The summer of all possibilities

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Thirteen addresses, six regions. Our specialist returns from her trip with a head full of ideas and a bag full of images. The holidays are here.

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Château La Coste, a plunge into art

On the northern edge of the Aix-en-Provence hillsides, a narrow road winds its way through woods and vines to the entrance to the estate, two concrete walls by way of an ever-open gate erected by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The tone is set. The owner of the estate, Patrick McKillen, an Irish businessman with a passion for art and architecture, wants to give free rein to his creativity. Between the vineyards (thirty hectares organically farmed) and the pine forests, more than forty sculptures and installations interact with nature. Here, a giant spider by Louise Bourgeois levitates in the middle of a pond; there, a mobile by Calder is reflected in a mirror of water; further on, you can be carried away by the magic of Per Kirkeby’s brick labyrinth, Lee Ufan’s House of Air and Tracey Emin’s mysterious barrel. The latest acquisition, a monumental sculpture of a pregnant woman lying on her back, Mater Earth by Prune Nourry, emerges from the landscape. It’s an invitation to realise just how much Earth matters, especially on a wine estate. Other works are on display, either permanently or temporarily, in the gallery, the former winery refurbished by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the art centre and the Photography Pavilion designed by Renzo Piano. One of the highlights of the summer will be the exhibition Travels with Warhol, which runs until 15 August and features more than forty prints assembled by James Hedges, one of the world’s leading collectors of photographs by the King of Pop Art.

The +: Wine workshops. Villa La Coste & Spa and its twenty-eight suites. Six restaurants on the estate, including that of Francis Mallmann, the Argentinian master of fire-cooking, and that of the Michelin-starred Hélène Darroze.

Château La Coste 2750, route de La Cride, 13610 Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade 04 42 50 50 00

Saint-Maur, the Riviera

It’s hard to believe that the vibrant port of Tropez is only twenty minutes away! On the hillside, around a nineteenth-century building with a Hispano-Moorish feel, lie 100 hectares of vines, including those of the famous Clos de Capelune, the highest in the appellation, flirting with the blue sky at an altitude of 449 metres. Sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the coast, you can relax here all summer long at La Terrasse, a wine bar set in the middle of the vineyards with an uninterrupted view over Grimaud. You can also do a few exercises (introduction to wine tasting, wine and chocolate pairings) to give your taste buds a workout. In the evening, the hours stretch out exquisitely, with chill Tuesdays – wine, cocktails, food and an electro-lounge mix – and Thursday fresh nights with live music. Luxury in its simplest form, as we say here.

Bonus: Summer exhibition and two Sunday lounges, on 23 July and 6 August, featuring food and wine tastings and a vinyl bar (11 am – 6 pm).

Château Saint-Maur 535, route D48, 83310 Cogolin 04 94 95 48 48

La Font des Pères, a gentle slope towards summer

On this high-perched Bandol terroir, a wine cellar doubles as a farm inn and a bistro with a wide view of the Sainte-Baume massif and Mont Caume. The terraces are home not only to vines (most of them on two rows only), but also fruit trees, olive trees, herbs, a vegetable garden and a chicken coop, all sources of inspiration for the chef, Raphaël Linossier. There are several villas and guest rooms. All that’s left to do is indulge in the surrounding tranquillity.

Bonus: Visits and wine-tasting introductions, picnic backpacks. In Sanary, the Comptoir de la Font des Pères offers all the flavours of the estate by the sea.

Domaine de la Font des Pères Chemin de la Font des Pères, 83330 Le Beausset 04 94 15 21 21

 

Clos Canereccia, an island under the wine

“Making wine is good, sharing it is better” is the motto of Christian Estève, whose vines are planted just a stone’s throw from the listed ancient town of Aléria. Ready to travel back in time? The cellar, housed in an old concrete vat, takes us on a journey through the history of Corsican wines, from the Etruscans and Romans to the final landing, with three very contemporary cuvées, aged in clay amphorae, one of which is made from carcaghjolu neru, an indigenous grape variety that has been brought up to date.

Bonus: Until September, Spuntinu vignaghjolu, a winegrower’s aperitif in the cellar, at the foot of the vines, and Vinu è savori, a tour followed by wine and food pairings, charcuterie and local cheeses.

