Monday, August 14, 2017

Wining and Dining in the Provence, France, 2017

Pictures: Wining and Dining in the Provence, France

The Provence largely corresponds with the modern administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and extends from the left bank of the lower Rhône River to the west to the Italian border to the east. The largest city of the region is Marseille.

The Romans made the region into the first Roman province beyond the Alps and called it Provincia Romana, which evolved into the present name. It was ruled by the Counts of Provence from their capital in Aix-en-Provence until 1481, when it became a province of the Kings of France.

Picture: Provence (Lonely Planet)

In early July 2017, I spent about a week in the Provence, with my wife Annette and my son Benjamin Schiller and his 2 children Lorelei and Otto. Our German Sheppard Oskar also came on the trip. We stayed in a house in La Ciotat, between Cassis and Bandol.

I flew from Frankfurt to Marseille, while the rest of us went by car and stopped over at Château de la Barge in Creches sur Saone. See also: Dinner at Restaurant Château de la Barge in Creches sur Saone in Burgundy, France. They also had lunch at a Bouchon in Lyon. See also: Dinner at a Bouchon - Chez Paul - in Lyon: Schiller’s Favorite Bouchons in Lyon, France

On the way back, we all went by car and stopped in Besancon in the Jura Region. We stayed at the Hotel/ Restaurant Château de la Dame Blanche and had awonderful dinner there.

Base: Airbnb House in La Ciotat

Out base was an airbnb house in La Ciotat, between Cassis and Bandol.

Pictures: Airbnb House


The beach was in walking distance. When our dog Oscar came along, we had to go to the "dog beach".

Pictures: At the Beach

The Wines of the Provence

Wine has been made here for over 2600 years, making Provence the oldest wine producing region of France. It is also the only French wine region to focus on Rosé. Two thirds of the wines from the Provence are Rosé.

Picture: Provence AOC (Wine Folly)

(Source: wikipedia): Provence is the oldest wine producing region of France. The wines of Provence were probably introduced into Provence around 600 BC by the Greek Phoceans who founded Marseille and Nice. After the Roman occupation, in 120 BC the Roman Senate forbade the growing of vines and olives in Provence, to protect the profitable trade in exporting Italian wines, but in the late Roman empire retired soldiers from Roman Legions settled in Provence and were allowed to grow grapes.

Provence is also the only French wine region that predominantly produces rosé wines. The most characteristic grape is mourvèdre, used most famously in the red wines of Bandol. Cassis is the only area in Provence known for its white wines.

The wines of Provence are grown under demanding conditions; hot weather and abundant sunshine (Toulon, near Bandol, has the most sunshine of any city in France) which ripens the grapes quickly; little rain, and the mistral.

Picture: Rosé Wines Account for 80% of the Wines of the Provence

The AOCs of the Provence

AOC Côtes de Provence is the largest AOC ihe Provence, accounting for about 75% of the total. The appellation covers 20,300 hectares. 80 percent of the production is rosé wine.

Pictures: AOC Côtes de ProvenceWines

Second in size, the AOC Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence was classified as an AOC in 1985. There are 4000 hectares in production. 70 percent of the wines are rosés.

Picture: AOC Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence Wine

The AOC Coteaux Varois en Provence is a recent AOC in Provence (1993). 2200 hectares. 80 percent rosés.

AOC Bandol wines must have at least 50 percent Mourvèdre grapes, though most have considerably more.

Pictures: AOC Bandol Wines

AOC Cassis was the first wine in Provence to be classified as an AOC in 1936, and is best known for its white wines.

Picture: AOC Cassis Wine

AOC Bellet - At the time of the French Revolution, the little town of Saint Roman de Bellet (now part of Nice) was the center of an important wine region. Today the region is one of the smallest in France; just 47 hectares.

AOC Palette Palete is a little village 4 kilometres east of Aix-en-Provence.

AOC Les Baux de Provence was established as an AOC for red and rosé wines in 1995.

The Grape Varieties in the Provence

(winerist): The key grape variety for reds and roses in Provence is Mourvèdre, also known as Monastrell. Mourvèdre is typically high in alcohol, high in tannins and has typical aromas of dark berries. Mourvèdre is often blended with Grenache and Cinsault. Bandol, is the most famous appellation for powerful, gamey red made from Mourvèdre.

Grenache, originally from Spain, provides greater body and fullness to red wines. Cinsault - native to Provence is fresh and subtle, is an important component in most rosé wines and the grapes can be enjoyed as raw fruit too. Tibouren, a grape with a full bouquet, is also perfect for blending in red wines with other locally derived grapes.

