Harry and Marie’s Blending Trip to France
Our primary purpose visiting France this past November was to create our 2016 Rosé de Printemps in Provence (check us out at rosedeprintemps.com and follow us on instagram @drinkprintemps). However, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a handful of our favorite French producers while we were there. It was a whirlwind trip including stops in the Loire Valley, Corsica, Provence, and Southwest France…and Harry may or may not have been mistaken by an entire bar of French people as Russel Crow.
Besides that, here are some highlights and Grassrootsian travel tips:
We started off at the gateway of the Loire Valley, the city of Nantes: home of Jules Vern and a strange elephant statue erected to commemorate him, as well as some fanastic Brittany-style cider and crêpes.
While in the Loire, we visited two of our top producers in Muscadet: Michel Delhommeau and Domaine de la Fruitiere. The town of Clisson is incredibly picturesque with weeping willows dipping into the Sèvre River, an ancient castle cresting the skyline, a really way-better-than-decent riverside Best Western, a top notch restaurant (Restaurant De La Vallée), and Cafe des Cordeliers—a great heavy-metal themed bar (yes, you heard me—Clisson is home to France’s largest Metal Festival called Hellfest. Party on Garth.).
We came away from Muscadet thinking that this region is home to some of the most incredible values in white wine in all of France. With the new cru system designating the best sites in Muscadet, the prices are likely to go up, but for now it’s easy to drink very well if you find the right producers. Look for smaller independent and sustainable producers like Delhommeau and Fruitiere, and seek out the crus if you can (we especially love Clisson, Chateau Thebaud, Monnières-St. Fiacre), and don’t be afraid to try quality Muscadets with some age to them.
After Muscadet we headed to Corisca for a short trip to visit a winery on the east coast. All we can say is: GO TO THERE. Corsica is incredibly beautiful, lively, and rustic. The wines of the Patrimonio valley are world famous, the city of Bastia has a crumbling charm to it and a sunny morning market, the cheeses are funky, and the names of grapes are hilariously hard to pronounce. When you go, avoid the most touristy months of May-August, and make to explore the quaint fishing village of Saint-Florent which is justly known as the St. Tropez of Corsica.
From Corisca we went to the Provencial town of Carcès to blend our Rosé de Printemps. Read more about that adventure on our Printemps post.
We stopped in Bandol and spent the night in a quintessential French Rivieria town called Sanary sur Mer, home to many American and English ex-pats during the first part of the 20th centry. The small harbor is filled with antique sailing and fishing boats, and the morning market showcases glimmering fresh seafood, local cheeses, and bright produce. We stayed at Hôtel de La Tour and had a fantastic meal at La Baraudeur.
For our next stop we headed west to visit our Picpoul producer in Florensac. On the way we detoured to check out the Etang de Thau, a salty lagoon with traditional oyster farmers dotting its shore. You can buy oysters directly from the farms and either eat them there or pack them up and take them to go.
After the oysters and Picpoul (a crisp, refreshing white grown on limestone soils), we visited Villa Symposia, a small producer of Carignan-, Grenache- and Syrah-based red wines in the Languedoc. The property was stunning, with very chic rooms available to rent as part of their adjacent Bed and Breakfast.
Our trip ended on the border of Spain in the Roussillon region with the Pyrenees mountains providing a dramatic backdrop. This is a wild and windy region, formerly a part of Catalonia, where even grapes and olive trees struggle to grow. Our producer, Domaine Força Réal makes delicous, rustic wines from the rugged landscape.
Vive la France!