Clos Canereccia Chemin de Rotani, 20270 Aléria 04 95 34 17 85

 

LOIRE VALLEY

Maison Edonis and Clos Cristal, troglodytes

What’s new under the Loire sun? Hedonism according to Edonis, the new institutional and commercial brand launched in 2022 by the Robert et Marcel winery, a benchmark for Saumur and Bourgueil wines since 1957. The aim? To provide a personalised experience that goes beyond wine tasting, with encounters, sensory and immersive experiences”, explains Nicolas Emereau, the cellar’s Managing Director. “Wine is no longer just the core of our business, it’s part of a whole. By 2030, our vision is to become the player that brings the sensory richness of the Loire Valley to life. The new Edonis discovery trail begins in a troglodyte house located in one of the oldest cellars in La Perrière. From the vestibule to the library, from the patio to the kitchen, one experience follows another. Capsules created from iconic vintages engage visitors’ imaginations with sound creations that accompany the tasting of twelve wines typical of the Loire vineyards. In the refectory, where the oratorians once ate their meals in silence, winemakers and oenologists run a number of private workshops. Another area is reserved for the traditional method of making De Chanceny Vouvrays, Saumurs and Crémants de Loire. The large sampling room showcases the subtle art of blending. This is the highlight of our initiation, where we learn the historic gesture of disgorging on the fly and the delicate art of dosage. In the Loire Cosmos gallery, created in partnership with sparkling wine expert Gérard Liger-Belair, a teacher and researcher at the University of Reims, we follow the odyssey of a bubble through a visual and sound sequence and a “meditative tasting” of De Chanceny bubbles. The tour continues to the edge of the Saumur-Champigny region, following in the footsteps of Antoine Cristal, the creator of Clos Cristal in Champigny in 1890. The winery has now been taken over by Robert et Marcel, which signed a 25-year long lease with Saumur Hospital in 2018. Listed as a historic monument, “it is part of a rare line of great man-made vineyards in the world”, explains Nicolas Emereau. It was the birthplace of the first great Saumur-Champigny red wine, which Georges Clémenceau and Claude Monet, among others, loved. Behind its perimeter walls lie ten hectares of organically-farmed vines, eleven parallel walls planted from east to west, and an ingenious method of cultivation. The vines are planted on the north side and, halfway up the wall, pass through a hole on the other side, allowing the shoots, foliage and bunches to grow on the south side. With their feet in the cool air and their bellies in the sun, these “through-the-wall” vines can gain between a fortnight and three weeks in ripeness compared with intermediate rows. This method will enable the red wine, and in particular the Champigny, to take Saumur’s reputation beyond its borders. This summer, this long-secret estate is opening its doors to the general public, who are free to wander around and learn more about this legendary site. You can continue your discovery on Fridays 23 June, 7 and 21 July during “Antoine’s lunches”, when five great Saumur-Champigny wines, including Clos Cristal, will be commented on by the winemakers (booking essential). The Clos will also see its “starry walls” at nightfall on four evenings (Tuesdays 7 and 25 July and 8 and 22 August), when piano notes will mingle with the joyous effervescence of De Chanceny Crémant de Loire. It’s the perfect time to savour the words of Edward VII of England to Antoine Cristal: “If the alchemists of the Great Work had known your wines, they would not have looked any further for drinking gold”.

Bonus: Near Maison Edonis, visit the Château de Brézé with its magnificent troglodyte network. Take a stroll through Souzay-Champigny, where underground streets link sinkholes and pretty manor houses clinging to the cliffs.

Maison Edonis Route de la Perrière, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg, 49260 Bellevigne-les-Châteaux 02 41 53 06 18 – Clos Cristal Rue du Clos Cristal, 49400 Souzay-Champigny 02 41 53 06 21

Bouvet Ladubay, cultural effervescence

On the banks of the River Thouet, the house founded in 1851 by Etienne Bouvet and run since 1932 by the Monmousseau family is not only the leading producer and exporter of fine bubbles, mainly brut brines and crémants from the Loire, but also a mecca for art and culture. Its eight kilometres of cellars carved out of the tufa rock on the site of the “belle d’Anjou”, once one of the most powerful Benedictine abbeys, attract thousands of visitors from all over the world every year. On foot or by bike, you can discover all the stages in the production of the traditional method, from the first fermentation to the packaging of the bottles, as well as the astonishing Sunken Cathedral, a fabulous collection of thirty-five sculptures created in the rock by Philippe Cormand. After a break to sample several cuvées of fine bubbles, the tour continues into the history of the company (“cellars & heritage” tour) via its archives, the collection of 5,000 original labels, Etienne Bouvet’s still intact office and the small theatre he had built for his employees in the 19th century. Back to the present, opposite the cellars, a contemporary art centre whose aim is to “revive the pleasure and spirit of La Renaissance”. The venue’s thirtieth anniversary is being celebrated until 1 October with Rappels en parallèle, a tour designed by Cécile Bart, all “colour and movement”, like bubbles fluttering in the flutes.

