France

Beaujolais Nouveau Day

At midnight tonight, the third Thursday of November, France celebrates their annual tradition…the uncorking of the new Beaujolais Nouveau wine and the beginning of “Beaujolais Nouveau Day.”

Beaujolais Nouveau (pronunciation) is a red wine made from the Gamay grapes, first planted by the Romans in the Beaujolais Province south of the Burgundy region/north of Lyon. The grapes must come only from the Beaujolais AOC, a 34-mile long region, and by law they must be picked by hand. Why? Because Beaujolais is made using the carbonic maceration wine making process or whole berry fermentation. This process preserves the fresh fruit flavors for the wine without extracting the bitter tannins from the grape skins.

The result? A light-bodied fruity easy to drink wine ready in just 6-8 weeks after harvest, best served slightly cool (about 55 degrees Fahrenheit) to bring out the fruit flavors.

Beaujolais had always made a wine to celebrate the end of harvest season, but until WWII it was only for local consumption. In 1938 (once the Beaujolais AOC was established in 1937), AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlée, France’s wine classification system) rules said Beaujolais wine could only be officially sold after December 15 in the harvest year. The rules were relaxed in 1951 and the Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais (UIVB) set November 15 as the release date for Beaujolais Nouveau (later moved to the third Thursday of November to take advantage of the weekend).

A few members of the UIVB, like Georges Duboeuf, saw great marketing potential and the idea was born of a race to Paris carrying the first bottles of the new vintage. This attracted a lot of media coverage, and by the 1970s had become a national event still celebrated in Paris. Duboeuf remains the biggest producer of Beaujolais Nouveau (you’ll know their floral labels which are newly designed each year). This year the first bottles of Georges Duboeuf 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau in the U.S. will be delivered into the hands of Actress Molly Sims and Franck Duboeuf for the official uncorking on November 18 at New York City’s new District 36 club.

Cheers to the 2010 vintage and the big party over the next few days in Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region!

Journey of Provence: Conclusion

On our 8 day journey, we barely scratched the surface of everything Provence has to offer. You could spend a year and still have more to explore. Its charm, sunshine, scents of lavender, colorful country-sides of grape and olives, beautiful landscapes and mountains have made it a favorite holiday spot for thousands of years.

I’d love to go back and spend a full week in each of my favorite Must GO’s:

  • Avignon & Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Papal Palace, wineries
  • Gordes: during July for blooming lavendar fields and Abbaye de Sénanque
  • Les-Beaux-de-Provence: a village unlike any other

Visit the whole series Journey of Provence for all the details and take a photo tour in the gallery.

I’ll close with a list of spots on my Provence ‘wish list’ for future trips…

  • Grand Canyon du Verdon: Euorpe’s Grand Canyon
  • Arles for Roman relics
  • St-Rémy-de-Provence: Roman ruins, van Gogh inspiration, Château Romanin winery
  • Roussillon: amazing landscape from the mining of Ochre has created a red and gold earth village
  • Cassis: Provençal fishing village and port below France’s highest coastal cliffs
  • Vacqueyras: prestigious wine village
  • St-Paul-de-Vence: 16th century rampart walls, beautiful views to the coast
  • Grasse: perfume fills the air thanks to the perfume factories

Check out these great resources I tapped into for our trip and for capturing it in this series, DK’s Eyewitness Top 10 Provence & Côte d’Azur, The Most Beautiful Villages of France, Vaucluse Tourism in Provence.

Journey of Provence: The Coast

The Côte d’Azur is France’s famous beach resort coast running from St-Tropez through the French Riviera to the Italian border. The French Riviera is definitely a trip worth making … home to Nice (Old City and port), Monte Carlo (Casino and opulence), and Cannes (luxury and world renowned film festivals) … but my favorite spot on the coast is St-Tropez.

Day 5 we drove past Aix-en-Provence, across the Var region (with a stop in Les Arc for Côtes de Provence wine) and into St Tropez for the final days of our trip.

St-Tropez is the perfect mix of quaint fishing village, holiday resort and ‘rich and famous,’ made so by the many fashion icons (in the 1930s Coco Chanel), writers, painters and the film industry (mainly 1950s Brigitte Bardot in And Got Created Woman) capturing its beauty for the world to see.  Its a great spot for a few day visit and, while a little pricey side, it combines everything the Côte d’Azur has to offer yet feels very welcoming.