Carignan has been a major grape for the last century in Provence blends. This variety has diminished somewhat but is still used to provide full bodied brightly coloured wines. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are becoming more popular due to increased global popularity, though some winemakers are being more cautious with these grapes. They provide strong tannins and spicy flavours to the wines. Other prominent grape varieties for reds and roses are are Braquet, Folle, Cinsault, Counoise, Muscardin, Terret Noir and Vaccarèse.

Of the white varieties, Rolle (Vermentino) is grown widely in Provence, a very hardy grape boasting pear and citrus aromas. It is full bodied and very smooth. Clairette, ancient and aromatic this oddly shaped grape is a rare delight. Ugni Blanc is clear and fruity, for an elegant glass. Semillion is used in small amounts for a strong floral and honey bouquet.

The major white wine grapes of Provence often feature Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Spagnol, Mayorquin, Pignero, Picpoul and Muscat. Some of the most compelling white wines of Provence are made in Cassis, but these rarely make it outside the country due to high local demand.

Food of the Provence

Provence borders the Mediterranean sea, and fish and shellfish are eaten in abundance. Commonly enjoyed fish and shellfish include, tuna, sea bass, anchovies, red snapper, red mullet, monkfish, shrimp, crab, mussels, scallops and oysters.

Popular fish and shellfish dishes include bouillabaisse, salad Niçoise (a vegetable, tuna and anchovy salad) and fruits de mer.

Picture: Carrefour

Bouillabaisse is the classic seafood dish of Marseille. The traditional version is made with three fish: scorpionfish, sea robin, and European conger, plus an assortment of other fish and shellfish, such as John Dory, monkfish, sea urchins, crabs and sea spiders included for flavour. The seasoning is as important as the fish, including salt, pepper, onion, tomato, saffron, fennel, sage, thyme, bay laurel, sometimes orange peel, and a cup of white wine or cognac. In Marseille the fish and the broth are served separately – the broth is served over thick slices of bread with rouille.

Picture: Bouillabaisse

Fruits de mer is a plate of fresh seafood accompanied with lemon wedges for drizzling. Interestingly, the one I had did not contain anything from the region I was told. Overall, the seafood that I have seen in other areas of France, including Bordeaux, was more impressive.

Picture: Plateau des Fruits de Mer

Octopus Salad

Picture: Octopus Salad

Moules frites were very popular.

Picture: Moules Frites

I liked the "petite friture" with sauce tartare.

Picture: Petite Friture

Provence, like other regions of the Mediterranean, has a sun-blessed climate that makes it ideal for olive growing. And like their Italian neighbors to the east, the people of Provence rely heavily on olives—for food and as an oil. Olive oil is used for sautéing foods, and is added to sauces, dressings, dips and marinades. Whole olives are scattered into hot dishes and salads, or are eaten as a snack.

Picture: Olives

Tapenade is a relish consisting of pureed or finely chopped olives, capers, and olive oil, usually spread onto bread and served as an hors d'œuvre.

Picture: Pastis with Tapenade

Salad Niçoise is a vegetable, tuna and anchovy salad.

Picture: Salad Niçoise

Aïoli is a thick emulsion sauce made from olive oil flavoured with crushed garlic. Here, I have it with a fish soup.

Picture: Fish Soup with Aïoli

Daube provençale is a stew made with cubed beef braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and herbes de provence. Variations also call for olives, prunes, and flavouring with duck fat, vinegar, brandy, lavender, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, juniper berries, or orange peel. For best flavour, it is cooked in several stages, and cooled for a day between each stage to allow the flavours to meld together. In the Camargue area of France, bulls killed in the bullfighting festivals are sometimes used for daube.

Picture: Daube Provençale

Ratatouille is a traditional dish of stewed vegetables, which originated in Nice. Here I have it with fish.

Picture: Fish with Ratatouille

Tarte Tropézienne is a tart of pastry cream (crème pâtissière) invented by a St. Tropez pastry chef named Alexandre Micka in the 1950s, based on a recipe he brought from his native Poland. In 1955, he was chef on the set of the film And God Created Woman when actress Brigitte Bardot suggested he name the cake La Tropézienne. It is now found in bakeries throughout the Var.

Picture: Tarte Tropézienne

Herbes de Provence (or Provençal herbs) are a mixture of dried herbs from Provence which are commonly used in Provençal cooking.

Picture: Herbes de Provence

The Provence is not well known of its cheeses, but the selection of French cheeses at the Carrefour was as huge as everywhere else in France (here: Section of Camemberts).

Picture: Carrefour/ Camembert

Oeufs à la neige is a classic (and my favorite) French dessert.

Picture: Oeufs à la Neige


Pastis is the traditional liqueur of Provence, flavoured with anise and typically containing 40–45% alcohol by volume. When absinthe was banned in France in 1915, the major absinthe producers (then Pernod Fils and Ricard, who have since merged as Pernod Ricard) reformulated their drink without the banned wormwood and with more aniseed flavour, coming from star anise, sugar and a lower alcohol content, creating pastis. It is usually drunk diluted with water, which it turns a cloudy color. It is especially popular in and around Marseille. The selection of different Pastis at the Carrefour was impressive.