Bonus: This is the land of horses and the Cadre Noir, as demonstrated by the permanent exhibition of over twenty horse-drawn vehicles, in association with Saumur Attelage and the French Horse and Riding Institute (IFCE).

Bouvet Ladubay Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, 49400 Saumur 02 41 83 83 83

 

BORDEAUX REGION

Dauzac, the faces of a great estate

A park full of sheep, forests bordering a vast single vineyard (49 hectares), the setting is perfect for a break from the Médoc. Time to discover all the “secrets of a vintage” in the footsteps of the cellar master, to visit the estate “with your guide in the heart of the terroir” on an all-terrain electric scooter, or to embark on a treasure hunt around the story of the Comte de Dauzac, peer of France and mayor of Bordeaux, who became the owner of the estate in 1783. Standing on the balcony of the Carthusian monastery (which has just been given a facelift), it is said that he liked to use his spyglass to observe the Gironde, from where boats loaded with barrels set sail for northern Europe. Another resurgence from the past is a plot of free-standing vines planted in 2017, bringing back a taste for Cabernet from the time of the 1855 classification. As Laurent Fortin, who runs Dauzac, points out, “it’s an opportunity to get as close as possible to the typical expression of our terroirs, but it’s also a fantastic experience for looking to the future and getting to grips with the upheavals linked to global warming”.

Bonus: cookery classes and gourmet workshops (including Japanese Wagyu beef), picnic at the château, honey harvest with the beekeeper. …………

Château Dauzac 1, avenue Georges Johnston, 33460 Labarde 0557 88 98 51

Lafaurie-Peyraguey, gold and crystal

On the high terrace of Sauternes gravel, wine, crystal, gastronomy and hospitality meet. “Because there are definite connections between the worlds of creation,” explains Silvio Denz, who has owned the premises since 2014 and is also CEO of Lalique. His aim is to offer his guests “an unparalleled experience, sharing a unique heritage and creating the emotion generated by a premier cru classé”. To achieve this, everything has been brought together. First, a five-star hotel (Relais & Châteaux) decorated by Lady Tina Green and Pietro Mingarelli (creators of Lalique Maison furniture, accessories and textiles) where the vine sets the tone. Bunches of grapes are embroidered on the bath sheets and engraved on the handles of the taps. Next, a two-star restaurant with a glass roof overlooking the vineyards, designed by architect Mario Botta. Jérôme Schilling, the “chef of the vines”, passes on his organoleptic experience in his Le Terroir du Sauternais and Grain Noble menus. He works closely with Romain Iltis, who has designed an ambitious wine list of 2,600 wines, mainly from Bordeaux. At any time of day, you can enjoy a refreshing SweetZ by Lafaurie-Peyraguey, a Sauternes served with a few ice cubes and a twist of orange, by the fireplace or in the square courtyard. In the words of Henri Clouzot, an art historian writing about René Lalique, there is “enough here to send a shiver of new beauty through the world”.

Bonus: temporary summer terrace open until 30 September, where you can enjoy seafood, shellfish, fish and seasonal vegetables cooked in a brazier.

Château Lafaurie Peyraguey Lieu-dit, Peyraguey, 33210 Bommes 05 56 76 60 54

 