Must GO’s for your visit…

  • Vieux Port: Sure to be a central part of your visit its the view you see in the pictures, full of yachts and local fishing boats, lined with cafes and bistros, painters selling gorgeous works of this famous view with the iconic Eglise de St-Tropez tower peaking above town. We spent several afternoons at Café le Sénéquier with an aperitif people and yacht watching.
  • Stroll and Shop: From the Port, meander your way through the streets of great shopping to reach the central squre Place des Lices.  Shaded by giant plane trees, its home to the market Tuesday and Saturday morning for gorgeous fruits, veggies, flowers, antiques and my favorite woven shopping baskets. Line with great cafes, grab a spot on a non-market day to watch the locals play pétanque. Our October trip also put us there during Autumn Super Sale… a weekend where every shop sets up sale tables outside their door with dramatic price reductions.  It was fantastic… I got 4 bathing suits from Kiwi, the great French shop, for €60.
  • The Citadel – Climb to the top of town to visit the fortress’ 17th century ramparts, towers and great views into town and across to the French Riviera.
  • Pampelonne Beach – This 3 mile stretch of sand has a beach club for everyone. Club 55 is the hot spot for a great afternoon bite and chilled local bottle of Chateau Barbeyrolles (also used as spot while filming And Got Created Woman).
  • Dining – You’ll eat well with so many restaurants and cuisines from which to chose…renowned Colette and Le Spoon to small bistros like Grenadine, a cozy spot for their fish specialties.

We stayed at La Yaca, an 18th century Provencal manor up the hill on a cobblestone street, that’s played host to Orson Welles and Greta Garbo in the past. On my first trip I stayed at the Le Ponche, an intimate 4 star beauty right on the sea in the La Ponche district.

The perfect end to our Journey of Provence. Until next time…

Journey of Provence: The Wine

The wines of Provence’s 6 regions could take you months and years to cover so what a great place to explore!  During our 8 day Journey we covered 4 key AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Controlée, France’s wine classification system).

Côtes-du-Rhône

These wines have a longer history than any other French wine dating back to the Romans in 125 BC. Avignon is the capital city of the Côtes-du-Rhône wines which cover 100,000 acres and became an AOC back in 1937. The Southern Rhône where we explored is mostly red wine made predominantly of the Grenache grape but increasingly supplemented with Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes. Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages is further special distinction.  They all tend to be rich in flavor with smooth tannins.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape

A beautiful town on the Rhône just north of Avignon is the heart of the Southern Rhône region and sums up all its qualities, a full, meaty, spicy red wine. Thus its popularity around the world (you may know it from its distinctive, heavy dark embossed with papal insignia bottles). We visited the Château des Fines Roches castle from the road and enjoyed a tasting of several of the wines from their vineyards.

Côtes du Luberon

An AOC since 1988, the 7,500 acres of vineyards from Cavaillon to Apt mostly go to cooperatives for Vin de Pays (local table wine). However in the last 15 years the quality is improving thanks to key vineyards like Domaine de la Citadelle, owned by Yves Rousset-Rouard, a film producer and politican, who built this Corkscrew Museum and winery. We stopped in for a tasting of their classic Luberons which were quite nice. Luberon wines were also featured in Peter Mayle’s A Good Year book and movie made my Ridley Scott (both live in the area).

Côtes-de-Provence

Know for its famous summer sipping rosé wines, it offers great whites and reds as well. As we crossed the Var region in route to St-Tropez, we stopped into the famous Château Sainte Roseline outside Les-Arc. It was definitely my favorite vineyard of our trip… for its great tasting room, knowledgable staff, great tasting of wines and the gorgeous property. Located in a 10th century abbey, the chapel itself is worth a visit. A Chagall mosaic Le Rapa Anges (The Angel’s Meal) depicts 14th century Sainte Roseline’s miracle… so entranced in prayer she forgot to make the large meal she was supposed to do so called on the angels who came down and produced an extravagant feast.  From award winning wines to cool packaging this is a winery to visit and a wine to try.

Coming tomorrow: The Coast. For more photos of our Journey visit the gallery.

Journey of Provence: The Villages Map

This Provence map captures most of the Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhone regions where all the Villages we visited are.