Due South: How To Learn About Wine From Visiting The Winery

Often with visiting the winery itself, you get the opportunity to talk to the winemaker, ask about the wine and enjoy it. So much so that you will buy several bottles for your gite.


It feels like I have been away from my blog for sometime now. In fact I have only had 2 posts since the beginning of April and it is now May 19. In the last 42 days I have only spent 14 in Canada as I was traveling for work as well as a long awaited Southern France vacation to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. So yes I am pretty lucky and I have new experiences and ideas for Vines and Voyages.

Back in the winter when I was planning the France vacay, I was  trying to make sure I had everyone’s needs taken care of, @benton8tor loves the outdoor activities, my mom the markets and my dad, well he just loves the colours and lifestyle of Provence. So I made sure we hit up lots of local markers, scheduled a hike for @benton8tor and booked a gite so my dad could enjoy his coffee on the patio overlooking grape vines every morning with his fresh croissant. But for me, I wanted to make sure I did lots of wine tasting. Now I am a big fan of wine tours as an introduction to a region ( Nowhere is this more helpful than Beaune) but my absolute favourite activity is discovering local wineries. This is best orchestrated for me by driving around the villages looking for sign that say ouvert and degustation and me screaming stop @benton8tor. Not sure how we discovered this way of tasting wine but I am pretty sure it links back to the Lancon de Provence tourist office which gave us a map of wineries when we asked about tours. Either way I much prefer driving around the region and finding the local wineries.In fact on a recent visit to Jura, which has fascinating wine, I failed to see the local degustation signs scattered amongst the countryside. Jura is beautiful but it did not stop me sulking to @benton8tor that I didn’t feel like I was in France without the signs and impromptu tastings. He just rolled his eyes. And we still did tastings

So this last vacation, I had planned on leaving some ‘drive time’ for the vacation. My cousin Christopher facebooked me in February to let me know if it was alright if he joined us for part of the trip. “Of course” I say. “Great’ he responds ” I am really looking forward to wine tasting with you.”

Fast forward a few weeks and he keeps asking me about tours and I keep telling him not to worry. It had not crossed my mind, he would was expecting a formal tour. So when we finally picked him up in Avignon, he asked me how much he he owed for a wine tour.’Nothing” I tell him. He looks puzzled. I explain that we simply drive up and taste. But he wasn’t  buying it.

So after the L’Isle Sur La Sorgue market. I scream stop to @benton8tor as we pass a Luberon vineyard. We drive up and indeed degustation is possible. Christopher, @benton8tor and I all taste and savour. This happens several more times throughout the vacation. 11 times to be exact and each time, Christopher who had primarily drunk Australian or Canada wine, started to appreciate the subtle differences in wine flavours, understand terroir and appreciate the process.thumbnail_IMG_3075 Often with visiting the winery itself, you get the opportunity to talk to the winemaker, ask about the wine and enjoy it. So much so that you will buy several bottles for your gite. ” I can’t believe you can just drive up” he exclaims, “I love it”. I try my best not to look smug. I fail

My standouts this trip were the Luberon winery of Chateau Fontvert, https://www.fontvert.com/?lang=en the Chateauneuf du Pape winery of Chateau de la Gardine http://www.gardine.com/en/ and the Lirac Cuvee Imperial. Each of these wineries provided us with the most beautiful, silky, and complex wines of the trip. Oh yeah and @benton8tor got his beloved Provencal roses, But that and exploring France’s undiscovered wineries is for another post. Until then, enjoy.

5 Recommended Vineyard Wine Tastings in Provence

Pick up a bottle of your favourite, buy some local cheese,a baguette and some fruit or olives and head for the hills and enjoy a wonderful French picnic. Afterwards head back to Bandol for a dip in the Mediterranean and you will have had the perfect Provencal day. Just remember to stop and smell the lavender

Provence the land of lavender and honey And wine of course! Provence has itsown  AOC wine designation and alsocovers part of the the Southern Rhone AOC as well. So your opportunities for tasting are endless, but where to start? Well that can be the confusing part. Do you do a wine tour? Do you just drive up to a winery? How do you manage the tasting? How do you know which are the best? Well a wine tour is a great way to introduce yourself to the region but how to really find those off the beaten path smaller wineries with  delicious wines? Well your best bet is to go to a local tourist office and ask for a map of wineries. My preferred method is get a map, pick one winery and set the GPS. En Route  I will see several other wineries and scream “degustation (taste) stop!”  and order @benton8tor to stop. Side note, this is not @benton8tor’s preferred method. That said, he will be the first to admit that we have discovered some amazing wines this way. Including his all time favourite Provencal rose. So with that, here are my top five recommended stops in Provence.