Picture: Carrefour/ Pastis


(Lonely Planet): For many years, the busy port city of Marseille has suffered from a serious image problem. Dismissed for its down-at-heel reputation, urban decay and often alarming crime statistics, it's long been the black sheep of the Provençal coastline. But while it’s gritty, and not always pretty – Cannes or St-Tropez, it’s not – Marseille is a dynamic, edgy, bustling city that’s rich with more than 1500 years of history. And since its stint as the European Capital of Culture in 2013 and the addition of a brace of swanky new museums, the city has sparkled with a new sense of optimism and self-belief. At long last, everyone seems to be waking up to the fact that France’s second-biggest city might have been unfairly maligned all along.

The heart of the city is the vibrant Vieux Port (old port), mast-to-mast with yachts and pleasure boats. Just uphill is the ancient Le Panier neighbourhood, the oldest section of the city. Also worth an explore is the République quarter, with its stylish boutiques and Haussmannian buildings, and the Joliette area, centred onMarseille’s famous striped Cathédrale de la Major.

Pictures: Marseille


(Lonely Planet): Nestled at the foot of a dramatic rocky outcrop crowned by a 14th-century château (now a hotel open only to guests), this little fishing port is all charm, hence the enormous crowds that pile into its Vieux Port with its bustling restaurants, play on its shingle beaches, visit its terraced vineyards and sip fabled white Cassis wine. The town’s name comes from the Roman Carsicis Portus, meaning ‘crowned port,’ so christened for the rock Couronne de Charlemagne (Crown of Charlemagne), which is visible from far out at sea.

Pictures: Cassis

La Ciotat

Once an industrial port, La Ciotat has brilliantly reinvented itself as a tourist destination. Today it's one of the liveliest and least spoiled resorts along this stretch of the coast. In the 20th century La Ciotat was one of the most important shipbuilding centres on the Mediterranean until its naval shipyards closed down in the 1980s.

Pictures: La Ciotat


(Lonely Planet): Bandol’s old fishing-port charm has long since been swallowed up by its high-rise seaside apartment blocks, but the plentiful restaurants, cheap-and-cheerful shops and copious beach facilities make it a favourite for holidaymakers from nearby Toulon and Marseille. For everyone else, it’s probably best for a quick lunch stop or a spot of wine tasting rather than an overnight stay

Pictures: Bandol


(Lonely Planet): Rough-round-the-edges Toulon just doesn’t fit in with the glittering Côte d’Azur. Built around a rade (a sheltered bay lined with quays), France’s second-largest naval port has a certain rough charm, and isn’t quite as terrible as it once was, though most visitors wisely just pass through.

Initially a Roman colony, Toulon became part of France in 1481 – the city grew in importance after Henri IV founded an arsenal here. In the 17th century the port was enlarged by Vauban. The young Napoleon Bonaparte made a name for himself in 1793 during a siege in which the English, who had taken over Toulon, were expelled. The city was badly bombed in WWII, and languished for much of the second half of the 20th century until its current revival. It’s the birthplace of France’s beloved actor Raimu, the star of Marcel Pagnol’s 1931 classic, Marius.

Pictures: Toulon

Going There

On the way to the Provence, Annette, Benjamin with his children and Oscar stayed overnight and had a lovely dinner at Hotel/ Restaurant Château de la Barge in Creches sur Saone, just 10 miles south of Macon in the Bourgogne.

See also: Dinner at Restaurant Château de la Barge in Creches sur Saone in Burgundy, France

Picture: At Château de la Barge in Creches sur Saone, Bourgogne, France

On the next day they had lunch at a typical Bouchon in Lyon and arrived before dinner time in La Ciotat.

See also: Dinner at a Bouchon - Chez Paul - in Lyon: Schiller’s Favorite Bouchons in Lyon, France

Going Back

On the way back, we stopped in Besancon in the Jura Region. We stayed at the Hotel/ Restaurant Château de la Dame Blanche and had a wonderful dinner there.

Pictures: Dinner at Restaurant Château de la Dame Blanche in Besancon

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Heads up for the 2017 Tours - to Germany and France - by ombiasy WineTours

Germany-East Tour 2017 by ombiasy WineTours: Wine, Art, Culture, History

Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: From Lyon to Reims - Wine, Food, Culture and History

Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France

Dinner at Restaurant Château de la Barge in Creches sur Saone in Burgundy, France

Dinner at a Bouchon - Chez Paul - in Lyon: Schiller’s Favorite Bouchons in Lyon, France

No comments:

Post a Comment