Living the Riviera Dream: How to Make the Most of Provence’s Coastline

The area of Provence has long since been associated with luxury, laid-back living and of course, beautiful beaches. The Romans flocked to Provence centuries ago to enjoy the scenic coastlines, rolling hills and greenery; and since then, the steady influx of people visiting the area has never really ceased. Indeed, Provence remains firmly in the top three locations in France for people looking to invest in an additional property overseas, with many choosing to reside within the French Riviera area and enjoy the advantages of living beside some of Provence’s superb coastal areas. From the upmarket glamour of Cannes to the cultural, peaceful atmosphere of Nice, Provence’s coastal cities offer no less of a pleasing experience, with fine dining, excellent night life and many attractions for visitors to enjoy. The question on many a visitor’s lips, when faced with the myriad of appealing locations that make up Provence and the Riviera is, quite simply, where should I begin? Where are the best spots that best suit me? Thankfully, Provence’s coastal areas are plentiful and diverse, ensuring that, whatever your taste, there is bound to be the perfect beach-side spot for you.

 

Living the High Life in the Côte d’Azur

For many, the real appeal of the French Riviera is the sense of opulence and sophistication that comes with many of the resorts. Perhaps it is the thrill of rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, not to mention with the throngs of celebrities that regularly visit the region (especially during Cannes Festival); or perhaps its just the glamorous, luxurious atmosphere. Whatever the reason, it is undeniable that many of the more exclusive coastal towns and cities are a highly appealing prospect for visitors to the area. Of course, a great way to explore all of the main celebrity haunts is by boat; and many cruises will take you directly to the sun-soaked shores of Nice, Saint Tropez and Marseille to bask in the upmarket ambiance. As PlanetCruise.co.uk point out, “a fly-cruise in the Mediterranean allows you to experience many fantastic ports”; which is a convenient factor for individuals looking to experience the highlights of the area in one trip. If looking for a location to stay for a holiday break onshore, Saint Tropez remains one of the most fiercely elegant spots to base yourself, with a wide variety of excellent restaurants, boutique shops and sandy beaches to relax on. In recent years, Saint Tropez has also adopted a more child-friendly attitude, which as a result, has meant that it has seen a significant increase in families holidaying there.

 

Escaping the Crowds and Enjoying a Tranquil Break


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Jeanne Menj

If the excesses of the luxury lifestyle don’t hold much appeal, then be reassured with the knowledge that the French Riviera still holds plenty of surprises. There are still several coastal towns that remain relatively low-key, maintaining a real sense of their past and keeping a truly French sense of joie de vivre in their lifestyle. One such spot is Cassis, located a mere half an hour’s drive from bustling Marseille and its airport, yet with an ambiance that is completely removed from the energetic, sumptuous atmosphere of its other coastal counterparts. Cruise passengers will find Cassis easy enough to reach, as the town is only a short drive away, as will anyone looking to explore the region by road. Here, fisherman still fish using traditional boats, and the quaint restaurants and idyllic beaches remain wonderfully uncrowded.

 

Alternatively, for those eager to enjoy some of the excellent bird watching and wildlife spotting that is available within Provence’s coastal areas, head to Eze; a rocky spot 430m above the sea below, which is just perfect for relaxing with a pair of binoculars in hand; or for those with a more adventurous spirit, leaping off the rocks with a parachute to attempt a spot of parascending!

 

Variety in the French Riviera

One of the best aspects about Provence’s coastline is the sheer variety that visitors can expect to enjoy there. From picturesque fishing villages that seem to have changed little in two hundred years, to progressive, exciting towns that teem with activities, bars and restaurants, there is a huge diversity amongst the locations. The area remains one of the most popular in France, remaining a firm favourite of cruise liners and other holiday makers, and for good reason. Small wonder that so many people who visit the area then go on to invest in a property, with so many spectacular spots to enjoy.

Provence Wines

When in France – enjoy the food, landscapes, culture, weather and wine!

Provence Drinks

vineyardThe region is most famous for her rosé wines (Bandol, Cassis, Coteaux de Provence), and for its Pastis. This aniseed-flavoured alcoholic drink is served with water – measurements vary, from very light ( usually teasingly called “the touristic measure” by the locals) to very strong ( locally called a “mummy” due to its colour). The two leading brands are Pastis 51 and Ricard. The pastis is so characteristic of the region that it is the object of several popular songs, including “51, je t’aime”.

 

Provence Wines AOC

1. Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Les Baux-de-Provence
The Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence AOC is the second largest Provençal wine appellation, covering over 50 communes in the west and northwestern regions of Provence. The area comprises the city of Aix-en-Provence and surrounding communes. Nearly 60% of the production is red wine, followed by 35% rosé and 5% white wine. The major grape varieties include Grenache, Cinsaut and Mourvedre, and Cabernet Sauvignon was introduced to the region in the 1960s. The cuttings came from the Bordeaux estate of Château La Lagune. The main white wine grapes of the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence include Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and Semillon. Some producers produce white nouveau wine (young wine) that is released in December following the harvest and only two weeks after the release of Beaujolais nouveau. Unlike the red Beaujolais wine, these Provençal white wines are not required to have the words nouveau or primeur on the label.