5. Domaine Le Galantin: Located in the famous Bandol wine region, Domaine Le Galantin is a small tasting room but heavily favoured by locals. Which is always a good sign. We pulled in for a tasting and were warmly greeted by the proprietor. We tasted Cuvee D’Achille white, red and rose. I was a fan of the red.IMG_4968 As with many Bandol wines, it was bold with dark fruit overtones and easily drinkable. But the rose, which was @benton8tor’s favourite was delicate, fruity, bright, and refreshing. The tasting room itself was rustic, welcoming and a definite must stop in Provence. Pick up a bottle of your favourite, buy some local cheese,a baguette and some fruit or olives and head for the hills and enjoy a wonderful French picnic. Afterwards head back to Bandol for a dip in the Mediterranean and you will have had the perfect Provencal day. Just remember to stop and smell the lavender. http://www.le-galantin.com/domaine.php

4. Crous St Martin is in the very famous Chateauneuf du Pape of the Southern Rhone. Just 10 minutes North of Avignon, this region produces some of the most interesting, bold yet delicate and complex reds. Crous St Martin was our introduction into Chateauneuf du Pape. It was one of the best introductions, you could ask for with a total of 6 tastings you get to appreciate the full range of their wine. The wine we bought was delicious. This is Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah territory. Our favourite was spicy with hints of tea and tobacco and lingered pleasantly on the palate. Again what you taste is arbitrary. So many of my friends worry that they aen’t tasting the same thing. My advice is do you enjoy it? Good then drink it and taste what you taste. which as my friend Jeff says it is usually red wine he tastes So relax and enjoy  and remember that Crous St Martin is  a great introduction to Chateauneuf Du Pape. http://crousstmartin.com/history/ .

3. Chateau Calissane- A fabulous Provencal winery near Lancon de Provence. Producing both wine and olive oil for purchase and taste, Chateau Calissane is a delight. A beautiful bright tasting room with local products for sale. However try the winIMG_4806es. These Provencals reds and roses are amazing. 34565_447569215139_4041028_nEasily drinkable, especially in the hot weather, your only challenge will be how much you can fit in your suitcase. The red was my favourite of course with its light spiced, soft cherry notes. This is an excellent wine to try if you are just starting to drink reds! The olive oil was also amazing and Chateau Calissane is a very worthwhile stop. Prepare to spend about a hour here. The grounds are also beautiful. http://www.calissanne.fr/

2. Domaine de L’Olivette- Another Bandol standout and my one of my favourites. This winery is warm, welcoming and beautiful. The wines are amazing as well and inexpensive. Both red and rose are delicious. the red is bold, fruity with complex undertones. the rose is floral, bright and crisp. Again perfect for a picnic or just because. The tastings are generous and you will be back for more! the white wine is also delicious and a rarity in red dominated Bandol. Again as one of the smaller wineries (small being subjective) it has an some wonderful wines to offer that may otherwise be missed so make sure to stop. http://www.domaine-olivette.com/en/nos-vins

  1.  Chateau De La Nerthe – Located in a stunning setting just outside of the Chateauneuf du Pape village, Chateau De La Nerthe offers beautiful wines in a beautiful tasting room in a beautiful setting. I think you get the picture. Chateau De La Nerthe was picked by my trusty Degustation shouting system. Yes I saw a sign that said Degustation and screamed stop. In this case, we stumbled upon one of the very best places to stop and taste wine. The wines are amazing. Spicy with dark fruit and leather flavours, these wines will make you come back again and again. The proprietor is welcoming and passionate about the wine and very willing to answer any questions you may have about the wine including ” May I try another”. A stop at Chateau De La Nerthe is a guaranteed fabulous tasting experience.

Provence is a fabulous opportunity for drive up or walk up tasting. A drive anywhere off the motorway almost guarantees you multiple signage offering degustations. So take advantage of it,  stop and enjoy.  After all you are in Provence.