Clos Dubreuil and the secret of the walls

By Béatrice Brasseur

In the space of twenty years, he has turned an enclosed area into a hamlet. Benoît Trocard prefers openness to secrecy, both in spirit and in action. From the original mono-terroir, he has moved on to a mosaic of plots with unique and differentiated personalities. Instead of uniformity, he prefers coherence in diversity. From a pretty, anonymous wine, he has created an atypical cru, classified in 2022. Instead of conformity without questioning, he prefers creative ambition. Benoit Trocard represents the fifteenth generation of a family of winegrowers who have been established in Saint-Émilion for four centuries. While respecting and nurturing the family heritage (almost a hundred hectares and around fifteen properties on the right bank), he has written his own original story. It began in 2002 with a piece of land no bigger than a blank sheet of paper, 1.5 hectares in Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes. At the time, he was living and working 17,000 km away, making Merlot and Chardonnay in the Yara Valley, near Melbourne in Australia. He had no desire to return home. But his father urged him to come and see a piece of land on a small piece of property. They say the wine is worth the diversions. Months went by and at last father and son were reunited, faced with almost nothing. An uninteresting house with rudimentary facilities. From the top of the hill, however, the view over the Saint-Emilion region and the surrounding appellations is splendid. All that’s left to do is taste: “The 2001 in barrels and the 2002 just harvested were overwhelming,” recalls Benoît Trocard. “Clearly, something was happening in this terroir. The impression was so strong that he abandoned his projects at the other end of the world and returned “home”. He set about creating an estate capable of producing the wine he loved, with “a predominance of Merlot, the king of grapes, powerful and dense, elegant, round, rich, alert, fresh, a modern Saint-Emilion”. A wealthy Texan tasted Benoît’s first vintages and offered to buy Clos Dubreuil. No way, it’s his baby. They joined forces. The estate gradually added new plots, and today covers 8.5 hectares of well-exposed, naturally drained clay-limestone soils, planted with 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Incongruous in Bordeaux, the Chardonnay occupies 1.25 hectares and produces a fresh, chiselled, pure white wine. In the vineyard, neither insecticides nor anti-botrytis agents are used, instead biocontrol products and organic soil improvers are used, hedges and shrubs are reintroduced, grass is planted and a horse is used for maintenance under the rows. A new gravity-fed vat room allows for parcel-by-parcel vinification, with manual punching of the cap and pumping over by bucket. The new underground cellar is under the protection of Saint-Christophe, patron saint of the commune and of travellers. The latter are now welcome at the estate to discover the grand vin, a classified Saint-Émilion since 2022, a point of pride for Benoît, but also the second wine, named Anna, the Bordeaux clairet named Clara and finally the white made from Chardonnay. In the midst of the vineyards, Clos Dubreuil has become a hamlet devoted to top-of-the-range wine tourism. On the central square, planted with holm oaks, you’ll find a wine bar-grocery shop-table d’hôtes with old-fashioned fridges, antique crockery and period zinc (ex-Café Bellini in Bordeaux). Here you can taste Benoît’s wines, those of the Trocard family and those of winegrower friends. The dishes include a selection of the best restaurants and producers from the Basque country, Landes, Charentes and Gironde. The most delectable of all is to stay in one of the six suites of the superb stone mansion – nothing flashy about the decor, but a great deal of attention to quality – and indulge in the culinary delights of private chefs and magnificent wines, while taking advantage of a fully personalised programme of tours. A former top-level rider, the winegrower remains passionate about sport. For him, wine and health are not incompatible, but “reflect the same quest for pleasure”. Hence this original concept of a coach to accompany the most sporty (swimming pool, cycling, spa, massages). Amélie Mauresmo, tennis champion and wine lover, loves the idea. “It took me twenty years to put all the pieces together,” says Benoît Trocard. “Enthusiasts will come here not just to taste, but to experience Clos Dubreuil.

Clos du Breuil Château du Breuil 33250 Cissac-Médoc 05 56 59 58 13

Since this article was written, Benoît Trocard’s American partner has become a majority shareholder in the property.

 

Rhône Valley

Brotte, the museum under the pebbles

Jeanne Brotte was a pioneer in wine tourism, creating a wine museum in the heart of Châteauneuf in 1972. Today, Laurent, who runs the winery founded in 1931 with his wife Christine and sons Thibault and Benoît, is carrying on his grandmother’s work and bringing it up to date. On a 500 m2 site, visitors can follow in the footsteps of the winemaker along an interactive trail dotted with old exhibits, some of them impressive, such as a 4,000 hectolitre chestnut barrel dating back to the 14th century. You’ll learn a lot about Châteauneuf’s know-how, its mastery of a complex climate (hot and dry) and varied soils (pebbles, broken limestone and sand), and the practices required by this demanding appellation (manual harvesting, low yields); the Grenache grape, and the care needed to bring it out without masking it (stirring the lees for greater roundness, ageing mainly in century-old oak tuns of between 3,600 and 5,800 litres); and lastly, the white wines of the Rhône, which are still too little known, yet have great potential in terms of fruit and freshness. This fascinating exploration includes tastings with commentary of in-house vintages of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Domaine Barville), Cairanne (Domaine Grosset) and Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Laudun (Château de Bord), which are also featured in the “Wines and Delicacies” workshops.

