival.

On the ground floor is a wine bar and "bistronomic" restaurant offering various set menus devised by the chef Christophe Chiavola, plus a wide range of Rhône wines sold by the glass.

carre du palais wine barIt is, to our minds, rather starkly decorated in contemporary style, pictured, but does have an outdoor terrace overlooking the Palais des Papes.

Instead of banknotes and bullion, the former vaults in the basement contain an even more precious treasure: thousands of bottles of fine Rhône wines.

This is a tasting room and "wine school", where classes are held in different languages. We talked briefly to the sommelier, Michaël Villechenoux, who told us that it's currently open by appointment only.

The complex will be eventually augmented by shops selling gourmet produce from the region. At the moment, though, it still feels like something of a skeleton operation.

guishu wineA unique new wine, Le Guishu, based on fermented rice has just been launched. But, in spite of the name, it's not from the Far East. Instead, Le Guishu is made in France using rice grown in the Camargue.

The man behind the idea is the Bordeaux-based wine-maker Olivier Sublett, inspired by his Chinese fiancée, Yuan Guizhi.

He bottled this first batch in January 2016. It's a trial run of just 36,000 bottles but production will increase dramatically if the idea takes off.

We sampled Le Guishu at a private tasting in Jean-Luc Rabanel's Michelin-starred restaurant, L'Atelier, at the Feria du Riz in Arles. Pictured below (left to right): Yuan Guizhi, Olivier Sublett and Jean-Luc Rabanel.

It comes in three variants. All of them are very different from each other. And none of them tastes at all like Chinese rice wine or Japanese sake.

Le Sec, a crisp dry white with a hint of lychee and grapefruit, was our favourite, though it does cheat slightly by incorporating 20% white wine, from Charente. Monsieur Sublett hopes to source a Camargue wine to use next time round.

guishu wine launchLe Non Filtré is a full, golden yellow wine based entirely on rice and resembles a Canadian Ice Wine, while L'Umani is a deeper, complex amber yellow and sweeter on the palate.

L'Umani found surprising favour with the Chinese, winning a prize this year at the International Wine competition of Hong Kong and China.

Quite a compliment considering that the orientals have been producing rice wine for over 9,000 years.

You can read more about Le Guishu and where to buy or try it here.

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domaine souviou bandolWith its mighty, meaty red wines and elegant rosés, Bandol is one of Provence's most prestigious wine regions. This is an introduction to these wines and some of the best places to try and buy them.

Foire aux vins wine sale posterIf you are planning to stock up on wine while in France, the nationwide Foires aux vins (wine fairs or wine sales), a twice-yearly event in spring and autumn, are a major date for your diary.

Drinking rose wineProvence is the place to drink vin rosé so think pink and sample our ten fun facts. And if you want to plunge in more deeply (and who wouldn't?), read our introduction to Southern France's favourite wine.

Bottle of Cassis Bodin wineCrisp, floral and flinty, the wines of Cassis are justly famous, though you might know them by reputation only, for the little appellation is often not easy to come by outside the immediate area.

Monk drinking wine from an illuminated manuscriptWe know a surprising amount today about the drinking habits of the Avignon Popes, who promoted wine-growing in the Rhône area, most famously around Châteauneuf du Pape.

Wine label, Chateauneuf-du-PapeThe wines of Northern Provence tend to be rich, spicy, full-bodied, dark reds that can be very high in alcohol - as high as 15% - from the long, arid summers baking in the fierce sun.

Glass of provencal rose wineProvence got its priorities right good and early. Wine has been made here for at least 2,600 years, making it the oldest wine-producing region of France.

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