With its rich silky reds with leather and cooked red fruit notes, floral wild herb-scented rosés and lively whites, it’s worth hanging around for a while in Baux-de-Provence. A three day tour of hush-hush Provence, where they know how to preserve the countryside’s natural beauty and valiantly nurture delights for our taste buds.
Gently does it
Mas de Sainte Berthe is an excellent appetizer to discover Baux-de-Provence’s wines. Firstly because the owners had the great idea of building an 1800 m long footpath in their vineyards, which sit beneath the rockface up to the ancient City of les Baux. The view of the castle from here is pretty stunning by the way. The walk, marked out with handy milestones, gives you a crash course in local grape varieties and the vine’s growth cycle in 30 mins. On the tasting front, Christian Nief, who’s been in charge of the domaine for 20 years, makes a whole range of lively sunny wines that match the landscape. You must try his rosé, cuvée Passe Rose (6 €), full bodied, chunky yet soft and spicy. The Tradition red (5.50 €) is very pleasant, rounded, fruity with attractive wild herb tones.
Mas de sainte-Berthe, Départementale 27A, 13520 Les Baux-de-Provence. Tel: 04 90 54 39 01
By the time you leave the estate, it’ll nearly be lunchtime. Get back on the Maussane-les-Alpilles road that brings you back to le Paradou. In the middle of the village, Bistrot du Paradou is a real institution with its fun unconventional feel and not many tourists. Every Friday they make aïoli to die for, an ‘everyday triumph’ as they say in les Baux.
57, avenue de la Vallée des Baux, Le Paradou. Tel: 04 90 54 32 70.
A few kilometers on from le Paradou, towards Fontvieille, stop at Château d’Estoublon. This wine and olive oil estate is a veritable haven, spread over 200 ha of vines, olive trees, woods and garrigue (scrubland). The wines are now more seductive than a few years ago. The owner Rémy Reboul, supported by one of the best winemakers in the south, Eloï Durrbach from Domaine de Trévallon, made a tremendous white in 2005. Lively, rich and structured on the palate with delicate tinned pineapple and roast hazelnut flavors, it’s a bit beyond most people’s budget (23 €). You can taste it in the château’s shop along with their oils, before crashing out by the lake or visiting the estate’s very own 17th Century chapel, which has been completely restored.
Château d’Estoublon, route de Maussane, 13990 Fontvieille. Tel: 04 90 54 64 00
To make the most of the late afternoon sunlight, the pluckiest among you could go to Maillane 15 km north of Fontvieille. Frédéric Mistral’s birthplace has done a grand job keeping its rural southern French atmosphere. The poet’s house has been converted into a museum, where you’ll find his living memory as well as artifacts, books and photographs he gathered throughout his life. (Info: 04 90 95 74 06).
Don’t forget to stop off at Fassy’s bakery. They come from miles around to Jean-Marie Fassy and his son Jean-Pascal’s shop, 6th generation Maillane bakers, to enjoy their ‘fougasses’ (stuffed flat bread). They make 37 different types, savory and sweet: with anchovy, chorizo, fig and walnut, chocolate and orange… Their traditional fougasse, just with olive oil, is the epitome of soft and tasty.
Boulangerie Fassy, 4, cours Jeanne-d’Arc, 13910 Maillane. Tel: 04 90 95 74 01.
Click here for: Saturday, Off the beaten track
Words and photos: Régis Cailleau