If you are an experienced yacht charterer, you will no doubt have indulged in one of yachting’s simplest, yet most exquisite pleasures: a glass of chilled, salmon-hued rosé on a hot Mediterranean summer’s afternoon, with some of the coastline’s most stunning scenery as a backdrop. This crisp, fruity wine is dangerously easy to drink, especially when on holidays!
It’s rather fitting, therefore, that the home of this current flavour of the month in the wine world just happens to be the vineyards that fan out from the yachting mecca that is St Tropez. It’s like yachting and the pink drink were always meant to be!
Yet, perhaps because of this association between Provence and rosé, the other wines of the region are often overlooked, with yacht charter guests understandably displaying a preference for the better-known red wines of the Rhône and Bordeaux and big name white wines of the Loire and Burgundy. Yet, when you look beyond the rosé in Provence, there are some high quality drops offering excellent value for money to be found.
Befitting the region’s warm, Mediterranean climate, the classic red grapes of Provence are Syrah (Shiraz), Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and the lesser known Cinsault and Mourvèdre. The latter is a grape that flourishes in the coastal vineyards surrounding the pretty fishing village of Bandol, located in between Toulon and La Ciotat. In fact, the AOC Bandol is an appellation that conjures up a little slice of red wine magic in Provence; deep, structured and rich wines overflowing with black fruit and liquorice hints in their youth, which develop into spicier, jammier characteristics as the wine ages. And boy, can these wines age. As early as the 19th century, connoisseurs in far-flung destinations like the French West Indies, India and Brazil were enjoying a glass of Bandol, as was Louis XV, one of the appellations’ earliest celebratory fans.
Today, properties to look out for include Château de Pibarnon and Domaine Tempier, arguably responsible for the appellation’s most outstanding wines.
You don’t have to travel far from Bandol to find another picture perfect fishing village: Cassis. And, just like Bandol is synonymous with red wine, Cassis just happens to produce some of the finest white wines in Provence. Another appellation in it’s own right, the AOC Cassis lays claim to being one of the oldest in France and 80 percent of its production is white. The grape varieties? The rich Marsanne and quintessentially Provençal Clairette are the main ingredients, and the resulting wine is a herby, full-bodied treat and a great match to local gourmet specialties such as Bouillabaisse and Aoili. Properties to look out for (and worth a detour for some stunning ocean views) are Clos Sainte Magdeleine and Domaine du Paternel.
Besides the AOC Cassis, the other great white grape of Provence is Rolle (aka Vermentino). This classic Mediterranean variety thrives in the soil of Provence and some seriously complex and intriguing wines are being made from it; try Domaine de Gavaisson, a vineyard devoted to producing exclusively white wines in the sea of rosé that is Provence.
The monthly wine blog for Bespoke Yacht Charter is written by Chrissie McClatchie, an Australian freelance wine professional and writer who has been selling fine wine to superyachts since her arrival in Nice in 2007. Today she also teaches WSET wine courses and conducts guided visits through Nice’s AOC Bellet.