Where to Go Wine Tasting in the Côtes de Provence
We've spent the last few weeks exploring and tasting at multiple wineries in La Londe, the nearest wine region to us in the South of France. It's a sub-appellation within the larger Côtes de Provence region, and while small in terms of overall production, La Londe boasts lots of grand chateaus, delicious wines and gorgeous vineyards.
Here's a list of our favorite wineries to visit, and also some places we'd avoid:
Nearly everyone we talked to about wine tasting raved about this place, so obviously we had to visit and give it a try ourselves. Thank goodness for those recommendations! This chateau made the best wines we've tasted in the area yet, and thanks to the knowledgeable, bilingual staff, it was our favorite tasting so far too!
They use solely estate fruit and make just 5000 cases per year with sole distribution in France (unfortunately). They have two different lines: La Pointe du Diable and Malherbe, and do a white, rosé and red in each. The Pointe du Diable is the less expensive of the two, but all the wines are very well made and enjoyable.
We liked the 2010 Blanc (50% Rolle, 50% Semillon) and Rosé (90% Grenache) from the Malherbe line since they were both refreshing with perfectly integrated acidity that let the fruit show off. This acid/fruit combination created a bright, round feel on the palate which woke up the mouth and lingered for a few seconds after swallowing.
Of the two reds, we actually prefered (and took home) the 2009 Pointe du Diable rouge (Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon.) With the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon, it not only brought us back to Cali, but added more structure and oomph too. For more info on this one, check out the What We're Drinking Now post.
As far as price, their wines are not the least expensive in the area, but for the quality of the juice, I was surprised they weren't more expensive. Their wines range from 13 to 18 Euro, with Magnums offered in the Malherbe line for 32-40 Euro.
Chateau Breganςon: If you're in the area and want to taste an older wine.
We'd seen the rosé in many shops and grocery stores around town, so we stopped in to taste the rest of their lineup. We sampled a white, two rosés and three reds, and while I couldn't get past the unbalanced, banana laffy-taffy taste of the white, both rosés and the 2006 red blend were pretty enjoyable.
Of the two rosés, I prefered the Cuvee Prestige Rosé. It was bright, went down easy, had a touch of ripe fresh strawberries and nice acidity to balance it all out. I thought that for 13.20 Euro though, the price was a bit steep for what was in the bottle.
The other wine I really enjoyed was the 2006 Cuvée Hermann Sabran red blend (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.) It was very smooth, with soft tannins and a lot of red fruit on the nose and palate. Since the majority of chateaus offer mostly 2008-2009 reds, it was a treat to taste something with a little age on it.
Chateau Maravenne: Beautiful grounds, and great place to buy a Cubi!
This was the wine we enjoyed most from the wine tasting in La Londe last month and we vowed to stop by the winery. It's an absolutely beautiful property, surrounded by vineyards, with a big open tasting room, pool (for guests of the hotel), and a fun array of wine-related knick-knacks for sale.
We tasted the white, rosé and red and they were just as good as we remembered. See our notes from the La Londe Wine Tasting for more about Maravenne.
Domaine du Chateau Vert: Decent wines, but the proximity to town and their wine fountain is well worth a visit!
This winery is right off the main street in La Londe, so it's easy to walk to from the bus stop. For us, this was crucial since we were on foot during our second day of wine tasting!
The wines were generic, the staff was sweet and spoke pretty good english, but the best part of the whole tasting room was the wine fountain!
While we were tasting our fourth rosé, a couple came in with an empty 3L plastic jug. They handed the woman behind the counter the jug, said something in French, and then she nonchalantly took the jug to the wine fountain against the back wall, which we had somehow failed to notice. From one of the 4 hoses coming out of the wall, she filled it up with rosé and sent them on their merry way. I was shocked...a winery in France selling its juice by the jug!
We immediately asked her about this and found out that they not only sell 5L and 10L cubis of wine, but from this fountain, they also fill up people's personal containers with white, rosé and even red for just 3 Euro per Liter. It's not their top-end wine, but we tasted it and for 3 Euro, I'd drink it anyday.
After our initial shock, we talked about the whole concept and really appreciated their innovation and marketing sense. I mean, they understand that not every person who drinks wine, wants to drink a super expensive, or complex bottle everyday. Sometimes, you just want an easy wine that tastes good, and you don't have to think too much about it.
We were walking to another winery and kept seeing signs every 50 meters advertising Chateau Carrubier's 'award winning' bag in box rosé. Sufficiently intrigued, we decided to pop in.
They are only open for tasting on Saturdays and Sundays from 4-6pm, and while their ads litter the road, the tasting set-up isn't clear at all. We walked up the drive and asked a group of people standing outside about how to score a taste of this famous rosé. They all looked at each other, and finally the potbellied man in a dirty button up grunted, took us into the kitchen and pulled out two rosés and a red.
We tried both rosés and wern't crazy about either one. The 2010 Cuvee Ingenue Rose was the best of the two with a balanced, clean mouth feel, soft fruit and low acidity. But, the 2010 Cuvee d'Aurore was super dry, and didn't have anything else to it. Yet, both had awards...hmmm.
The red, unfortunately, was atrocious...it had obviously been sitting out way too long and was oxidized beyond redemption. We both took one sip, dumped the rest out, thanked the potbellied Portugese man and left pretty dissapointed.
Needless to say, this place isn't really worth a visit, but we learned a valuable lesson: Awards don't mean beans if you dont like it!
Chateau Jasson: just 'eh' all the way around
Like Chateau Maravenne, we came across their wines at the Easter tasting in La Londe, and were intrigued to visit, but unlike Maravenne, this place failed to deliver.
The lady who led our tasting was really nice, but the tasting room was really small and cramped, and the wines were not nearly as tasty as we remembered.
We tasted a white, a rosé and two reds, and they were all unremarkable and unmemorable. Their high-end red is like a little girl wearing her moms heels and tries way to hard to be bigger and more complex than it is.
Their wines were okay, the tasting was okay, the facilities were okay...but wine tasting should never be just okay. We wouldn't rave about this place to visiting familiy or friends, so we can't recommend it here either.
From all that we've tasted, it's easy to understand why this region is known for its rosés; it's simply what the wineries do best. That said, we have tasted delicious reds and whites too, they're just harder to find. We actually featured both our favorite white and red in the two latest 'What We're Drinking Now' posts, so check 'em out!