Les Beaux Villages

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is about 30 minutes north of Avignon.Not only do you get to see a stunning village, you are in the heart of some of the most well known, tasty, boldest red wines produced in France. You could spend ( and if you are like me you probably will) your entire day tasting wines

Visiting villages is one of my favourite things to do when I travel. Though they can be touristy, more often than not, they provide an authentic experience of what the region has to offer. Provence in the south of France is especially famous for its Beaux Villages. If you visit there you can see why! They are amazing. This week I will focus on my top 5 favourite Beaux Villages in Provence. These are only my to 5, Seriously  in Provence, I don’t think you can go wrong with any village.

ChateauIMG_4798neuf-du-Pape is a very famous wine region, in fact this Southern Rhone region is so famous for its wine, it is easy to forget Chateauneuf-du-Pape is also a village and a beautiful one at that. Located in the Vaucluse region of Provence, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is about 30 minutes north of Avignon.Not only do you get to see a stunning village, you are in the heart of some of the most well known, tasty, boldest red wines produced in France. You could spend ( and if you are like me you probably will) your entire day tasting wines at vineyards or négociant ( essentially a wine merchant that represents certain vineyards) . Why not go??

Well go for the wine and stay for the scenery. Despite being a bit of a tourist/wine mecca, Chateauneuf-du-Pape gives you the feeling of a slow , dreamy, beautiful pace of life. The streets are beautiful, clean and studded with trees, there are many restaurants and shops tucked in amongst the wine merchants and wineries. In short there is plenty to do even if that means just people watching on one of the many sidewalk cafes.

We almost didn’t make it there. Though @benton8tor loves Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine, he loves new exploring new places even more. We had never been in the village but we had visited wineries in the area before. He wasn’t really game but seeing we had just come out of a 2 day white knuckle hysterical crying fit (on my part) drive in the beautiful Pyrenees, he wasn’t in a position to say no. Besides by this time he probably realized copious amounts of wine were only going to improve my mood so away we went. After a morning of shopping in l’Isle Sur la Sorgue, we arrived in Chateauneuf-du-Pape for lunch. We finally picked a place near a fountain in the square with lots of wine tourist passing by on their way to the next tasting.IMG_4778 @benton8tor rolled his eyes and sighed ” I guess I am just going to have to eat bad food” He assumed any restaurant on the tourist path would be bad. I however had a pretty good feeling. Sitting on the beautiful patio, Ben struck up a conversation with the table next to us. Turns out they were English, tasting wine and had just enjoyed the best burger ever, Ben still dubious, however ordered it. Turns out it was the best burger he ever had in France, and well you couldn’t go wrong with the wine. The burger had a hint of pink (@benton8tor likes his burgers on the rare side with a trusted source) and the fries were crisp and tantalizingly golden. My tomato pate with cinnamon sorbet was sweet, and savory and decidedly refreshing.  Our server recommended wineries to try and gave us thoroughly excellent service. I could have sat there all day, relishing in my smugness of being right, but there was wine to try.

Our first stop was at a négociant. We probably spent an hour with him. We tasted quite a large varthumbnail_IMG_6362iety of wine and spent a good deal of time chatting about the various vineyards, the grapes, and the producers. It reminded me of some of the producers in Burgundy. We ended up tasting one of the best wines ever.Cuvee des Jeune filles IMG_4797Lacoste- Trintignan. We spent more than we thought we would, but the wine was well worth it. 



We spent the rest of the afternoon at various wineries. try as many as you can, you can’t go wrong but Chateau de Nerthe is a beautiful vineyard with amazing wine so it is a must do.http://www.chateaulanerthe.fr/

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a very walkable village, and probably not the best village if you are looking to experience a typical French country experience. The draw of the wine makes it far to much of a touristy for that  but yes there is more to Chateuneuf -du-Pape than wine but the wine is so delicious, why would you miss out?

5 Recommended Wine Tours in Europe

My love affair with wine started in Montreal but took hold in France.

My love affair with wine started in Montreal but took hold in France. Wine is one of favourite reasons to travel. i first started trying to expand my wine knowledge, I started pretty simply, asking for recommendations in restaurants or hotel staff. I was a bit afraid of tours, I thought i would need to know more than Idid and didn’t want to look stupid. I shouldn’t have been afraid, that is exactly what these tours are for, to introduce you to wines, understand how they are made and what you are tasting and finally give you an appreciation and a love for the wine and the art of wine making. I have had some amazing wines by getting a map from a local tourist office and driving to different vineyards for tastings, but that is for another blog. On formal wine tours, I have had an amazing time, met some fantastic new people and tried some of the most incredible wines. Here are my top 5 recommendations of wine tours.

5. Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy. We booked a lunch at Olivier Leflaive based on an article from  of Food and Wine magazine http://www.foodandwine.com/. The lunch came with wine pairings.  Olivier Leflaive is famous for its white wines,Predominantly a red wine drinker,  I was never the less excited as Burgundy is onolivier-2e of France’s more storied, celebrated and revered wine regions and I was about to find out why. Upon booking we were asked if we wanted to include a vineyard tour. Of course we did. And on the vineyard tour which preceded the lunch, we learned all about the vines, the micro climate that contributed to the flavour of the grapes (predominately chardonnay and pinot noir), the impact of the soil, sun and wind on the grape and how trimming the vines impacts the wine. We then took a tour of the winery itself followed by a delicious lunch. The lunch was four courses paired with the vineyards best wines including premier and grand crus. Not to be missed.https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/

4. Staying in Pisa and Florence seemed a perfect jumping off point to taste Tuscan wines, in particular the Chianti wines. Knowing very little about Italian wines, I was eager to taste and try. Our wine tour was just a bit too large. Side note, smaller tours are often better and have more times for both questions and commentary. That said, We got to enjoy the beautiful Tuscan countryside, visit a Chateau for tasting with food pairings and enjoy meeting other people on our tour. Our tour guide at the Chateau knew her stuff, explained about the vines and spent a fair bit of time matching the wine tasting to the food and it it really did make quite the difference. All in all, fairly enjoyable but not the most interesting of wines on this tour.

3. Wine Tasting in the Chateauneuf du pape.Avignon is the most logical place to start wine tours for Chateauneuf du pape. Easily one of my favourite wine regions, This Southern Rhone Wine region produces some of the biggest, boldest, most interesting French wines. I didn’t know just how much I ‘d come to adore Chateauneuf du pape wines when I first set out on the tour. Since then, I actively seek them out and the wines areimg_4811 among my favourite wines in the world! Our tour guide paired the wine tastings in the vineyards with a trip to the Roman Theatre in Orange so truly get an understanding of our surroundings. The theatre which is still in use is exceptional but the wines…. were out of this world. There was a wide variety of tastes from the light bodied summer wines to the full bodied flavour packed reds. A definite must for any wine lover.

2. Veuve Clicquot is one of the oldest Champagne houses in Reims, the capital of the Champagne region.europe-june-2010-453 It is also my favourite. The first champagne house to be run by a woman, Madame Clicquot back in 1805, she also invented the riddling process which allows us to enjoy champagne today. And oh how I enjoyed it!!! The Champagne all had remarkably different flavours and we came away with a new respect for Champagne house traditions. https://www.veuveclicquot.com/en-ca

1. For me the creme de la creme of wine tours was http://www.chemins-de-bourgogone.com. Leaving from the Beaune tourist office, thisbeaune-3 small tour takes you through the vineyards of Burgundy. Traveling through villages and vineyards that I had only heard of on a wine label, we one again we immersed in the process of making the wine and the art form and celebration associated with it. I learned to have a new respect for the vines, the workers, the wine maker and most of ll the wine. Stopping in a vineyard which has been in wine production since the time of Charlemagne, we tasted an eau de vie from the grapes of the vineyards were were sitting in. We finished off the tour at a winery for some tastings and I would easily book again and again.

If you j20160825_122632ust want to start exploring wines from different countries and regions there is no better place than Gordons wine bar 47 Villiers St London. Just down the street from Charing Cross towards the Thames, Gordons wine bar is a hidden gem. Marketed as London’s oldest wine bar, the interior is era appropriate, even with its own wine cave  Featuring wines from around the world, even India and Lebanon, Gordons is a must go to try wines and have fun. The server will help you select and you’ll have a great time. http://gordonswinebar.com/

Wine is something many people love but can be a divisive topic. We all have opinions I have often heard and also said  ‘i don’t like white wine’ or ‘I don’t like merlot’ but maybe just maybe after a wine tour you find out you actually do. It is always worth  try to expand your tastes and try something you just might love ( I am looking at you Chateauneuf du pape).