Within the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence is the smaller Les Baux-de-Provence AOC which was granted AOC status in 1995. The climate of the region is very hot with the surrounding valley known as the Val d’Enfer (Valley of Hell). Vineyards are centered around the hilltop village of the Les Baux-de-Provence and red grape varieties account for around 80%. with some white wine and a dry rosé. The leading grape varieties are Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. The AOC rule requires that no two varieties can compose more than 90% of the blend with Carignan, Cinsaut and Counoise permitted but at a maximize usage of 30%. The use of Cabernet Sauvignon is growing in prevalence but it limited to composing no more than 20% of the blend. The rosés of Les Baux-de-Provence are composed of a minimum 60% of Cinsaut, Grenache and Syrah with similar requirements to the AOC red wine that no two grapes varieties compose more than 90% of the blend. Baux-de-Provence was the first AOC to require all vineyards to be farmed biodynamically. The rule was adopted as producers had already converted to organic viticulture, eliminating the use of chemicals that could easily dispersed from the vines by the strong Mistral wind.

2. Bandol

BandolBandol AOC, located near the coast east of Marseille and Cassis, is one of the most internationally recognized wines of the Provence regions. Based around the fishing village of Bandol, west of Toulon, the AOC is produced by 8 communes with silicon & limestone soils. Those soils and the warm, coastal climate are ideally suited for the late ripening Mourvedre grape which is the major variety. For both the red and rosé wines, Mourvedre must account for at least 50% of the blend, though most producers will use significantly more, with Grenache and Cinsaut usually completing the composition. Syrah and Carignan are restricted in Bandol to a maximum of 15% of the blend or 10% individually. Nearly 70% of the production is red wine with rosé and a small amount of white wine making up the remainder. Red Bandol wine is characterized by its dark color with rich flavors of black fruit, vanilla, cinnamon and leather and usually requires at least 10 years of aging before it fully develop, although some is produced to be drinkable in three years. Prior to release, the wine is required to age at least 18 months in oak. The white wines of Bandol are composed primarily of Clairette, Bourboulenc and Ugni blanc. Previously Sauvignon blanc was used and is not prohibited by the AOC rules. The rosés of Bandol are characterized by spicy and earthy flavors that can resemble the Rhône rosés from Tavel AOC, with some having strawberry notes.

Bandol is the only French wine that is dominated by the Mourvedre grape, which performed differently depending on the particular terroir of the region. The soils in the northwest region, from the communes of La Brûlat to Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, are is composed of small pebbles and produce lighter, more delicate wines. On the red clay that is scattered throughout the region, the wine produced is very tannic and must be tempered with increased blending of Cinsaut and Grenache. The Grenache grape itself, it typically planted on cooler north facing slopes to prevent the grape from over ripening and making the wine highly alcoholic. The relative infertility of the soil throughout the region helps to keep yields low with the Bandol region having some of the lowest yields in France. The use of mechanical harvesting is impractical due to the style of terracing used on the hillsides and is prohibited by the rules of the AOC.

3. Cassis

The Cassis AOC, located along the coast between Marseilles and Bandol, is unique in Provençal wine region due to white wine comprising over75% of its production. The soil of is primarily limestone which is particularly suited to the cultivation of Clairette, Marsanne, Ugni blanc and Sauvignon blanc which are the major varieties of the area. The dry white wines are characterized by their full bodies, low acidity and herbal aromas that pair well with the local seafood cuisine such as bouillabaisse. Local consumption has outpaced supply and has limited the amount of Cassis wine that could be exported. Local laws are being developed in the region to protect vineyards from being overrun with commercial and residential development from the city of Marseilles.

4. Coteaux Varois

The Coteaux Varois AOC covers the central region of Provence, in the Var département from where the region’s name is derived, between the Côtes de Provence AOC and the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence AOC. The region is sheltered by the surrounding Sainte-Baume mountains which have a tempering effect on the Mediterranean influences that are common throughout Provence. This is most evident in the vineyards around Brignoles where the cooler climate causes harvesting to be carried out in November, several weeks after most Provençal wine areas have harvested in early September. This unique terroir has encouraged interest from Burgundy wine producers such as Maison Louis Latour to experiment with planting Pinot noir. The region started out as a vin de pays and was upgraded to Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) status in 1985, followed by AOC status in 1993. Over 60% of the region’s production is rosé with around 33% red wine and small amount of white wine. The main grape varieties of the region are Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan.

 

Resource: Provence Wine

 

Provence Wines Video

Tour the regions vineyards

 

Cassis

Elegant Cassis

cassis property

This charming seaside resort is snuggled at the foot of a tallest Europe cliff called Cap Canaille. Cassis is a wonderful place with a picturesque fishing port lined with cafes and restaurants.

The city around the port offers elegant villages’ houses in the old quarters, and villas on the hills, without ever losing sight of the Mediterranean Sea.

You should not miss the route des Cretes high above, which links Cassis to La Ciotat.

Above these cliffs are the famous “calanques” that go all the way to Marseille.

In the calanques, you have the possibility to make a ramble all along the 20 kms coast, to climb, or to visit the different ones by boat from Cassis.

property is Cassis Bouches du Rhone

Video: Cassis – the village, port and surrounding area

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