Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Magical Day in Provence with Visit to Maison des Vins de Provence in Les Arcs

The Beauty of Provence Roses
(Summer 2014) During our two week visit to Provence with French language classes every morning in Nice, we managed to slip away one afternoon to visit Maison des Vins de Provence. It was about a 50 minute drive from Nice and easily accessible from the freeway, where we exited at the town of Les Arcs.

A large sign signals the entrance to a cluster of buildings, which include the welcome center and tasting room, a wine shop, restaurant and the administration buildings for the Maison des Vins de Provence. There is ample free parking in the large tree-shaded parking lot in front.

A Warm Welcome at Maison des Vins de Provence

We were welcomed by the hospitality manager, and later by the director, Francois and marketing manager, Celine. I was impressed with the friendliness of the well-trained staff, and the fact that we were allowed to taste 14 different Provence wines free of charge. Then if you decide to make a purchase – which we did – you receive a discount on the wine, as well as wine cooler bags. We were told that the 14 wine selections are changed every few weeks.

Maison des Vins de Provence
Celine informed us that there are 400 domaines in the Provence AOC and that 230 of them are represented at the Maison. The center is supported by the French government as part of their wine tourism and regional promotion service.  Other wine regions of France have similar wine tourism support.

As we tasted through the wines, we were told that Rolle (Vermentino) is the main white grape of Provence. It is one of my favorite grapes as it produces a light refreshing lemon-lime wine with high acidity. The roses are produced from grenache, syrah, mouvedre and/or cinsault, with some potential addition of clairette and ungi blanc.

While we were tasting a family with small kids came in, and the mother and father were allowed to taste a few wines while the children were happily occupied with toys in a corner of the room that was set-up as a play center. Very clever!

We purchased two rose wines along with a darling white plastic bag that serves as an ice bucket for the wine. They look very appealing on a table with the sun shining through the clear ice filled bag with a chilled bottle of rose nestled inside.

Lunch at La Bastitedes Magnans and Visiting Le Thoronet Abbey

Francois and Celine were kind enough to recommend a local restaurant for lunch, called La Bastide des Magnans.  They even called to make reservations for us. The experience was incredible, with a three course meal served in a garden under giant plane trees. The chef even came out to welcome us and ask how we were enjoying the food. It was a true gourmand experience.

Pork Chop Dinner with Rose
Later that afternoon we visited the famous Le Thoronet Abbey, which is an ancient Cisterian Abbey with amazing architecture. On the way back to our gite in the hills of Nice we stopped in Cannes, and took a walk on the beach, and then visited several of the expensive shops along the boulevard, including Chanel. 

Sunset and a Glass of Provence Rose

That evening, back in our gite high in the hills above Nice, we feasted on local pork chops, fresh vegetables and cheeses, and a chilled bottle of Provence rose while we watched the sun slowly slip into the ocean in the distance.

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