Bonus: Continue your tour at the top of the village, where you will see the remains of the castle built in the 14th century as the summer residence of the popes of Avignon. Educational vineyard nearby, with views over the valley.

Brotte Wine Museum Avenue Saint-Pierre de Luxembourg, 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 04 90 83 59 44

Cave de Tain, celebrating the north

90 years ago this year, the Cave de Tain was born at the foot of the Hermitage hill, the kingdom of Syrah, Roussanne and Marsanne. This anniversary will light up the summer between the waves of the Rhône and the terroirs of the Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Cornas and Saint Péray appellations. Aperitifs on the water, electric scooters or gyropods on the legendary hillsides, and vineyard walks. There will also be tastings from vine to glass to learn more about each grape variety and how they are vinified, and to discover this season’s new releases, an orange wine from the 2021 vintage (IGP collinesrhodaniennes) and two vins de France, one 100% syrah and a blend of marsanne and viognier. The best place to enjoy them? The rooftop of the new Villa Caroube, facing the cellar, with your eyes on the vines.

Bonus: On 16, 17 and 18 June, a made-to-measure programme, including an aperitif dinner with Japanese chef Rika Bau, a wine and food pairing dinner in the Hermitage vineyards with chef Damien Barjon, a treasure hunt in the footsteps of Louis Gambert de Loche, founder of the winery, etc.

Cave de Tain 22, route de Larnage, Tain-l’Hermitage 04 75 08 91 86

Maison Cave de Tain 9, avenue du Président Roosevelt, Tain-l’Hermitage 04 75 08 91 91

Terres de Syrah (wine tourism centre) 29 Avenue du Président Roosevelt, Tain-l’Hermitage 04 75 08 91 91

CHAMPAGNE

Pommery, art forever

Three exhibitions in three locations are the perfect way to celebrate twenty years of contemporary art and the “Pommery Experience”. While Forever translates the notion of eternity in the cellars, Forever Brut, in the Pompadour cellar, looks back at Louise Pommery’s creation of the first brut champagne in history, in 1874. A journey between past and present, with archive documents, photos and other visual elements designed by Lef Kazouka. The third event, Extra Ordinaire, takes place at the Villa Demoiselle. Paintings by Maxime Maufra, Pierre Bonnard and others from the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Reims depicting the ‘new’ woman of the Belle Époque are set against paintings and ceramics by 21st-century artists. To round off the tour, a Demoiselle or Diamant cuvée will keep you on your toes.

Bonus: The Villa Demoiselle and its collection of Art Nouveau, the clos Pompadour, the terrace of the restaurant Le Réfectoire.

Vranken-Pommery 5, place du Général Gouraud, 51100 Reims 03 26 61 62 56

 

Mumm, a chef’s residence

Over the last few weeks, the Cordon Rouge, the historic home of G.H. Mumm in the heart of Reims, has been buzzing with activity. Opening its doors to the public for the first time, it has just inaugurated La Table des Chefs, an innovative gourmet concept inspired by artists’ residencies. For three months, young chefs, both well-known and emerging, take it in turns to take charge of the kitchen. They then have carte blanche to interpret the Champagne region in their own way. It’s a promise of ever-changing combinations, full of surprises, between the dishes and the G.H. Mumm cuvées, including the emblematic Cordon Rouge and the 100% grand cru RSRV. The setting, in harmony with the idea of gourmet exploration, unfolds its spaces like the stages of a journey. The lounge ‘bar side’ is the heart of the experience, where the chef in residence officiates. It offers a menu of cocktails, wines and G.H. Mumm champagnes. All around, you can sit back and enjoy the ambience of your choice. The celadon lounge exudes the atmosphere of the great explorations of the 19th century, the collector’s lounge brings together the cultures of the world in a clever mix of precious objects, and the terrace opens onto a verdant garden. The first to take up the piano is 26-year-old Mallory Gabsi, a rising star on the new gastronomic scene, a notable candidate in Top Chef 2020, and a Michelin-starred “young chef of the year” in 2023. The name of his successor from 12 August is being kept secret.

Bonus: Guided tour of the cellars followed by captivating experiments. For example, a multi-sensory tasting of the Mumm Millésimé 2013 and Grand Cordon Rosé cuvées devised with a neuroscientist, or the pairing of two RSRV cuvées with four cheeses matured by an artisan cheesemaker.

La Table des Chefs by Mumm 34, rue du Champ de Mars, 51100 Reims mumm.com

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